Follow the rules, that’s what we’ve always been told. But I’m here to tell you after 30 years of gaming, sometimes it’s beneficial to not follow them. Sometimes, it’s better to tweak the rules or even make up your own. While there are a plethora of board and miniature games out there to play, not all of them are perfect, in fact it’s hard to find a game that is. Over the years, I’ve often found myself asking, Why did they do that? What part of the game is that rule supposed to balance? Or even just saying, This part makes zero sense compared to everything else.
Change the rules. Have more fun.
Enter the House Rule. I’ve been using house rules as long as I can remember. Striving always to improve my gaming experience with my friends, tossing out mechanics we hated or tweaking things until everyone is having fun. One great example is how we play Castle Panic with The Wizard’s Tower expansion by Fireside Games. In the standard rules, you replace one of your core tower’s with a Wizard’s Tower allowing the group access to powerful spells to fight back the hordes of beasties and bosses. We found that with the new expansion it was far easier to lose towers and if the wizard tower gets annihilated by a flaming boulder those spells are gone, but you still have to fight all of the overpowered beasts in the expansion without them. We continually lost when that one special tower went down early in the game. No one was having fun, so we changed the game up.
Even our favorite games sometimes need tweaking.
We started placing the Wizard tower in the very center of the six standard towers, making it the last to get hit by enemies getting into the castle but still allowing it to be set on fire. This one small change made all the difference. We started winning again, not every game of course, getting the Chimera and the Dragon breathing fire every round can still be a game killer with bad token pulls. But we were back to a more standard win/loss pattern that had us having fun and working hard to hit those card combos and keep the castle alive.
That’s the point of house rules, get everyone sitting around the table having as much fun as possible, build those memories. If something just isn’t working, change it
House Rules aren’t just for board games.
For miniature games like Warhammer: Age of Sigmar or Star Wars: Legion House Rules become even more important. These types of games can be complex and often time, new players can’t remember a rule, experienced players aren’t able to reference it quickly enough in the rule book, or players interpret rules differently and have a dispute, etc. This is when House Rules truly shine. All players can decide on a solution in the moment, flip a coin, or agree to answer the question later. Following the exact rules becomes secondary to moving on and enjoying the game. (Sorry rule lawyers.) This serves several very important functions. It keeps the game moving, keeps it exciting, makes sure everyone is having fun and helps teach you to not sweat or get bogged down in the small stuff.
All of these things make for much more engaging and relaxed gaming sessions with your family or friends. House Rules can be applied to any game you play. Those rules were written with the best intention of the game designer to provide players with a specific experience. Not all games that make it to market have been play tested to find every possible flaw, and not all games that make it to market are balanced well. Monopoly is a classic example of poor game balance (most games in our experience end in rage or boredom). One player quickly outpaces the rest and everyone else slowly loses the ability or interest in playing the game.
Make your own house rules.
You can go forth and make your games your own! If something isn’t working in a game you’re playing, tweak the rules until the game flows smoothly again. Whatever rule is giving you trouble, change it, rearrange it, or just plan chuck that game rule out. No alarms or game police will arrive if you don’t play the game exactly as the rules are written. If you can alter one thing about a game that has stopped your family or friends from having fun, fix it and let the good times roll.
Still not sure if house rules are right for your family game night? Here’s another article from FamilyGameNightIdeas.com about how house rules help their board games.