Ridere, ludere, hoc est vivere.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Reading all the rules

I can't count the number of times I've gotten rules wrong in learning boardgames.  It seems as though every time I learn a game for the first time, I get something wrong.  Even worse, I am often the person in the group charged with reading the rules and then explaining the game to the other player(s), so I propagate my misunderstanding to other innocent souls.

Usually this problem happens in the first play or two of a game, and then a review of rules or feedback on a post somewhere makes me realize my mistake.  It's usually not hard to correct, and after a few plays, I will get it right.  But tonight we realized that we have been playing a generational family classic wrong every since we first got it.  No, I'm not talking about Monopoly, which suffers from chronic house rules that have become cultural tradition.  I'm talking about Clue.

Well, to be precise, I'm talking about Clue: Master Detective, an "expanded form" of Clue that works on the same principles but accommodates more players with a larger board, more rooms, more suspects, more weapons, and more dice.  C:MD also has a few nuances largely with regard to movement that we have always understood - that you can move through rooms to get to other rooms, that you can move through a secret passage as part of your dice roll movement.  But there is one rule difference from Clue that we have overlooked for the entire 24 years that we have had our copy of C:MD.

In conventional Clue, when a player makes a suggestion, the player to his or her left reveals to the suggestor a suspect, weapon, or room card that refutes the suggestion.  If that player has no such card, then the suggestion continues around the table until one player reveals one card to the suggester, at which point the suggestion ends.  So the suggester will see at most one card that refutes the suggestion.

In C:MD, however, the suggestion does not stop with the first player to reveal a card.  All players who have any such card must reveal one to the suggester.  (I first learned of this rule in R. Wayne Schmittberger's article "When Bigger is Better" in this month's issue of Games Magazine.)  So in that case, it is possible for the suggesting player to see two or even three cards that refute the suggestion.  This rule makes for some interesting new information - and a somewhat faster game.

At one point in our game this afternoon, my wife Kathy posed that Mrs. Peacock had committed the murder with a candlestick in the courtyard, and all three of the rest of us showed her one of those three cards.  That told everyone at the table that none of those cards was in the envelope.  In a normal game of Clue, as the player to my wife's left, I would have showed her the candlestick, and that would have been the end of the turn.  So we all checked off three things in one turn, where in a normal game of Clue, only Kathy would have checked off one thing.

So the bottom line is that you still have to read all the rules, even if you think you know the game.  At least, I do.


  1. LOL, Paul - I still trust you with rules explanation! Overall, you do an amazing job. But it sure was funny about that one!

  2. Thanks, Kath. You're my biggest boardgaming fan. :-)

  3. Never played C:MD before but speeding up Clue is an important improvement. Generally pretty boring for adults and too long for the gameplay.

  4. Yes, I think I understand what you mean. We find Clue fun as a family activity more than as a challenging game in its own right.

    For deduction games, I think Alibi is more interesting, although I've only played it once or twice. I also like Code 777, again only having played a few times. I'm told Mystery at the Abbey and Mr. Jack are particularly good as deduction games go.

  5. The tendency to miss a few rules the first time or so you play is why I advocate both a playthrough of the first couple turns, printed in the rules, and a video included in the game with someone teaching play (and perhaps also showing a playthrough). But the latter falls on deaf publisher ears.

  6. Lewis, I couldn't agree more. Watching a play-through video is the next best thing to standing table-side. (Depending on production quality, it might even be better.) But I will confess that I never read play-throughs in the rules. Because I always think that I understand the rules, even though historically I always miss something. Human nature, I guess.

  7. Good rules should reflect reality.

    For example, AP should be the shell of choice to attack armor, HE to attack personnel, etc, and the rules should reward good tactics. The closer the shooter is to the target, the more likely he'll hit, and with higher velocity which might be important if trying to pierce armor. Movement slows down in terrain.

    When good rules reflect reality, a player's decisions should be intuitive.

  8. True, Paul, but if you forget the rule - say, for example, supply limitations in North Africa when the Allies occupy Malta - then the issue isn't with the realism of the rules, but with the gameplayer's familiarity with them.