Editorial: Rules For The Rules


Nearly every day, while perusing my favorite gaming blogs and forums on the interwebs, I see the same thing repeat itself over and over.
Someone has a question about rules; can they do this, or can they do that? Invariably, people respond. Then, as tends to be the case unless its a cut and dry rule in question, a big debate usually happens with half saying you can do this and half saying you can do that. Feathers get ruffled, tea gets thrown overboard, and keyboard keys get smashed. Many, many, many people know exactly what I am talking about and the reasons are myriad and varied as the interpretations of rules.
Competitive Gamers.
Poorly worded rules.
Oversimplified Rules.
“Rules As Written”.
And on.

So, in the spirit of that, I humbly submit this piece to give perspective on the issue at hand. As my disclaimer states, these are strictly my own views and the reader can accept them or not.


It All Starts Here……

With the heading, you’re probably thinking “No kidding, Captain Obvious”, and you’d be right. This point is clearly obvious.
However, think about it. You just bought a couple hundred dollars/pounds/euros (or thousands of Aussie dollars) of product, and you’re itching to get it on table. Who has time to sit down and read a book? Not only read, but STUDY.
Likely, you’ve bought from a FLGS and and there is a group of Battlefront players who know the game better than you. They can just teach you, right? Yes they can. However, if they’re not sharp on the rules, use a certain interpretation, or house rule everything then you’re going to be learning THEIR way of doing things. If you go elsewhere and they don’t do the same things, therein lies an issue. Who is right or wrong?

By reading the rulebook you get a foundation of how to do things, as well as a fundamental grasp of the turn of play. Also, truth be told, most people can’t memorize EVERY rule in the rulebook and rather than go in and re-read it they just fill in the blanks on their own.
Case in point, I’ve been playing V4 since its debut. Read the book cover to cover.
Recently, I played a game where my opponent Blitz’d his guns. I didn’t think much of it at the time, and handily won the game in question. However, on a whim, I decided to re-read and refresh on the rules, and found that the only orders Gun Teams can be given are Cross Here and Dig In. Whoopsie! No big deal, but now I know.

So, at its most base, sit down grab a cup of tea or joe and read the rulebook. Then periodically read it again. The rules are in the rulebook for a reason, and books are meant to be read.


Not so common anymore……

“Rules as written”. Every time I hear this, its usually because someone pulled a wild stunt in a game and they or their opponent is looking for validation whether you can or can’t. It is also the verbiage of players who apply the theory “it doesn’t specifically say I can’t, so therefore I can”.
If I may paraphrase a quote from Jurassic Park “You were too preoccupied with thinking whether  or not you COULD, you didn’t stop to think whether or not you SHOULD.” Allow me to explain why I feel the RAW argument is a copout.

Battlefront games, in essence, are based on history (or, at least the movie of the history – Lee). Real life military equipment, real life events, and such.
Granted, its not an EXACT simulation, but the spirit of history is clearly defined and encouraged. As well, many, many players of these games pride themselves with a knowledge of historical things they can bring to the table.
That being said, there is a reasonable hope that the person they are playing with has the same sort of passion to some degree.
Of course, there are those that came from other games and seek to break the system in the same vein as 40K or such, and many do indeed point to RAW as their argument for doing the things they do. This tends to come out in the more “competitive” scenarios or tournaments.

That being said, lets think about this. If people went RAW to the letter, you’d have all sorts of nonsense. I will give an example I have seen. A gentleman asked the question can an artillery Laser Guided Projectile (LGP) shoot down a helicopter in TY, since its a guided weapon, and guided weapons can do that under certain conditions.
Many said “rules don’t specifically say you can’t, and RULES AS WRITTEN since its ‘guided’ you can”.
I literally texted my good friend who is a Forward Observer (FO) in the Army, and asked him if he would ever consider calling an Excalibur or Copperhead on a helicopter. His response was no more than a whole bunch of laughing emojis, it was that ridiculous to him.

