Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Tales from The Red Road--Nexus 2015

Full disclosure: I was not in the least looking forward to the drive by myself. But, that brings me to the new title I will be using, Tales from the Red Road.

I have been blessed with a pretty good sense of direction, and could, more often than not, find my way to somewhere new. And then I got a TomTom, and it has Dennis Hopper’s voice. For those of you that rely on a GPS unit, you know what the Red Road is; it is the right road, lane, turn-off, etc. Follow the Red Road and you can’t go wrong. Usually. It can also be a tyrant.

So anyway, I couldn’t wait past about noon to leave; I was antsy to get it over with and to time it to miss the most of the awful traffic around the Windy City. My first goal was Corky’s Dogg House, in Cedar Lake, IN. It has been my custom since I first went to the last LGGC with the Axeman to stop in and enjoy a real Chicago-style Dog, with the real ingredients, particularly Vienna Sausage Natural casing Hot dogs. Poppy-seed roll, cucumber slices (I take off), a tomato wedge, a pickle wedge, onions, bilious green relish and mustard, with a sport pepper to top it off, all dusted in celery salt. OMG… A couple cons ago, the Mad Wizard, Jim Wampler, gave up his no-bread thing to try them and has never regretted it. It adds about 40 minutes and miles to the trip, but worth the stop.
Traffic and weather up through IN was not too bad, but there was a stretch of about 35 miles that worried me. Too bad I was right when I came back, but more on that later. A few brief sprinkles but no downpours, although  I saw a few in the distance. Too bad Indiana is so damned boring to drive across. Going from Cincinnati to Chicago or Milwaukee necessitates driving the whole lifeless stae diagonally. Once you have been lulled into a near-stupor, you hit the Tollways. Thank the State of Illinois for I-Pass, the electronic toll thing on my windshield.

No stopping and slowing in those long lines for the folks using money, nosirree. Cruise on down the middle and hardly slow.

Now there is something: what are apparently “Suggested speed limits” on the tollways. I guess they figured that if they post it at 55, they will only go about 70, in all the lanes! What a joke; I would set the cruise at a scary level above the limit simply so I would not become a sitting duck and I was still getting passed on both sides.

Finally got to the Crowne Plaza in Oak Creek, WI, out near the Milwaukee airport. It was a nice venue and shows promise should the Game Fair continue to grow. The venue was large enough that I could not give you any numbers on attendees, but it seemed busier than last year.

Side tip: if you are ever in the area, or it is there next year (which will be Memorial Day Weekend) check out di Carlos Restaurant. They do carryout and I can personally vouch for the pizzas and meatball sandwiches—the rest looks equally yummy.

I ran an adventure in Curse of the Weaver Queen on Friday that was pretty good. I had run that particular adventure nearly a dozen times, but this group made it really fun again. Sadly, they all died.

There was a screening of the second installment of the Knights of the Dinner Table Live Action. It was pretty rough but seemed to get an enthusiastic response. As troubled as this production has been, one can only hope that certain people make good on pledges and promises and see it to a good resolution. Past track records seem to weigh against that.

There was a vendor there I felt worthy of note called ZZipEtch (www.zipetchlaserengraving.com) that had some very nice custom-etched glassware for sale at a very decent price. I got a wine glass for Cheryl with two very-Oriental-looking dragons etched on it. Melinda and Gordon seemed nice folks; hop over and check them out sometime. Tell ‘em you heard about them here.

KenzerCo was playtesting a new Expansion for The Great Space Race, their very creative and highly addictive game of spaceship racing. In my mind, any rules changes that allow you to shove the competitor into a black hole are OK by me.

There were lots of boardgames played as well as a fair bit of minis. Sadly, the guys with the water table did not show up this year. I missed their steampunk dirigible fights and the fleet action of quadremes on the water table was a sight to see last year.

I ran a session of Snakeriders on Sat afternoon. I must admit that I am getting a bit tired of running it now for over three years (my partner says we sell more if I run it) but this group was very enjoyable and provided me with more fun that I have had in at least the last 10 times I have run it. All but one died, but they did it in a novel and entertaining fashion. The lone survivor hopped aboard his magic giant beetle and flew away to fight another day. “Live to fight another day” was always the first mantra of Old School playing; no shame in recognizing the odds against you and beating feet for the door.

Chris Hoffner, Harold Johnson and the rest are putting together a well run show. It seemed well organized and there was never a dearth of con folks if you needed one. The site could be a winner; the hotel set up a lunch-serving area and the prices on the wraps and salads were reasonable. The dogs, however, were overpriced and the buns too doughy and cold, to boot. Sorry, if you can’t do a decent dog, you lose at least on star from my rating. That’s like a Chinese restaurant that can’t do a decent shrimp fried rice.

Gaming went long into the night, well after I had retreated to my room. It began distressingly early as well, but that’s what cons are all about—non-stop binge-gaming.

Personally, I think their decision to move it next year to the Memorial Day Weekend is a wise one. It is too hard for too many gamers get that Friday off that you need for a con; that weekend it is expected and so should work out rather well. So far as we plan right now, Eldritch will return next May.

I was planning to get an early start back on Sunday to attend my oldest’s birthday get-together, and did start early, to no avail. Here begins my tale of woe…

Dear State of Indiana: What the hell is going on in your legislature? Did you spend so much time figuring out a law that would allow Hoosiers to discriminate against whomsoever they choose that you forgot you have an infrastructure that includes highways? What bunch of hare-brained loonies in your DOT did not see the problem involved with working on two major bridges in a span of 28 miles on I-65? They should be flogged, publicly humiliated and forced to pick up roadside litter until they die.

As you might recall (I certainly hope your memory lasts several paragraphs), I earlier mentioned a patch of road construction going up that I thought might be a problem coming back. Sunday I wished harder than I ever had that I had been wrong in my foreboding. What should have been a 5.5 hour drive became 7 hours. It took two hours to traverse an approximately 35 mile stretch of I-65. I sat there the entire time watching my ETA clock on the GPS spin off minute after minute. I finally hit Indy about the time that I was originally supposed to be getting home, which was over 100 miles away at that point. There was no getting out of the two lines of creeping traffic to get off to a service station, restroom or Rest Area—you might never get back on. In both cases, two lanes merged into one. In one case it was Right Lane Closed, in the other Left lane Closed. Now I hit this patch of treacly traffic in mid-afternon; I can only shudder to think of what it must have been like two or three hours later. That was also my last con that I will drive that far to attend by myself.

That 7 hour journey through the purgatory that central Indiana/I-65 has become sealed the deal for me. I am just not suited to do this shit anymore by myself. My usual traveling buddy, Jim Wampler, was unable to get off of work. Axeman was in the same boat with his work. Both of them are absolutely great travelling companions. In future if I can’t find somebody to drive to a given con with me, I will not go it alone. Eazy-peezy.

I had a good time at the con—it was the drive home that sucked and certainly no fault of Nexus. We (Eldritch Ent.) plan to attend next year, and I plan to have at least two new-that-year adventures to run. Start looking at your calendars now, and maybe we’ll meet across a table there next year.

                                                                 Notice of Hiatus

On July 6, my wife, Cheryl, and I are leaving for Europe. It is only our second time to Europe and we are doing a Viking River Cruise up the Rhine. We have stuff we are doing or seeing in Kinderdijk, Cologne, Koblenz & Rudesheim, Heidelberg & Speyer, Strasbourg, Breisach and Basel. On the 10th of July we will celebrate 45 years married.
I will not be posting again until the 3rd or 4th week of July. Have a happy 4th of July and blow up some stuff for me, OK? Stay safe…

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Short vacation

Gone to Nexus Game Fair in Milwaukee this weekend. I will write about the con when I return.

Friday, June 19, 2015

The games within games we gamers play

Humans, by nature, are competitive, just like all the other organisms, sentient or not, that inhabit this speck of dust in the vast cosmos that we call Earth. (If sentient beings lived on Mars, would they call the soil “mars” as we that live on Earth call it “earth”?)

It was competition that formed our species; the other hominids, the ones that did not learn to stand on their two hind legs, were eaten by predators they did not see coming in the tall grass. In most forms of gaming, it is competition. In boards and mini’s (my preferred abbreviation for “miniature figurines”), it is often a situation of 1 v 1; two players playing head-to-head or two teams going at it; i.e., a winner and a loser. The difference today is that if I defeat my opponent in a spirited game of, say, Samurai Battles, for example, I do not get to jump up and down on the corpse(s) of my vanquished foe(s), I can’t take all their stuff and steal their mate(s).

