The Greatest Rule Mistake of All Time

When it comes to boardgames, rules mistakes are as embarrassing as they are inevitable. If you’re lucky, they don’t result in brawls or tableflips, but they almost always lead to a less enjoyable night than you had otherwise planned.

If you are playing a boardgame that has been professionally published, you should be aware that it has gone through an endless stream of revisions and improvements, a suite of fault-finding playtesters, and run the gauntlet of the hostile review community. That means if the game seems broken, it’s (ahem) not them, it’s you.

Don’t take it to heart, necessarily. Generally, rulebooks are great, poorly written, ponderously structured tomes that take a lifetime of experience and an undergraduate degree in literary interpretation to get across. It’s no surprise that boardgame media like Watch it Played and Gaming Rules that specialise in teaching rules enjoy such popularity and acclaim.

There are rules mistakes that are so common to be famous. For instance, you don’t have to eradicate all the diseases in Pandemic to win. I know you didn’t ask, but I’m saving you the embarrassment of having to ask later.

I know a family who bungled the rules of Ticket to Ride so badly, that they have created an entirely new game out of the components. It more or less works, incidently. I have since tried to teach them the actual rules, which to be honest are quite straightforward, but they continue to prefer their own, weird confection.

But easily the most impressive, most renowned rules mistake in the history of boardgames on the internet, was the group who mistakenly thought Hanabi – one of the most deeply cooperative games ever conceived – was a competitive game.

Hilarity ensued:

Just got this game and tried it. What confuses me is the end game.

So, the rules state that if all three fuses are blown, then the game is a loss… so nobody wins, right? Score is irrelevant?

What happened was that I was winning a round, then the next player picked up the last card, so everyone gets one more turn. They knew I was winning, so just dropped cards, knowing the fuse would blow and I wouldn’t win the game… nobody would.

Sounds to me like the rules are broken there?

The responses were swift.

“You can’t be serious. It is not a competitive game.”

“If he is serious then this is the most hilarious rules misunderstanding I’ve seen.”

“Either this is an awesome spoof or you definitely aren’t winning at reading the rules.”

“That’s not how this works… That’s not how any of this works.”

“You just made my day :D”

To the original poster’s credit, they fully owned the mistake, and in a display of admirable humility, have yet to delete the post from Reddit. It remains to this day as a reminder that no matter how experienced or skilled we may think ourselves, we all make (rules) mistakes.

LOL Yeah, we totally misunderstood the rules. I was watching a video online of how to play, and it didn’t really make it clear, so we got it wrong.

Needless to say, it suddenly makes so much sense.

When we played it, we thought it was.. try to build us much as you can, individually, in front of you… and hint to others to help them, so everyone doesn’t lose. It was wierd, which is why we were confused.

We always play competitive games, so this is the very first co-op card game we have ever played. Needless to say, we’re keen to try it again…. with proper rules 🙂

See the original post here.


If you’d like to get a copy of the co-operative game Hanabi or its competitive counterpart Ikebana, consider Oz Gameshop. Purchases from these links help support The House of Nerdery.


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