Copperheads in more normal circumstances

Another friend brought up an argument he had with a player that since a fender of a BMP was poking out behind a modeled container and not fully behind it it didn’t get concealment. Last time I checked, I didn’t have x-ray vision to see through a container, nor would I be able to make a keyhole shot on the front few inches of a vehicle on the other side.

So, before doing something wacky or you can’t agree on an action, ask yourself: Does it pass the common sense test? If I was in that tank or had that weapon under those conditions, would this work in actuality? A simple application of common sense will usually bring you to a reasonable answer. Now, a word to TOs. You are in charge of a tournament, and you also function as a judge and adjudicator (lest Battlefront starts providing judges, a la WOTC with Magic). I suggest tempering RAW with a dose of common sense when these sorts of issues come up. Many don’t play competitively due to the wacky things people do under the umbrella of RAW, and it hurts the community.

Beer & Pretzels vs Competitive Gamer (yes, you can be both)

Flag on the play, 25 yards for un-gamesmanlike conduct

By consensus, there seems to be two types of player in the BF community. The easygoing, “beer and pretzels” player who just enjoys the hobby and good social company, and the competitive player who travels from tournament to tournament looking to become the best at the game.
Most people consider themselves one or the other, and generally speaking it seems competitive players get the rap for manipulating the rules using RAW and whatnot.
However, I think this is both validated and also unfair. A player can be both, enjoying the hobby while also competing. I myself do both, though the competition aspect is limited to one major tournament a year (the Las Vegas Open) and whatever my local scene comes up with due to funds and time. However, local or national, my view is if you’re going to compete you’re there to try to place if not win. And yes, when you compete you’re looking for advantages. THIS DOES NOT MEAN LEVERAGING RULES IN AN ABSTRACT WAY. This is, again, why I think the RAW argument to excuse shoddy gamesmanship or questionable tactics is ….well, you get the idea.
Some of the best players in the United States have a thorough knowledge of the rules, yet they are also gentlemanly in conduct. This is the element that seems to be lacking.

Wargaming at its core is a social hobby. It is meant to bring people together in the spirit of fun, camaraderie, and gamesmanship. In game circles, no one likes the guy who tries to manipulate the rules to pull a stunt to get that win that doesn’t really matter. The same could, and SHOULD, apply to tournaments. Again, that’s on tournament organizers and the community as a whole. I’ve organized a tournament here and there, and if I had to rule on such things it would always have to be measured against common sense, not necessarily RAW.

Overall, if players are chasing the win over all else and trying to manipulate or twist the intent of a rule then they frankly are in the wrong hobby. In other words, when you play don’t be an @$$.


As I have stated, these are simply my views of an issue and I present what I feel are problems and solutions. But, at the end of the day its up to the community. A gaming circle in Phoenix, Arizona is gonna do things their way, and their way may be different from Edinburgh, Scotland which may be different from Auckland, New Zealand.

However, there can be some continuity and consensus. But its up to the community to embrace and enforce it.

13 thoughts on “Editorial: Rules For The Rules

  1. A good summary of the “problems” rule writers face: the interpretation of those rules by its players. Do you want to write a rule in such a way that you covered every detail? You can try, but you’ll find out that people can get very creative in bending and applying rules you didn’t even dared think about.
    Common sense seems to be the deciding factor, but you’ll always have the player, as you presented, who’ll say that the rules don’t specifically say this or that, so you can do it. Common sense or not, if it gives them an advantage, they’ll take it.

    I was shocked to see people trying to argue that Blitzing an infantry unit meant they hadn’t moved, SO STILL HAD THEIR FOXHOLES AFTER MOVING THE 10CM. It defied all common sense, and Phil Yates had to step in and had to explain that yes, you didn’t count as moving for shooting, but yes, you did actually move, so no more foxholes.

    You also make a great point regarding reading the rules, but I’ll add to that the following: try and keep yourself updated on those rules. Re-read them once in a while, and check if there’s a new faq out. There were many times I had to point to a recent LFTF-document to prove I was in the right: the fact that I had to do so didn’t give me a great feeling. I felt like the overly competitive player I desperately try not to be. At a recent Team Yankee tournament, I faced three players who only had a basic grasp of the rules and tried to do things which simply weren’t allowed. I had to step in and guide them through our games, resulting in not only playing with my own army, but also making sure my opponents were doing things right. It makes for a very tiresome game.

