Jun 12

The unwritten rules of gaming.

So to explain where this post has come from, I thought I would abstractly described the scene. Imagine a group of players playing a board game (take for example, Settlers of Catan) and imagine one player who, unsurprisingly being one of the most experienced, is in the lead. The other players seeing this problem decide to gang up on them and start a trading embargo. Sounds reasonable so far, right? Well, they start to discuss amongst themselves what each other has (although it isn’t their turn to trade… no trading was going ahead yet).

At this moment the experienced player says that although this isn’t against the written rules, it is considered bad form to talk about trading while not your trading turn. This is when I had to do a bit of a second take.


Bad Form? In a board game? Wait, what?!


I didn’t quite understand what just happened there. If anything, this was probably a massive benefit to the winning player having them openly discuss their resources – I know where the robber is going! But I have never heard anyone suggest there is an unwritten rule to playing a board game. Well that is a bit of a lie actually. There is one unwritten rule in a board game for everyone, and that is to have fun!

We don’t play these games to have a depressing and serious time with fear of losing your turn/resources due to a obscure rule about how to pass cards from one player to the other. We play these games to catch up with friends and have a fun time while we are at it! Perhaps my gaming groups are vastly different to others. Trash talk in Munchkin or Lunch Money isn’t unusual when I get my game on with my friends… in fact a bit there is always a bit of trash talk in all the games I play in! That might say something about me though.

This got me thinking about Roleplaying games and the unwritten rules of that too. Sure there are some like “don’t

touch other people’s dice without permission” or “clean your fingers before messing up your character sheet”, but really beyond that? The only unwritten rule is to have fun and to steal a particular phrase from some famous person “Don’t be a dick”. Of course, this depends on your game group and game. In some ways Roleplaying groups can be far more harsh than board games can be, but at least it can be summed up with one phrase.

Perhaps I am wrong though, and people feel that there such behaviour that isn’t covered by the rules that needs to be stopped? Am I just missing the point? It would be good to hear people’s opinions on this and whether there is a massively huge point I have missed, or are there unwritten rules in games you feel definitely need to be followed else it ruins the game experience? Any great examples?


  1. Jesse

    Our group is the same exact way. (If you’ve ever listened to our D&D sessions) we don’t really get together because we’re hardcore gamers, abiding by all of the rules and flipping through books to make sure that every bit of minutia is followed. Most of the time, the only time we all sit around and sling the shit is when we’re gaming, whether it be D&D or Munchkin or Catan or Zombies(!!!).

    However, the game is happening and it does play a significant part in our enjoyment of the evening. And while the “losers” might find it enjoyable to plan and scheme in order to bring to leader down, having the evening become entirely about that isn’t necessarily fun for the person who is being teamed up against. If you’re the person who everyone is talking about, then it only stands to reason that said person isn’t being included in this scheming and devising of plans. Therefore, they’re being left out of the fun. And while all of it might be a personal attack against that specific person, a lot of times it can feel like that.

    Now, being an American, I am all for unequality and treating people like garbage (as we do so well). But, when it’s my friend (since I am never the one winning) I’m going to try to make sure that they’re having a good time as well. Because once they stop having fun then it brings the entire mood of the table down. Plus, I don’t like being a dick to my friends (most of the time). One way to do that is to stick to the spirit of the game. Not necessarily the rules (because rules are for suckers), but really what makes the game fun and enjoyable for everyone involved. And having 5 other people team up against you to the point where you can’t do jack shit isn’t fun.

    Just my halfpence

  2. Scott

    I think “The Spirit of the Rules vs Letter of the Rules” is the heart of the issue you presented.

Talk to us!

%d bloggers like this: