The Games Journal | A Magazine About Boardgames

The Yawning Gap of Forgotten Rules

Greg J. Schloesser

July, 2000

Warning: This could be embarrassing. We've all been there and suffered the horror and shame that inevitably result. Unfortunately, I've been there far too often, and many of you have also confessed, shamefully, to having been there. I'm talking about the yawning gap of forgotten rules. You know the scenario. A new game arrives and you eagerly devour the rules and feast on the gorgeous pieces and bits. Maybe you even set up the game and play a solo round or two just to make sure you understand the flow of the game. Then, game night rolls around and you meticulously set up the game and organize the components in preparation for what is sure to be an outstanding evening of gaming.

The throng arrives and is greeted by this magnificent display. You anxiously direct everyone to their seats and begin explaining the game, excitedly pointing out the various possibilities, strategies, and mechanics. The game begins, but with each passing turn your enthusiasm and excitement wane. Why isn't this game as great as it initially appeared? It was getting great publicity and being universally proclaimed on the Internet as God's gift to gamers. What could possibly be wrong? Finally, about two-thirds into the game, a rules check causes you to shriek in horror. You missed a rule! Not just any rule, but a rule that completely alters the flow and eventual outcome of the game. Your head hits the table with an audible thunk as you contemplate the embarrassment of wasting an entire evening playing the game incorrectly. You, the games authority, are humiliated. Rules Were Made to Be... um, uh... Even the best of us have committed these rules oversights or misinterpretations. I have been guilty of this crime more times than I care to admit. I've also collected stories of similar ignoble events from some of my fellow gamers and here pass along some of their experiences. I have changed their names (well, somewhat!) to protect their identities!

Jack Markson of Nashville, Tennessee admits to the following gaffes:

Fossil: The exchange of tiles with an opponent by the player who completes a fossil must be accepted. We have been playing that the player could refuse the exchange! That certainly puts a completely different spin on the game.

Money: We didn't let people bid "0," which is legal in the rules. Also, we ended the game when we couldn't fill both sets of cards. Later study of the rules revealed that when this occurs, one final round is held.

Bert Craigson of the Dining Table Gamers offers the following oversights:

Show Manager: We didn't realize that actors were removed from the game once they had appeared in a production. We simply placed them in the discard pile and, when the deck expired, reshuffled it. This created some very high scores since all of those 9-valued actors were recycled back into play!

Adel Verpflichtet: Try a game of this one wherein no player gets a starting hand! Fortunately, we figured something was wrong by the fourth turn when everyone was still on the starting square and rapidly running out of money!

Alex Gregnevicus of Canada reluctantly contributed the following errors:

Formula De: We completely missed the rule that turn order is the same as the current race position. This caused so much trouble in the corners that I was compelled to write a whole bunch of special "swerving" rules to deal with the situation.

Samurai: We missed the part about the game ending after the last of any one figure is collected.

Sol Derko of the Cowboy City Gamers was forced to reveal the following:

Euphrat & Tigris: During an external conflict involving Red, the losing side doesn't lose every temple tile, just those not connected to leaders.

Tikal: I completely muffed the scoring round the first time through. I simply interpreted it as an El Grande-type system where we just scored all positions and continued. What was that bit about "ass-u-me" again?

And, to be fair, I guess I should fess up to just a few of my own rules oversights and downright bungles:

Settlers of Catan: I've played this recognized classic probably three dozen times or more. In fact, I have taught dozens of gamers how to play. To my shock and horror, one keen-eyed reader of my Westbank Gamers Web site spotted an error in one of my reports and sent me a private note pointing out a critical rule we were misplaying. It seems that for years we were not using the correct method while trading at a port. We had always played that one had to trade for the commodity pictured at the port by trading in other resources. It's actually the other way around—one can trade the resources pictured for any other resource!

Bohnanza: For at least a dozen playings, we didn't realize that a player could plant a second bean from his hand if he so desired. Being able to plant only one bean certainly made the game last much longer than it's supposed to!

Pepper: Again, for nearly a dozen or more playings, I didn't realize that the Pepper cards could be traded over and over again. We played that if you received a pepper in a trick, you were stuck with it. Amazingly, most of my family still prefers to play this way!

Well that's enough eating crow for now. What worries me more than having made all these errors is the certain knowledge that I'm doomed to so regularly! My only comfort is knowing that I will spot many of you, too, in this particular corner of purgatory!

- Greg J. Schloesser

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