Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Rules Lawyer vs. Risk Manager

One epithaph that is thrown around a lot is that of "Rules Lawyer". The term has different meanings to different people but the inference is hardly ever positive.

I believe that one of the key characteristic of a good tournament gamer is good rules knowledge. In every wargame I've played competitively (DBM, 40k 3rd and 4th Ed,Fantasy 7th and 8th Ed) I've always invested a significant amount of time in learning the rules and, in particular, the specific nuances of the rules. The intracacies of the mechanisms and importantly variations from the norm have a significant effect on your play.

Sometimes those with a heightened rules knowledge are branded "Rules Lawyer", generally in a derogatory fashion to label what some people see as pedantic play. In some cases this may be the situation but generally I feel it is a term thrown around by those who have been surprised that something actually plays differently than they thought.

And that is probably the crux of the matter. I'm a strong believer in playing RAW (Rules As Written) especially in tournament games. Why? Because that is really the only fair basis on which to run a game in which the two participants may be largely strangers. Some people will talk about common sense or rules writers' intent but these are very subjective.

Where I depart in defense of "Rules Lawyers" is where people try to manipulate a series of rules to reach a convoluted outcome that satisfies their "interpretation". It's known as "looking for Easter Eggs". There are a few axioms that should guide you if you find yourself proceeding down that path. Firstly, if it seems too good to be true then it probably is. And secndly, if there is any doubt about the rule then you should probably play it as least beneficial to you.

What anybody with an intimate knowledge of the rules knows is that there are a number of questions/rules/situation that have no clear answer. Try as you might you can't reach a conclusion that you are 100% sure of. There are more than a handful that I've identified in Fantasy 8ed and these normally occur where there is an interaction between the standard rulebook and one of the army books.

Here is where the Risk Manager comes in. Before a tournament if I think these could be an issue I'll ask the Umpire how they will rule on them if asked. This is a continuation of the "no surprises" way I like to play the game in relation to the rules. I'm aware that there is no definitive answer so I'm happy to go with how the Umpire wants to play it. As least with prior knowledge I can factor this into my planning and if there is peer comp, factor it into the score I give.

Just like a boy scout it's best to "Be Prepared".

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