Friday, April 6, 2018

Daring to discuss house rules

I’m not a big fan of house rules. Monopoly gets some blame for that but you always have to question the game balance of house rules. And, if you play at more than one table or go to conventions, house rules can really throw you off.

However, when an out of town friend came into town and we tried out some of my unplayed games, we discussed adding some house rules.

In Bob Ross: Art of Chill Game, you start each turn by rolling the Bob die. You see, Bob Ross is painting the picture as well and serves as a timer. Three of the die faces move Bob forward and reveal a chill card, which gives everyone a bonus action or some kind of scoring bonus. The other three faces give the active player some kind of bonus action.

Here were the two issues we found. One, getting more bonus actions pretty much determined the game. Two, Bob sometimes moved so slowly that he wasn’t any kind of factor at all.

We proposed that, at the start of each round, flip over a chill card and move Bob, unless the card had him chill and not move. Everyone gets a chance at each chill card, no one gets bonus actions and Bob keeps painting like a boss the way he should. It flattens out the luck a bit.

Frankly, the Bob die was just a mild annoyance in my opinion. I’d only try this house rule for ‘serious’ gamers. It’s still a light game with three different draw decks so there’s still plenty of luck.

The other game we discussed adding house rules to is RUM. It’s a set collection, Push Your Luck game that’s part of the Pack O Game series.

There’s a lot in the game we liked. However, the parrot card, a key part of the game, caused some real issues. The parrot card, when it appears, ticks the game clock along. When it appears in the beach (a Ticket to Ride style draw row), everyone discards two to three cards. And when you blindly draw it, you discard two to three cards.

The first two parts didn’t cause us any problems. However, my friend kept drawing the parrot card and had to discard at least fifteen cards over the course of the game, which meant he had no chance at all.

When you draw the parrot, you basically skip a turn and you lose cards, arguably losing previous turns. My friend got a hand over four cards only once in our game. We didn’t mind that on the beach discard since that hit everyone.

Now, the parrot is an important part of the game and it defines the push your luck element. But when my friend struggled to get a hand of cards big enough that he was pushing his luck, that was an issue.

House Rules we discussed: Just skipping a turn. Discarding just one card. Discarding down to three so you don’t just keep using your entire hand over and over again.

Or maybe my friend was just a fugitive from the law of averages :)

All that said about RUM, we liked the rest of the game enough that we do want to keep on playing it. We just don’t want another experience like that first one.

In fact, what I take from these house rule discussions is that we liked both Bob Ross and RUM enough that we want to keep playing them.

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