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"Rules Length & Rules Lawyers" Topic

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Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian23 Oct 2017 9:50 a.m. PST

"The longer the set of rules, the more rules lawyers it attracts." True or false?

Dynaman878923 Oct 2017 10:10 a.m. PST


Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP23 Oct 2017 10:37 a.m. PST

Ever see the explanatory guide to DBA?

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP23 Oct 2017 10:58 a.m. PST

The more rules, the more material for the lawyer to work with… and greater opportunities for mistakes that can be taken advantage of…

Personal logo Herkybird Supporting Member of TMP23 Oct 2017 11:03 a.m. PST

Longer can mean better explained.

Perhaps the question should be 'The longer the Quick reference sheet, the more contentious?'

Joes Shop Supporting Member of TMP23 Oct 2017 11:09 a.m. PST


D6 Junkie23 Oct 2017 11:11 a.m. PST

False, the new 40k rules are short and many interpretaions are coming out

martin goddard Sponsoring Member of TMP23 Oct 2017 11:12 a.m. PST

I would say false.
This is on the assumption that a full set of rules includes scenery,scenaro generator, basing, period information, table details etc. There is often mention of rules being only 1 page, but they probably do not include all that is needed to execute a game, but instead just enough for those who know the writer to play.

I would accept that there is possibly a correlation between length and potential arguments, but without some length the rules may not capture the period well at all.

If a set of rules just says "do whatever you want if you roll a 4,5,6" then there will be less(?) argument but the game might be unsatisfactory(possibly not?).

As a promotion of the PP grid based rules, and any other grid based rules; a lot of arguments can be obviated by the use of grids (nex /square/region)

Just joining in the discussion. Not intended to upset anyone with very strong feelings or sensitivities.

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP23 Oct 2017 11:33 a.m. PST

I think I agree. We have a simple set of rules for the AWI that is only 18 pages long including diagrams and no arguments, no lawyers in sight. We play AOE or JR and it becomes the Supreme Court.

JimDuncanUK23 Oct 2017 11:36 a.m. PST

It could be True or False.

The bottom line for me is to ditch the players who act as rules lawyers and possibly the rules too.

Play your games with your chums and use rules that don't present much in the way of an argument.

RudyNelson23 Oct 2017 11:36 a.m. PST

Several determining factors, the length of the rules is only one. The length and sentence structure is another. Simple sentences of clear subject-verb-direct object without a bunch of clauses or phrases will make a rule mechanic easy to understand and leave less room for arguments.
I used to use the old SPI style case format but several publishers preferred paragraph form in order to save space.
I still prefer the case system as a way to reduce confusion.

Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP23 Oct 2017 11:50 a.m. PST

+1 JimDuncanUK

DisasterWargamer Supporting Member of TMP23 Oct 2017 12:02 p.m. PST

I concur with JimDuncanUK as well

Though I enjoy playing with people that could become friends

Anyone who wants to win that badly I let them – and then go on to play again without them

Personal logo FingerandToeGlenn Sponsoring Member of TMP23 Oct 2017 12:55 p.m. PST

I think the issue is clarity. Technical writing should be more Hemingway and less Joyce. Organization should be clear and intuitive with numerous examples.

That said, I also think rules should not approach the length of an MA thesis.

Maybe we should give the rules lawyers a small set of chits. Once they run out, they're done for the day.

boy wundyr x Inactive Member23 Oct 2017 1:12 p.m. PST

Rules lawyers only need a sentence. Maybe even a phrase.

Edit – or a badly placed comma.

basileus66 Inactive Member23 Oct 2017 2:17 p.m. PST

I've seen people being accused of behaving like a 'rule lawyer' because they believed that a rule wasn't correctly interpretated and wanted to discuss it. In many cases, the accuser was the party being benefited by the current interpretation of the rule. I can't stop myself but being suspicious of those who claim that as we are having a "friendly" game, rules shouldn't be checked and became angry if you do.

Ad hominem arguments are bad arguments. Not everybody that is accused of behaving like a rule lawyer IS a rule lawyer. Neither all pals are really pals.

21eRegt23 Oct 2017 3:35 p.m. PST

False. I honestly think the opposite is true.

Blutarski23 Oct 2017 4:34 p.m. PST

The most intense rules disputes I can recall involved Phil Barker's rules. Phil often sacrificed clarity upon the altar of his unhealthy fascination with cascading subordinate clauses.


USAFpilot23 Oct 2017 4:49 p.m. PST

The two are mutually exclusive.

I've heard the term "rules lawyer" on this forum, but not sure what it means. I find that if there is something in the rules which is unclear, then I discuss with my opponent and come to mutual agreement on the meaning. Playing a game in which there exist numerous holes or inconsistencies or other problems in the rules seems like it would not be an enjoyable game to play. I mostly play Commands & Colors, which I consider to be well written rules, but there are still a number of questions which have come up during play. After my opponent and I come to agreement, I write down our interpretation of the rule so we have a record we can reference the next time the situation presents itself. It always works out great when you and your opponent are on the same wavelength with respect to the rules.

evilgong23 Oct 2017 4:55 p.m. PST

What exactly do people understand by the title of 'rules lawyer'?

a) somebody who wants to play by the black-letter of the rules and will attempt to strictly observe them rather than letting some things go.

b) somebody who willfully tries to miss-interpret any grey areas of a rule where reasonable people can see the author's intent and / or the interpretation leads to seriously unreasonable outcomes

c) something else?

