Sunday, 10 April 2011

General Ramblings: Rules Within Rules

Considering how few hits this blog is getting, starting this post with any sort of greeting seems somehow wrong.
I've been really busy lately. Hence the shortage of updates (like there's anyone to care).

Well, I'm back, and here goes. I first broached this subject on Warseer several years ago (before I figured out how pointless it is to try to make a reasoned argument in a forum), but it seems time to bring it back to life.

It would seem, that within any given game system, there are the rules, and then there are other rules (Rules Within Rules, or RWR's) that are made up by a gaming group, the community or a small group of friends in front of a computer.

See, the first time I noticed these things was while playing Worms Armageddon with a couple of friends and my brother (younger). At some point pr another, certain accusations always seemed to start flying ("Don't gang up on me!" "No more Banana Bombs!" "Air Strikes are cheating!"), despite the fact that we'd never formally agreed on any rules outside of those provided by the game itself.

Fast forward some ten(ish) years, an I see the very same thing happening at my club. It is in fact one of the reasons I've started my current project (a serial tournament, to replace the campaign that should have been held); to invite my fellow gamers to bring their all, with no artificial restraints.

It may come as no surprise that it's often the veterans who are the most strident adherents to certain RWR's. Partly, this is due to the fact that some RWR's have, at one point or another, been actual rules (the usability of Special Characters without opponent's permission being one such example). Partly, however, these guys have been playing since before I was born, and have a lot of baggage.

So, when someone brings a new (as in newly released) army to bear, especially one which does well, cries equivalent to "Cheese!" frequently punctuate the never-quite-fresh air of the club locale. Use of certain items, deemed almost must-haves by the Internet community, are all but banned, without a word being spoken about it (have you ever heard of Power Scrolls? They seem to be good, but dang it, I've never seen one used...).

And that last bit ("without a word being spoken") is why I consider RWR's a sometime problem. I'm fine with gaming groups changing the rules of the game (heck, I've even assembled an FAQ, once), but when it's done quietly, how is one to know what the rules are? It is all too easy, especially if you frequent the Bloggosphere, to find a unit, combo or tactic that seems solid, only to be decried as a Cheese-er (sorry, we have a word, but it is in Swedish, so won't make any more sense). And trust me, that is a mark that is hard to wash out.

Add to this that the ones doing the decrying are often one, two or sometimes three editions behind. A well-mechanized force in an environment such as ours might seem horribly unbalanced once on the table, but an army that couldn't hold a candle in fifth edition might equally be branded Cheesy, on the basis of experiences a decade old.

In the end RWR's are only a problem if they are secret. As soon as everyone is on board, the problem goes away (unless the rules are bad, of course). I encourage club FAQ's, altered missions, and so on, on this one condition.

So, that's me all ranted out.


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