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You're Playin' It RIGHT?! (Head In The Clouds #79)
Head in the Clouds
Updated: Saturday, Oct 3, 2015

Hello, Chaz Marler from Pair of Dice Paradise here. I’ve recently been thinking about whether it’s possible to play a game by its rules, but still “play it wrong”, either due to using a strategy that the game’s designer didn’t intend, or when someone sabotages a game for everyone when it becomes clear that they can’t win.

The conversation on the topic has been lively. But I have one more scenario to discuss. And that’s the flip side of the equation: is it possible to play a game right, even though you’re not playing correctly? That made a LOT more sense in my head. Allow me to explain:

A popular new game that everyone at GenCon seemed to be talking about was The Grizzled. The simplest explanation of this game is that, each round, players, working together, take turns playing cards of various suits on the table trying not to end up with three matching suits on the table. There’s many more layers to the game, but that’s the core concept. It’s very challenging, and pulling off a cooperative win against the game takes not only well-oiled precision on the part of the players, but also a generous dose of luck.

Well, one night at GenCon, four others and I were fighting furiously through a game of The Grizzled. We dodged, we weaved, we used every tactic available at our disposal to mend our wounds and inspire ourselves ever closer to victory. We toiled. We were backed into a corner. But we played cards and took names. And, in the end, we barely squeaked by in victory against the game. We were victorious. Or, so we thought.

Shortly after our win, a gentleman who had been playing another game at the same table as us, who had been watching us play, politely pointed out that (egad) we had been playing a couple of rules incorrectly. They were minor rules infractions, but they did sway the game in our favor, and, to be honest, we probably wouldn’t have won if we had known better.

But it got me to thinking about the nature of games. Because even though, in this case, we didn’t play by the rules as written, we did all adhere to the rules as we understood them. So, did we actually play wrong? Now, I’m not trying to find a way to somehow claim that we still technically beat the game.

No, my point is that, if everyone at the table played by the same rules (albeit incorrect ones), and we all had fun, would it be fair to say that the game achieved its purpose, and was therefore technically a success, and that we played the game the right way? Eh?
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