    Learning the rules and knowing them by heart means you have a strategic advantage. Knowing what your troops can do in what situation prepares you for most contingencies, and speeds up game-play considerably.

    Help yourself, help your opponent, and help your community by KNOWING the rules.

    P.S.: Having nine BMP2s in Ambush in the Killing Grounds scenario won me a game, but which lead to a discussion afterwards: could you put the transport platoon of an infantry unit even in Ambush? Since you have to deploy them at the same time. I let the discussion continue for a few minutes, then pointed to the LFTF-document, page 10.

  2. Excellent article and it does seem that there has been an upsurge in the number of comments/queries appearing online based on the context of “well its not specifically stated that I can’t”. The one thing that I have found to help avoid too much rule book scouring and discussion is to discuss intent with my opponent during the game. By discussing your move, their likely targets and how your units will act overall with your opponent will help highlight any areas where you might have differing understanding or interpretation before you move through the phases and rolling dice.

    When moving units around, its useful to say that I want them to be in cover or I want them to have line of sight etc and checking that with my opponent and making adjustments to movement – and of course that works both ways so pointing out their lines of sight and agreeing what units are in cover before it becomes a discussion point.

  3. I agree with all the points you made. As a decidedly “beer and pretzels” gamer, I don’t want to argue about rules and I like the “when in doubt, dice off” solution. We make LOTS of margin notes in our rule books. With regards to RAW and common sense, here’s where I think game designers and game developers could help the situation immensely: define the mental model underlying your approach to the design of the game, especially with regards to abstractions: time, distance, factors integrated into unit stats, etc. I’ll offer a few examples, first from the game I played before I took up FoW: Axis & Allies Miniatures (AAM). Our player group used to argue all the time about how ahistorical some of the stats were for units. “That gun wouldn’t have that penetration power.” What I constantly felt the need to remind people of is that unit stats in AAM combined A LOT of factors: design and combat performance of the hardware, reliability, crew/soldier skill, morale, etc. When you thought about all the variables you could consider, unit stats that seemed implausible became plausible. In FoW, ground scale is not only an abstraction, the game has a weird “camera zoom out, camera zoom in” mental model. If I’m looking across the board I’m supposed to read everything WYSIWYG, but then it’s also true that an inch is something like 5-10m. I believe there’s a discussion of this “camera zoom out, camera zoom in” mental model missing from the rules that, if provided, could guide common sense interpretations of the abstractions on the game board.

  4. I think many issues can be resolved by:

    A) communicating…”okay let’s define the terrain here before we begin…”, “my intent is to use this for…”, “I’m trying to…”

    B) giving your opponent the benefit of the doubt…”what was his intent (even if he didn’t declare it)”, “how would I want it if it were me”,

    C) remembering that you play in different metas, with different rules of thumb and different presumptions…weed as many of those out early as you can…and consult the book as they come up rather than assume that either of your understandings is “naturally” correct.

    D) going with the flow…”chances are if your game is coming to down to a single pip on a die roll you’ve already lost”, don’t sweat the petty stuff, and don’t pet the sweaty stuff.”–Carlin

  5. Hello everyone, just one question. Where in the rulebook can I find the mentioned blitz move exception for gun teams? Page would be fine. Thanks!

  6. With Team Yankee style games, #1 it has to be fun, #2 It has to make sense, rule #1 overrides rule #2, but rule #2 overrides the actual rules. The game has to be the winner, win or lose we both have to have enjoyed ourselves, laughed at our bad rolls, been awed at our double sixes and amazed at an “all on his own” test that continued to fight on and deserving of a medal. It’s a social contract to spend 2 or so hours playing an abstract game with lovingly painted models on a well thought out board with a like minded cunning opponent and if you narrowly win, or marginally lose, that is the best outcome.

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