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Tips and Ideas for Adding or Changing Rules to Board Games

Rules for a board game govern and instruct how the activity is to be played but it can be sometimes worth it to amend or add to these rules for a number of different reasons but mostly to make the experience either more interesting or fun for the participants. These changes could be your own original ideas resulting from playing the game a number of times or somebody else's rule changes that you would not have thought of yourself and sound or look appealing. Changing the rules can fundamentally change how the board game is played and can lead to it becoming almost a completely new and different challenge that bears little resemblance to how it was played originally. Rule changes could also be implemented to help to give the weaker level players more of a chance to win when for example the group you are playing with has players of varying levels of ability and it would be obvious who the winner would be. Changes to rules can make the challenge easier or more difficult and the motivation for making changes would be determined by how challenging you felt the original challenge to be. Making rule changes can be restricted by the physical objects of the board game and the rules will often have to fit with the physical structure and markings of the board and also the playing pieces.

Alterations to the way a board game is played can stop it from being repetitive and spark new interest in it especially when it is one you have played for many years and have exhausted all the ways it was originally meant to be played. Conversely, some games are replayable enough not to be messed or tinkered with when it comes to how they are played and doing so could have the opposite effect and make them less desirable to play again.

A mistake or fault in the rules of the game could be a reason to change the rules by correcting them as there may have been a printing error and when that incorrect rule is put into practice it either doesn't make sense or doesn't work. However, the need to correct rules that are not a printing error can be quite rare as rules are mostly well tested before the board game is released to ensure they work properly without hitch and will also usually be spotted very quickly by users if they occur soon after the game is released and then usually corrected immediately when there are complaints or feedback about these mistakes.

Adding rules or altering them could be done to make it harder to cheat as in some board games it will be easier to cheat than in others and if you can find a way of making it more difficult then the game will be fairer for all participants and possibly remove the temptation of doing it at the same time. There can either be a designated referee to ensure all the players are abiding by the rules and this referee may or may not participate in the contest with the latter sometimes being the preferable option to remove self-interest or the contest is self-policed by all the players and how this functions will be determined by the honesty of the group and how well they know the rules.

It may be possible to incorporate your own rules as you go along but ideally, the rules which determine how the game is played and won should be in place from the beginning so it is fair to everybody playing and should only be changed during the contest with all participants agreement. Additionally, you may annoy other contestants if you change rules halfway through especially if you are in a losing position as it will be seen as self-interest and unfair which could lead to bad feelings and even the abandonment of the contest. One reason to change rules during the course of play would be to speed it up and ensure it is finished and a winner is confirmed as some board games can go on for hours and it may only be whilst playing that it is realised there won't be enough time to finish it and rule changes need to be made to complete it in time.

Altering the rules to board games may make them more appealing to somebody who would otherwise not have been that interested in playing them by changing what that person doesn't particularly like about them, for example, some people hate waiting a long time for their next turn so this is what a rule change could try to address. A scenario that can often arise is there is a limited selection of board games to choose from at home in which none are especially appealing but rule modifications to one of them could be enough to make it exciting and fun to play. You may have already played a board game that has been changed or adapted by somebody else using their house rules and this made it a more enjoyable experience and these changes may become your prefered rules when playing it in the future and you may even be able to implement these changes for other board games as well.

Learning the rules thoroughly before you tweak or change them completely and playing the board game enough times so you have a good understanding of how rules are implemented and the reason for them is important as changing how the game plays could mean it won't work and function properly anymore. Adding too many new rules could make the game extremely convoluted and you have to bear in mind that these new rules will need introducing and to be explained and taught so that everybody playing can play it correctly and if there are too many new rules this could take a while and be a frustrating and boring experience which won't put anybody in the mood to play. Small or tiny changes should be easier to implement and explain whilst not completely changing what the challenge is or is about and this type of change would be for a game you already like that just needs tweaking for example to either freshen the challenge up or make it a bit more difficult. Rule changes obviously don't have to be permanent and can just be experimental but the ones that do work and enhance the challenge or experience for yourself and the people you play with can be written down to use again in future and forget the changes that didn't work. Other players, especially board game enthusiasts, can often have their own way of playing a board game or will have some ideas as to how one could be changed to potentially improve it so is worth asking because these ideas or changes could be ones you would have never tried or would have ever of thought of that improve or offer a different experience. Boardgame rules can differ for the same game in different countries and you may have found that having played a game in a foreign country that the way it is played there is preferable to the way it is played in your own country. The internet would be an ideal place to look for ideas on rule changes or different ways to play a certain game and there might even be feedback from those who have tried these changes on whether they worked and what difference they made. Youtube, in particular, would be a good place to look for ways to modify the way a board game is played and you might also be able to see those changes in action and use the comments section to ask or find additional information. Asking via a forum, question and answer website or social media for suggestions on rule changes for board games may also deliver results and you can be very specific with what you are looking for with these changes.

