Friday, December 29, 2006

Confessions of a Rules Slob

The big new game I got for Christmas was Perikles. We played it for the first time Wednesday night.

On Thursday, the e-mails began.

Dave, our rules lawyer, pointed out two or three rules that I got wrong when teaching the game. None of these rules mistakes or omissions prevented us from playing the game, but they may have hindered us from getting the complete Perikles experience that Martin Wallace intended.

You see, if Dave is our rules lawyer, then I am his opposite. I am a rules slob.

Heaven knows I try. I read the Perikles rules twice. And we referred to the rules while playing to double-check a few things. But I always seem to forget a detail or two. Sometimes an important detail or two.

I think age is a factor. I wasn’t always a rules slob. Back in my teenage SPI-playing days, I could suck up the driest wargame prose and study the details with the attention-span of a Talmudic scholar.

Those were the days when I knew the details of every Columbo episode: who the killer was, what the murder method was, and what his fatal mistake was. Mind you, I never tried to memorize that information. It just stuck to my fly-paper mind. Now all I can remember is that a lot of episodes starred Jack Cassidy and Robert Culp. I can’t even remember a book I read to my daughter recently. Last night, I asked my wife what book she read our daughter to put her to sleep.

My wife said: “The book about the penguin.”

“Penguin?” Did we own such a book?

My wife went on to describe the plot in detail. Finally, it began to sound vaguely familiar, and I realized that I had read that very book to my daughter at some point.

Probably, last week. I can’t remember.

But back to being a rules slob. Often this is a harmless malady. Often it just means keeping a copy of the rule book handy.

But there have been times when forgetting a rule can derail a whole game. The Appalachian Gamers tried playing Conquest of the Empire (with the Martin Wallace rules) for the first time. It was my game—so I explained the rules. I got most of them correct. But I mistakenly thought that players collected taxes every turn instead of only once per campaign. Everyone was soon awash in gold. I realized that I had done something wrong when players had every single one of their military units on the board. We stopped the game, and haven’t yet tried to play it again. (It may be first game ever called on account of excessive bounty). I’m afraid I may have tainted the CotE experience for some people with my rules goofs.

I suppose I’m lucky to have a rules lawyer in our group who can steer me back toward the path of righteousness. At least I will learn that I did something wrong, and won’t embarrass myself by someday arriving at a game convention, and sitting down to play Perikles with an incomplete set of rules in my head.

I could recite other examples of my rules failings. In fact, I could probably write an article titled Kris’s Accidental Poor-Memory Variants. But what’s the point?

You understand the rules slob syndrome. You may have a rules slob in your gaming group. You may even be one yourself.

If you know a rules slob, I counsel patience. We’re trying our best.

If you are a rules slob, then encourage others to read the rules of your games, too. If the rules are long, then maybe assign different players to read certain sections. Just to keep you honest. Just to give you a helping hand.

I try to do that with every complicated game.

If I remember.


Anonymous said...

I'm a rules slob, and a bad one. I usually say "hey, I read the rules aloud, why didn't you catch that mr. rules lawyer!?"

I think the problem is, I usually teach the NEW games that not even I have played before, and get plagued with missing a rule here or there. It's easy for people to teach games they played before.

earthrider said...
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Coldfoot said...

A rules slob. I may have a new nick name if my wife and game buddies read this.

Fits me to a "T". I read the rules several times, I teach the game, I make significant mistakes.

Anonymous said...

Is it rules slobbery if you deliberately create rules variants? Like omitting the farmer rule from Carcassonne, for instance, to make the game a little more random-chancish?

dgilligan said...

I am the aforementioned "rules lawyer" that Kris is speaking of. I wouldn't actually call myself a rules lawyer as I understand the term (to me it has a negative connotation.) With that said, I do like to play by the rules.

After playing a new game, I generally go to BGG to read more about the game and learn how better to play it. When reviewing the information I generally come across rules information that clarifies an issue we had or points out an error we made. In the case of Perikles we were able to play the game and enjoy it (at least I did) but we did play a couple of things wrong.

Only one of our errors would have impacted gameplay in my estimation but I don't know that it would have changed the final results (I won!)

I too make mistakes with rules. I have done so in Cleopatra, Carcassone Hunters and Gatherers and Vegas Showdown, just to mention a few. Generally very minor and not heavily game impacting but in the case of H&G I failed to explain one facet of the rules that really was game impacting...oops.

In all these cases, I went on BGG and found the error of my ways. Its great to have such a resource available.

In regard to variants, I don't consider that rules slobbery at all. Variants are a viable way to breath new life into a game or correct a perceived flaw. Just make sure everyone understands the variant in the impact...failure to do so could be considered rules slobbery as well!

With that said, I'll have to remember to tell Ted what we did wrong in our game of Aton the other day. Minor issue and probably wouldn't have changed the outcome (I crushed him!)

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