When I discovered wargaming, oh so many years ago, I saw in it the ultimate problem-solving competition that I did not find in chess or bridge. (I am an avid card player as well as gamer; care for some poker? Or cribbage, or pinochle, euchre, canasta, gin, big casino?) I was drawn to the intricacies and fluidity of problems-to-be-solved posed by wargames.

I have been playing wargames for more than 50 years; ofttimes, I find the games we play within the games we are playing to be an intricate dance of psych warfare.

Role-playing games are no exception to all of this. Never believe that they are not competitive; players vie with each other to get the best goodies, even in the most amicable parties. As a group, the party is contesting both the DM and the circumstances he (or, all too seldom, she) has presented the party with. The very basic problem of “What do we do next?” spurs our competitive nature as differing suggestions and opinions are put forth by the players.

I first stumbled on to this phenomenon while in college. (I was in college so long ago that while the following might sound preposterous in today’s social climate, it happened just like this.) It was the day of a long-awaited big mini’s battle. I had gotten into the habit of buying cigars that came in wooden cigar boxes that mini’s fit in nicely; if you bought the last cigar or two, you could have the box. (It was also how I developed a taste for a good seegar.) I had a large Joya de Nicarauga stuffed in my pocket when I arrived; when asked about it I joked that it was my “Victory Cigar” that I would smoke when I had won. It was just normal BS and braggadocio amongst buddies. Except it worked, in an unforeseen way. It was a hell of a game and we had been at it for over six hours with the outcome still in the balance. Despairing of getting the battle finished before I had to leave, without any fanfare, I lit the cigar (yes, children, this was way back in the day when you could smoke cigars indoors almost anywhere) and proceeded to work up a good coal on it and returned my attention to the game. You would have thought that Boney had just watched his Old Guard retreat, so profound a scare did my lighting up throw into the other side. They commenced to hurried whispering amongst, and second-guessing, themselves and soon their plan lacked any pressure as they began to become hesitant and made a couple of little errors that we were able to exploit. Three turns later we had beaten them soundly. To this day I believe they psyched themselves out.

The next year at GenCon I did the same thing in a mini’s game I had entered, and got the same result: sudden doubt and indecision leading to their loss.

RPG’ers are by far the most into playing games within games. My friend Gary was often quoted to the effect that DM’s rolled dice for the sound they make. He was right, in more ways than just that, as we often discussed. I plead guilty to using the sound of a wad of dice being rolled all at once when something like a barrage of stones or arrows is launched. I plead equally guilty to just picking up a die and rolling it for no reason in the middle of something; sometimes I mutter. Muttering is almost always effective. (For those reading this that plan to be in one of my games someday, know that I am not giving away all my secrets.)

The DM trickbook is nearly infinite; I know we all have our methods and devices for shaking up a party, whether to get them to pay more attention or to possibly think their plan through one more time. My f-t-f players soon learned to listen carefully to my adverbs and adjectives; I was never, ever completely arbitrary and never misled inappropriately. There is a ton of nuance in simple words or phrases such as appears, apparently, nothing visible, seems to and the like.

In the past 10 years it has been my privilege to attend some three or four dozen game cons all over the US east of the Rocky Mountains. I have developed a (thoroughly undeserved, in my opinion) reputation for slaughtering players; my TPK rate is somewhere north of 80%. As often as not, it is the game-within-the-game that ends up getting parties killed. Now I know that the style of play at cons is not much at all like the play in home face-to-face campaigns (I know of a couple online that have long track records). Their pecking order has long since been established; in con games there is a very subtle (perhaps so subtle most are unaware of it) striving for dominance in the form of party leadership. I have had players try to argue rules with me to change outcomes or mitigate circumstances in their favor—now it becomes PC’s v. DM. They might just as well howl their lamentations at the moon; I play OD&D where it works that way cuz’ I say so, being my world and all, doncha know?

This is a sorry note to end on, but touch on it I must. I refer to cheating. Now I have never been able to understand what cheaters, in particular RPG cheaters, actually gain from this. I mean, c’mon. Is using “funny dice” that have a predilection for a certain range of numbers any different than reloading the Autosave on a PC game when you lose a battle? Who wins, exactly? I never demand to see the die roll of any player at my tables; I trust them to not cheat themselves. They certainly are not cheating me. (After all, over 80% end up dead anyway, cheating or not. It is hard to cheat your way out of being paralyzed by a lich that had the initiative on you.)