Rule changes could be added to make the board game more random and that luck plays a more prominent role by using common board game tools or accessories such as dice, a spinner, a coin or a shuffle bag. These tools or accessories can be used to determine how the game will play out such as who goes first, the number of moves a player can make for that turn or make a choice for a player from a number of options. Random allows for more unpredictability and brings luck into the equation which can be a leveller if the participants are of different levels of ability and could stop the result from being what otherwise would be a foregone conclusion. Introducing randomness to a board game could present new obstacles and allow for additional new tactics to be implemented making it more interesting and challenging to play than it was before. Randomness might not be for every player as some may prefer that in order to win it be totally determined by a player's actions and the decisions they make but dealing with the random parts of a board game will demand ability as well and a board game that combines both some good fortune and ability to win it can provide a happy middle ground for players who like the fact luck plays a part and those who don't.

Plenty of board games involve risk-taking but altering the rules could provide greater rewards and punishments for those risks or just that there are more opportunities to take risks. A board game that has no risk might be dramatically improved if risk is introduced because risk-taking can make a contest more thrilling especially when the stakes or consequences are higher for taking a risk in which possibly a single move can cost or win the contest. Taking a big risk could for example if won allow somebody the chance to come back from a very bad losing position and consequently, the front runner wouldn't feel so safe that victory is secured even with a big lead which would keep the contest somewhat in the balance and interesting. Risk-taking can be an important board game skill and not just taking a lucky punt in which the risk-taker has to judge how much to risk and when whilst factoring in how their opponents might risk.

Increasing the number of steps or moves the playing pieces can make per turn could allow for the contest to pass quicker, for more action to happen per turn and change how the game is played tactically. What the spaces on the board signify could also be altered to become neutral, an advantage, a disadvantage, a starting point, a finishing line or a decision point with these changes restructuring how the game plays. How the playing pieces are physically moved by a person could be changed to make this part of the game more fun or challenging such as making the pieces trickier to grab a hold of and move by enforcing that they can only be operated via the use of chopsticks or wearing ski gloves. Adjustments to the rules could be introduced to create more obstacles, for example, landing on a certain space takes the player back to the beginning or back a few steps and the reason for introducing more obstacles would be when you think the challenge is lacking them or is not difficult enough. Conversely, you could get rid of obstacles when you feel there are too many to make the difficulty level easier or to make the game less frustrating to play and more fluent and also less time-consuming.

Bonus points or a bonus round can be added when the game is officially over but everybody is having too much fun to stop and want to play more or the scores are tied and a winner needs to be determined. They can be awarded for doing specific moves or achieving certain goals and can help somebody come back from a losing position or even give somebody a decisive lead. Introducing bonus points can be a way of rewarding high skill moves or achievements that were not be rewarded in the original rules and it seems unfair that they are not.

Adding props and costumes could be a rule imposed to make the board game more immersive, creative and fun to play that could be done without having to alter how the challenge itself actually plays. When it comes to costumes the person hosting the board game could supply the outfits or the participants could bring their own with them but in the latter case, they would have to be given advanced notice to have time to be able to find the clothing required. Depending on the theme of the board game finding a costume might be easier for some than others, for example, a horror/scary theme would be easy to find costumes and ideas for as you would be looking for basically a Halloween costume but if you can't find a ready-made costume for the game you are going to play you could maybe make it yourself if you are skilled enough or get somebody who has the skills to make the costume. Props are a way of bringing a board game to life and having something that can be touched and played with instead of just a written description that could be for example in a murder mystery game a piece of evidence such as a murder weapon that would obviously be a toy and not a real weapon. A new or additional rule for a board game could be the kind of environment it is played in and to create a certain atmosphere by dimming the lights or having coloured lights, by playing music or by decorating the room and these will not change how it plays but can alter the experience and also fit with the theme of the game.

Blindfolds, which are easy to improvise, could be an item and rule introduced for certain games to be used for all or just parts of the board game which could make it more difficult to play, a different experience from what it originally was, require of the player's new skills and harder to cheat. Headphones are another way to block off a certain sense but in this case, hearing which could make a board game more challenging or almost a new challenge completely although it would have to be a game where it would make an impact as with some it wouldn't change how they are played at all. Headphones, which can be either active or passive noise-cancelling, could be particularly useful in hindering communication between players or ensuring that one or more players can't hear what the other payers are saying.

