My House, My Rules

Posted on Oct 4 2012 by pomomojo in Board Games, Chess

I buy a lot of board games because I like to always have the perfect game available for whatever group happens to be waiting to play. There are games I play alone, games I play with my wife, games I play with one group of friends, games I play with another group of friends, games I play with my family, games I play with my kids, and games I play with people who don’t normally play games. But not only that, I also use certain rules depending on the group. The goal is to make the gaming experience fun for everyone.

There are many examples of “house rules” that can be used with classic games. One that many people seem to have used while growing up is the rule in Monopoly that all fines and purchase payments go into the middle of the board, waiting to be scooped up by whomever is lucky enough to land on Free Parking. Monopoly is already a game where luck plays a prominent role, so this rule is probably taking it too far. Because of one lucky die roll one player will probably win the game because of all the money they gain from Free Parking. Yet, when playing with younger kids this rule is kind of fun. Really, for young kids the fascination with Monopoly has to do with handling more money than they ever have before. Seeing that pile in the middle grow and grow is so exciting and they don’t seem to care that it’s totally unfair that one lucky person will get it all and win the game because of it.

I’ve owned many different versions of Trivial Pursuit during my life, but they all have one thing in common: the best part is answering the questions. I actually find the die rolling and decisions about which direction to move enjoyable, but the real meat of the game is just seeing how much trivial information is bouncing around your mind. Sometimes you don’t feel like playing a longer game but still want to exercise your mind. One way I have played in the past is to give each team a stack of cards. Then the questioner gets to scan the card and block one of the questions for being too easy. The answerer then gets to pick one of the remaining categories to answer. Whomever answers the most questions out of a set number of cards wins.

A similar variant to the one above is Speed Scrabble. Just like the best part of Trivial Pursuit is answering questions, the best part of Scrabble is making words. In regulation Scrabble, however, a good play also has to think about board position and hand management. In Speed Scrabble you just make words as quickly as possible. This works best with 3 copies of the Scrabble tiles, but even with one it can be fun. Everyone draws four tiles and then says go. The first person to make a word of group of words (with each word connected like in a crossword puzzle) says “Draw” and everyone draws four more tiles from the middle, even if they still have tiles left over. This continues until the draw pile runs out and someone is able to use all their tiles to form their own little Scrabble board.

Finally, there’s also Speed Chess. I find Chess fascinating but I tend to overanalyze every move. With the aid of a chess clock I can force myself to just go with my gut. This is also beneficial when playing against one of my children as I can give them significantly more time than myself and sometimes make bad plays that they can joyfully exploit.

One of the great things about gaming is that although there are millions of people who play the same game, each group will have different tendencies, variants, rules, assumptions, and ways of making the game fun.

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