I find it interesting to note that the first type of gaming in which I used a dice box was mini’s. No dice were rolled near the precious figures and diceboxes seldom had cocked-die results. Most importantly, everyone playing saw the roll and the result. Let the dice fall where they may!

Still don’t believe me? Go watch a game of Ticket to Ride and watch the maneuvering that goes on in a simple family-oriented board game. Games within games…I love it.

I’ll be playing until the day I can no longer remember the rules or roll my dice. (If ever I win the Lottery, I fully intend to buy a property that I can turn into an Old Gamers Home. Really.)

Friday, June 12, 2015

Fear & Loathing in Dallas--NorTex 2015

I am a most fortunate gamer—I get to go to several game cons each year and play games with old friends and new strangers, some of whom become friends. Each of them has its own vibe that makes it special. NorTex, formally known as the North Texas Role Playing Game Convention, is no exception. I would describe it as “collegial community”; it is small, by design, and very heavy on “name” guests. The atmosphere is ever so Texas-polite (and I mean that in the best sense possible); no brash cries and demands to sign things; instead folks wait as long as it takes as they would never be so rude as to interrupt. I have been to all of these cons now and I never tire of going. Doug Rhea puts on one hell of a con; I hope to, in the ensuing ramble, to convey some of that to you. In my best HST style, I will now try to relate my gaming experience in a mostly/ sort of chronological order.

The first thing I noticed as we started maneuvering for our approach to DFW was a hell of a lot of water; it was like coming in over a swamp or ocean in other airports I have landed in. Parts of Texas have so much water standing around they look like they ought to be growing rice or raising shrimp.

By virtue of an insane schedule, I was scheduled to land at DFW ten minutes before a game they had scheduled me to run on Wed. evening was to begin. Needless to say, that got somewhat delayed. I had sent a bunch of heavy stuff ahead to my son’s home in Flower Mound, so he brought it to me when he picked me up at the airport and whisked me off to the venue. I got checked into the hotel and informed the powers that be that I would certainly run a game, but needed a bite first and would be ready by 7 or 7:30, and we were scheduled to run until midnight, and it was not like we were going somewhere else later. So I walked over to the Jersey Mike’s and snagged a Giant #13. I ate a quarter of it. (Another qtr. after the game, then the other half the next day for lunch and I had two meals covered. Good start…)

We played an adventure that I wrote a few years back and am still tweaking. Everyone lived. (For some reason I have a reputation for mercilessly killing Player Characters in gobs. I repeat for the umpteenth time that I do not kill PC’s; in my sacred role of DM I am compelled to provide them with novel and excruciatingly ignominious means for them to do that to themselves. It is not my fault that they continually do it and that my TPK ratio is somewhere around 85%.) The fact that they woke up outside of the mysterious tower (now disappeared) they had been exploring/trying to plunder with no bleeding and wearing exactly what they went in with did not seem to do much in the way of compensating for their now-vanished dreams of wealth and easy living. Hey, they were alive…

I took some interesting figures, made on a 3-D printer, to “award” to one player in each game I ran. The figures look to be a sub-species of my signature critter that I created for Dragon #1. (I have to beat around the bush a little here to keep the Hasborg off everyone’s butt and not provoke a flurry of C&D orders; no money exchanged hands anywhere in the whole process, except when plastic stock was purchased for the printer.) I told each game that the award could be for best play, dumbest move, thinking outside the box, whatever. On a couple of them I could not choose a winner so I let them decide amongst themselves; it was very amusing to watch.

We had a nice luncheon in the hotel grill on Thursday. It is nice to get to say Hi to the other Guests and catch up a little.

By a quirk of scheduling, none of my games were scheduled to start before 6 PM. (One of my stipulations is that I don’t do anything except some sort of charity thing before noon.) This gave me ample time to wander about each day and both renew old acquaintances and make new ones, as well as watching other games being played. Watching boardgames being played is the best way I know to learn new ones.

For me, one of the best reasons to attend this con is all the time I get to spend talking to my peers in the industry, and a few betters. I won’t be so pretentious as to drop a bunch names here—what would that serve?—but it is great to be able to do so much more than say Hello in the Dealer area or Howdy as you pass in the halls. It was great fun; those I spoke with that are reading this know who they are. If they are not reading this, it hardly matters. My one regret was missing Steve marsh’s lovely daughters, Rachel and new mom Heather. They did not forget me, however and enabled me to start a new tradition at NorTex.

