Board game reviews, news and commentary.
The Rules of the Game vs. The Spirit of the Game
Head in the Clouds
Updated: Friday, Jun 5, 2015
Chaz Marler from Pair Of Dice Paradise here, fresh from playing Specter Ops, a game in which one player takes on the role of a secret agent, who moves secretly through a compound operated by an evil organization called Hunters. The Agent must complete several objectives and escape, before the Hunters find and terminate him.

We were playing with the full complement of five players, which triggered the additional rule that one of the Hunters was actually a traitor, secretly working in conjunction with the Agent.

Playing with a traitor in Specter Ops is a blast, however, in the traitor-triggered Specter Ops games that I’ve played, there’s always a few questions that arise, which aren’t specifically addressed in the rule book.

For example, prior to the treacherous Hunter being revealed, does he inflict damage when he shoots the Agent? We actually weren’t sure, since this isn’t specifically mentioned in the rulebook.

And what about communication before the traitor is revealed? And, more importantly, afterwards? In one game, the group allowed the Agent and revealed traitor to discuss strategy together in private. In another, the revealed traitor was kept incommunicado with the Agent, and the two worked together as best they could.

Why were the impromptu rules regarding the communication between the Agent and traitor, that were created by these two groups, so different? Because each approach matched the spirit of the game that the group was cultivating. The first group focused on strategy and planning, while the second group was all about the adrenaline of the chase.

The experiences reminded me of my favorite instruction on how to handle such vagarities, which came from the first edition of the Star Trek Customizable Card Game. Its instructions suggested that, if a rules or timing conflict should arise, it should be resolved in such a way that, quote, “best matches the spirit of Star Trek”. In essence, resolve the issue in the way that’s going to give you the best Star Trek story to tell.

It’s an approach that I still keep in mind to this day when rules conflicts arise.
“Well, what solution best matches the spirit of Star Trek?”
“We’re playing Sheriff of Nottingham, Chaz!”

Rules conflicts. Until a rulebook addresses every possible scenario you could encounter, they’re going to be inevitable. What house rules do you use to handle rules conflicts in your house (rules do you use to handle rules… conflicts. If you can figure out what I just said,) Let me know in the comments below.
Share this article:

Help support Season 3!