So Frankly...

So Frankly...

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


I have talked about rules before, but mainly how to review and remember them.  I haven't addressed how to read them.  Really? How to read rules?

Rules don't always make sense at first...
Now, there's no doubt that rules can be confusing.  Often, they don't mention every circumstance that could come up during a game.  Sometimes they make no sense until after a game or two has been played.  This seems to be particularly true when there are cards (or some other mechanism) that create exceptions to the rules in the rulebook.

BoardGameGeek (BGG) is a great resource for resolving these issues, but I find that a literal reading of the rules and/or card will often answer such questions for you.

This is a skill that comes naturally to every 4 year old.  Ask them to put their shoes in the closet, and they will.  Where in the closet is another matter though; that wasn't specified.  I am finding that this also is a skill that returns around age 16.  Ask a 16 year old to take out the garbage because it is being collected tomorrow, and it will end up in the garbage can.  Taking it out to the curb to be collected is a different story.  It has to be specified.  And never tell them to get "a snack" without defining the term snack.

 My son's favorite Lord of the Rings scene...

I ran into a BGG entry recently in which a literal interpretation of the rules would have answered a question before it was asked.  The game being played was Battle Cry, and the question was about card play.  Apparently, the card being played was the "Forced March" card,  which allows the player to move units further than normally allowed.  However, "terrain movement restrictions still apply".  The question was whether or not terrain battle restrictions would still apply.  Why wouldn't they?  Even if the card had said "terrain movement restriction do not apply", nothing would change.  A literal reading of the card says nothing about battle restrictions.  Therefore, the normal battle rules - as written in the rulebook - are in effect.

Game rules are generally meant to be taken literally.  If the rules say a player "must" do something, it's mandatory.  If the rules say "may", then it is optional.  If the rules say that a player takes Action A, then Action B, then Action C, they must be done in that order.  If the card says "play immediately" it means just that: stop everything else and resolve the effects of the card.  

Do not pass go - it says it all!
It's nice when the rules provide clarifying text.  Monopoly "go to jail" cards make it clear that the player does not get $200.  However, a literal reading of the card and the rules makes it clear anyway.  According to the rules, you get $200 when passing GO.  The card says "go directly to jail" and "do not pass GO" (emphasis mine).  No $200 is collected.  

Does this always work?  No, but it certainly cuts down on the questions.  Occasionally, you will actually find a hole in the rules. At that point, you may need to look it up on BGG, an FAQ, or you may need to house rule it.  But take a moment and read the rules literally.

It's Your Move!


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