For a few years now I have had a tradition at GaryCon of a “Pie Game”. There is a person that brings me a cherry pie each year. I pick a game that I am running and we all eat pie and play. (Cherry pie can look like brain pie if you squint a little.) Thanks to heather, I have now started the Cinnamon Roll Game. She brought me an entire tray of yummy cinnamon rolls that I shared with the gamers that night; we ordered out for pizza about two and a half hours into the game.

The charity game was a hoot. I very seldom play on that side of the screen, but I always make an exception for Doug’s Charity Game. (It’s probably all over YouTube by now.) The entire party was made up of industry folks and the high bidders for the other seats, and for the life of me the only one I remember was Margaret Weis, who was playing a kender with a certain malicious zeal. All we did was watch our pockets and belongings and keep an eye on the kender. The party fractured 
immediately when the paladin, who thought he was leading the group, bought stew for three smelly, uncouth and incomprehensible villeins, but would not offer the same to me (I was a druid) and the other (neutral) cleric. The rift continued through the adventure and provoked a lot of fun.

As far as my games went, someone with my reputation could not ask for more: 3 TPK’s and a CHO (complete Hose-over, as in “You’ve been hosed, man.” I seem to have found an 87% effective “party-killer” attraction in Curse of the Weaver Queen, and Return to Aradondo promises to hold my rating of 8 Skulls (out of 10). The most fun I had was watching a couple of the groups decide who got the prize. Sadly, no brawling or stabbings occurred.

There was a painter there in hall across from Darlene name of Martin Jones. He paints very, very well. Check out his site at invictus-miniatures.com. Tell him I sent you. (Maybe if enough of you do, he’ll paint me a bugbear or something.) Seriously, though; serious good painter and nice guy.

NorTex got it’s own little sample of Tracy Hickman’s Killer Breakfast, and a good time was had by all. Oh, did I forget to mention that Tracy Hickman was also there?

Now there was something that went on during the con that I am still puzzled over. I was walking by a large room holding three tables in a big “U” shape and were quite full. Standing on a chair in front of the room was Matt Finch; he was waving his arms about and seemingly talking to the entire room at once. The tables held the gamut of attendees of both sexes and all ages. A couple of hours later I walked by again and they were still there. A couple more hours had passed by the time I walked by again, and they were still at whatever it was they were doing. A couple hours passed when I saw them again! Now I am not sure just what Matt, and later, Bill Webb who seemingly relieved him at the front of the room, were doing, but I smell a rat. I think they are plotting deep plots concerning world domination and a monopoly on Moon Pies, or something equally threatening and sinister.

The weather started out fairly nice, for Dallas, where it is all relative. When we got there, it was in the mid-80’s—balmy for Dallas in June. By Sat the temp was up to 108°; more the norm for this time of year. Walking out of the hotel into that was like getting hit in the face.

If you live down in that part of the world, you really ought to look into NorTex. It is fun, very low-key and low-pressure and relaxed. Sort of makes it an anomaly of the finest kind. 

Monday, June 1, 2015

The Glory and Wisdom of House Rules

I will be in Dallas for the North Texas Role Playing Games Convention from Wed. until Sunday, Jun 3 thru 7. Expect a full report within a few days of my return.

“House rules”, in one form or another have permeated my gaming from the very beginning. The first example I can remember was Free Parking in Monopoly. Everyone in my family, and the friends or relatives I played with, all played where all fines and penalties went to the middle of the board and you got them if you hit Free Parking. I really thought that was a rule; everyone played that way.
House Rules are the social grease that keeps games going. If not for House Rules, there would be no D&D.

Let me define, loosely, just what a house rule is; a rule, often modified, used by agreement. It does not matter what it does to the game so much as it defines the social contract between those involved in the game. An example might be if a game came out with a typo so obvious that making a House Rule was glaringly, apparently, necessary. Another would be the Free Parking example cited earlier.
It seems to me that miniatures game playing has more house rules than other forms of gaming, probably because of the minute attention to detail that some miniatures rules and systems pay heed to. It probably also has to do with two other facts: older minis rules were not examples of clarity, and secondly, minis players are a contentious bunch. Argue though we might, the game’s the thing and a quick house rule/ruling keeps the game moving. Keep in mind also that it is miniatures from which all other forms of war gaming derive.