It might be possible to turn a solo board game into a multiplayer so that it becomes a social activity which can be done with friends or family that would involve team play or competing against each other. It may even be possible to transform a single-player board game into a multiplayer without changing fundamentally how the game is played by working together to complete it or by taking the activity in turns to see who can do it in the quickest time, get the highest score or just complete the challenge. Of course, you may want to do the opposite and play a board game that is multiplayer by yourself if you have no one to play it with at the time or prefer to do activities by yourself. To play a multiplayer board game alone you could take the parts of the other players and be in competition with yourself or play it truly single-player and just give yourself time limits or targets to achieve which would also be a form of practice that could allow you to improve at the game. The web is useful for finding ways to adapt a board game for a particular need so if you have a specific one that you want to do by yourself that is multiplayer or is a solo player that you want to do as a multiplayer then there could be on the web a set of tried and tested instructions how to do this, especially for the more popular board games that would save you the hassle of adapting and thinking up rules yourself.

New rules could be added to a board game to regulate participant behaviour and what the etiquette will be to ensure a pleasant, fun and smoothly run experience for everybody playing. Etiquette rules are often needed for multiplayer games when you have numerous people playing in which there could be trouble because of personality clashes and the way the game is played. These etiquette rules are there to hopefully stop the participants from getting on each other nerves which can lead to clashes and arguments and potentially the game's abandonment. The rules implemented could be the prohibition of alcohol as alcohol can lead to bad behaviour, no gloating, no advising other players of strategy, no shouting, not pressuring other players to speed up, etc. Ideas for etiquette rules could come from past experiences in which a game fell apart because of arguments and by learning what caused the arguments to begin with and then adding a rule to avoid this in future.

Surprises can make a board game suspenseful and exciting to play and the more randomly they occur and the greater variety of them the more surprising they can be especially when there is no forewarning that surprises will occur. If a board game already has surprises it may be possible and worth adding more as once a surprise has been experienced it likely won't be as surprising, if at all, the next time it occurs. One that has no surprises could be possibly modified to include them in order to gain the benefits of them and it also may be possible to transfer surprises from one board game to another and for them to work equally if not more effectively. The person adding or creating the surprises won't likely benefit or be surprised by them as they will likely know what they are but the people that person is playing with should benefit. Surprises could be activated by landing on a certain space, finding a hidden item or from a tool that creates randomness such as dice or a spinner and the surprise may help to win or lose the contest or just be an additional experience that has no real outcome on the result.

Time limits are also rules which could be introduced to a board game to potentially add more tension and pressure to it and that can ensure it is concluded by a certain time as a board game can sometimes run for many hours which is not always ideal. Time limits should be easy to implement and could be for example that whoever is in the lead after one hour is the winner or each player is only allowed a certain amount of time to complete their turn before it is over to maintain a certain pace of play and keep every player engaged. Many board games have time limits already in place such as quizzes and they could be removed to make it easier to play or more challenging time limits could be put in place when the original time limits are too easy. The positives about time limits, as a rule, is they are unambiguous and easy to understand and being able to work under time pressure is a useful puzzle skill but also a life skill to have.

Forfeits are a rule that can easily be introduced to any board game and what triggers the forfeit could be who comes last, who lands on a certain space, not achieving a certain score, going past a time limit, a wrong answer, etc. The forfeit could be chosen by the winner or decided by everybody beforehand and be as examples to play the rest of the time standing up, sing a song or eat something disgusting (obviously something that is safe to eat) and the hope is the forfeit will provide entertainment but motivate everybody to try harder to win. It is important everybody playing is comfortable with what the forfeit(s) will be and nobody is forced into doing something they don't want to do as forfeits in this context should enhance the experience not ruin it.

Creating an additional alternative way to win a board game may be a good idea when there is only one way to win or very few ways to achieve victory and this has led to the challenge becoming repetitive and stale. Additional alternative ways to win can allow for more strategy, decisions making, choice and creativity from the players involved which can make the experience more fun and interesting to play. If there is only one way to win then the experience can become sometimes automatic in which there is not much serious thinking or contemplation going on which won't be a very rewarding or stimulating experience. An example of creating an alternative way to win could be introducing another route or path to the finish line when the challenge is a race to the finish line with the new alternative path having different challenges to overcome. The alternative way to win could replace the current way to win if you can think of one that would be an upgrade or have seen or read about a better way for the challenge to be played and won. How feasible it is to introduce alternative ways to win will depend on the board game as it would with any rule change and it can be that a game will simply only really function well one way.

In summary, how you change a board game depends on what it is but ultimately is up to you from sensible rule changes that could improve the quality or difficulty of the challenge to the ridiculous when you just want the game to be more fun and are not particularly bothered who wins or loses but sticking to the original rules can often be the safe option to ensure the game functions and nobody feels cheated.

Everything mentioned in this article is purely informational and you do anything mentioned at your own risk (see disclaimer).




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