The Paddington Bear stare (part 3)

Sometimes, when you discover what army your opponent is taking, the “Paddington Bear” stare is appropriate.

The rules don’t say I can’t!

You can’t make rules to cover every occasion, but some common sense should apply.

A good example of this are the mortar rules in Bolt Action: a crew increases their chance to hit for every successive turn that they fire at the same target. However, if the target moves, they lose this bonus. So, some players move their unit 3” away and then 3” back to resume their original positions. As the target has moved, the mortar loses its bonus. But they haven’t really moved at all.

(By the same token, the rules don’t say I can’t smash my opponents models up with a hammer either!)

The rules say that I can!

There are numerous examples of “broken” rules and army lists, like the Norman death roller discussed earlier, which killed WAB for so very many people. I still remember playing a certain WW2 game for a Tiger to drive out of cover, perform a “pop up” attack and then disappear back into cover before my US could even fire a shot.

I recall watching a DBA competition game some years ago. One opponent had positioned his auxilia (Ax) outside a wood, with only the tiniest corner touching the wood. When the enemy’s knights (Kn) charged, expecting easy pickings, the opponent pointed out they were fighting in “bad going”. According to the rules, if any part of the unit touches the “bad going” then the combat takes place in “bad going”. Yes, the knights lost badly – even though they were nowhere near any woods.

I’m refereeing this game

The worst example that requires the hardest of stares is the opponent who tries to dictate how the game is played. In some cases I’ve seen, it is almost a form of psychological battle to pummel the opponent into losing.

The more subtle (and harder to prove) is someone who tries to take control of the rules and maybe, just maybe, deliberately bends the rules in their favour. One recent example was a pulp game I watched where an opponent scored a critical hit on a robot and got the best possible damage result. However, the result was the mechanoid only losing its left arm, not its right arm with the flamethrower. Something wasn’t quite right, so I decided to take a peek at the rules afterwards. There, in black and white: the hit would have disabled all of its weapons.

Now we all make mistakes in playing rules. However, I will point out rules when they are not in my favour just as equally as when they are. I do tend to avoid page turning and get on to play the game, looking up the answer afterwards. There’s nothing worse than a game stopping while the answer is found. Agree a solution with your opponent and get on playing!

So what do we learn?

There is a great temptation in wargaming. We all want to win! But at what cost? Does fair play and having a fun time with your fellow gamers – “opponents” is not really the right word – really come second to winning? Some of the previous examples involve a certain Irish friend of mine who is usually great fun to play but likes to create “rhetorical armies”, which generally prove his point that one game system or another is “broken”.

Game designers please take note: you need to protect us players from what we want. Über shininess is one thing but there is a “dark side”, something Rick Priestley talks about in his next column.

I guess the best advice comes from an American friend of mine: “Pick your games wisely. Pick your gamers even more wisely.”

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