Younger gamers might not be aware of the fact that old minis rules often necessitated a third-party arbiter, usually and most frequently called a “judge” (imagine that). Many older rules could not be played without one. When besieging a castle, for example, to fire a trebuchet, you called a distance from your engine and a distance left or right of center for your shot-fall. The judge (also sometimes called a referee or umpire—we were a contentious lot) would then make the measurement and spot where the rock fell. The judge would determine if a given unit could sight another unit, whether signal flags might be seen and other instances where impartial judgment was crucial. This was especially true for miniatures games at cons or other formal occasions. For minis tournaments at cons, a single judge could handle multiple games, only being needed when the two opponents could not reach amicable agreement.

It was often the judge/ump/ref that created and balanced the game to be played.

Having to find someone to be the cop for your game was often tough to do. Shoot, we all wanted to play, not ref. In the late ‘70’s I spent six months intensively studying the East Front of WWII in the last two years of the war. I analyzed Orders of Battle, Tables of Organization & Equipment and after-action analyses. I did this for the sole purpose of devising a set of tables using percentile dice to generate reasonably historic scenarios for playing micro-armor mini games without the need for a third party judge. I published them and they seemed to be pretty reliable about 90-95% of the time, producing a fun-to-play game for two friends to play. They spawned a lot of house rules.
House rules led directly to the invention of role-playing games. Here’s how it happened. (For the sake of brevity in some places, and privacy in other, this bit is somewhat paraphrased but accurate, nonetheless.) Some minis guys were setting up, or picking up after—it makes no difference, a game. One of them said to the other something like:”You know, this fancy blue knight never gets killed (removed from play). He must be some kind of hero or something.” “Oughta take two hits to kill him.” In short, this led to a house rule, which led to another house rule about super-heroes. This all led to the Fantasy Supplement in Chainmail, and as we all know, the rest is History.
House rules led to me introducing myself to Gary Gygax by Long Distance very late one night. We had played a Chainmail game at college and something came up; we made a decision and played on. I later cold-called him to ask what we should have done; he said ours was a good call. We talked for about 90 minutes, a friendship was born and the rest was fated.

House rules drove the creation of D&D (the 1st role-playing game). It was Dave and his Twin-Cities crew fooling with Braunstein and setting up duchies and stuff that led to Gary taking it and running.
Trying to contain the proliferation of unbridled house ruling led to the publication of the Supplements to what is now called Original D&D. House rules got really kinky and weird for a while in the late 70’s, at least as far as we could tell from the amateur press. They were going off the deep end with Girdles of Sex Change, and Girdles (turning you into a homosexual) and Girdles that turned a male character into a lesbian female and even weirder shit than that. We were appalled and tried to regain a semblance of steering control over where the game was going.

The renouncement of all house rulings led to the re-codification of the game that then resulted in Basic and Advanced D&D. Sadly, there came a time when, for various reasons, the free-wheeling spirit of the game had to be reined in. We had IP to protect; we had packs of religious zealots baying at our heels and fools grabbing headlines. Worse still, from our very personal point of view, we could not find enough DM’s that all “thought our way” so that we could continue to run D&D tourneys at Cons; those tourneys were huge money makers for TSR in those days bedore sales took off. Being a DM had become so subjective that judging which group did best in a round and should advance was just too dependent on that DM’s personal value system. Hence, the game got revamped. It was toned down, bloodshed and killing-to-succeed-wise for Basic; we wanted little kids to play and later become spending customers; that meant Mom could be assured she was not raising a modern-day Vlad the Impaler. We also knew full well that very few then-current players would “step back” and embrace anything tagged “basic”. Now tourneys could be built around Advanced, judging would be consistent and all was right with the world, or so we thought at the time.

Now we have come full circle through the increasingly didactic and dictatorial edition wars, the horde of knock-offs, derivatives, clones and niche-caterers, to playing how we like to play. Any of us that have been playing for any time at all have embraced the biggest, most important and fundamental house rule of them all: Enable the games to go on and fun be had by all. The group of friends I play boards with twice a month has a handful of house rules that we have devised for several games that we repeatedly enjoy playing. The “repeatedly” part often relies on that social gaming convention of house rules. Long may they be in force.