David F Brown

Blutarski23 Oct 2017 5:44 p.m. PST

evilgong -
FWIW, my definition of a "rules lawyer" is in accord with your item (b).


robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP23 Oct 2017 7:00 p.m. PST

I'd say (b) and in my experience the happy hunting ground of the rules lawyer is the redundancy of the longer rules set. If you only refer to squares once, if you were very clear, you're probably OK. But if it comes up in "melee" "infantry formations" and again in "morale" or "movement" however hard you try to be internally consistent, you've probably left room for one reference to be interpreted in a way contrary to another.

My rule of thumb is that 2-5 pages will work with willing players not trying to break the system, and that somewhere in the DBA/Lion Rampant range is about as long as rules get which have been thoroughly tested and which are internally consistent. This is not to say that all rules in this range ARE either--only that they CAN BE.
Above that--well, Otto's old rule that serious playtesting takes about a month a page and is no fun probably applies. People just will not spend four or five years making sure the rules are perfectly clear and consistent.
And by the time the rules involve a core book, two army books and possibly a theater guide, I have my doubts that any one individual actually read everything, let alone checked for inconsistencies and ambiguities. (For that matter, good luck finding them all in the same edition.)

One may, of course, be concise without being clear. But it is almost impossible to be verbose without ambiguity.

Personal logo Frank Wang Sponsoring Member of TMP23 Oct 2017 7:13 p.m. PST

False, very interesting.
No rules can cover every aspect in the game. as a wargamer you need to think logically because the game is based on realities. Anyone tries to play on words are boring.

Ottoathome Inactive Member23 Oct 2017 8:02 p.m. PST


You can have the dumbest, worst written, most disorganized ad confusing set of rules in the world and if played by guys who are there to have fun and make the game work and have a good time the rules will be pure perfection. On the other hand if you have a group of toxic players and rules lawyers who view every game as a venue for debate argument, and ego, God himself couldn't write a set of rules to make them work even if he stood over them with a stick.

Don't believe me, look at the world around you?

The best rule is the first.

1. If you have a rules lawyer, don't invite him back to the next game.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP23 Oct 2017 9:35 p.m. PST

You can have the dumbest, worst written, most disorganized ad confusing set of rules in the world and if played by guys who are there to have fun and make the game work and have a good time the rules will be pure perfection. On the other hand if you have a group of toxic players and rules lawyers who view every game as a venue for debate argument, and ego, God himself couldn't write a set of rules to make them work even if he stood over them with a stick.

I can buy that. However, the question was whether longer rules 'attract' rules lawyers, not whether you or I would play with rules lawyers or that that good guys can't make the worst written rules work well-enough to have fun.

Longer rules provide more fodder for rules lawyers. You don't see many with checkers, yatzee and chess. Get into Bridge and Mah Jong and they can appear.

Even gamers with the least inclination to be 'rules lawyers' can have questions and debates over the meaning of what particular rules mean…

Ottoathome Inactive Member23 Oct 2017 11:21 p.m. PST

Dear McLaddie

Long short, doesn't matter.

That's why I said look at the world around you.

God made 10 simple rules to live by and they were clear and unequivocal. The guy from Nazareth added a half a dozen more. They both wrote them down clear and concisely.

Look how bad the world is screwed up by the rules lawyers, and God IS standing over us with a stick and it still does no good. People are rotten. So are some gamers.

UshCha24 Oct 2017 3:28 a.m. PST

Rules need to be as accurate and consice as possible. There is only one thing to do with Rules lawers, not play them morethan once. i play for enjoyment poart of which is not an ass argueing black iw white and makinh wholey ridiculus unrealistic suggestions arguments based on their interpretating of the English language (remove and insert language here for other languages).

Certainly rules lawers and the rules have little connection. Credible debates over rule interpretation in a sensible non-confrountational way is part of the game but it is unbiased to who gains the advantage. That is now ruylke Lawering.

TNE230024 Oct 2017 8:56 a.m. PST

Rules need to be as accurate and consice as possible.

CelestiCon 2013 Game Designer Round Table (Brandon Raasch, Craig Robertson, Erik Bernhardt & Jeffry Tibbets)


Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP24 Oct 2017 11:40 a.m. PST

Look how bad the world is screwed up by the rules lawyers, and God IS standing over us with a stick and it still does no good. People are rotten. So are some gamers.


Accepting for argument's sake that humanity is a decaying cesspool of immoral rottenness, along with some gamers, accepting that rules lawyers will argue over rules regardless of the number of rules,

Rules Lawyers need rules to be Rule Lawyers, and having ten commandments gives them twice as much to work with as five, which I would think make ten more attractive than five… Which was the OP question…and the only question.

That's it. No deep philosophical pronouncements on the nature of man or the need to uninvite rules lawyers or how bad they are.

Of course, well-written, concise rules are better than less well-written, rambling rule sets. Of course, at times there will be a need for rule interpretation, regardless. And that can be done in a friendly, easy fashion by gamers of good will.

Zephyr124 Oct 2017 3:02 p.m. PST

Oh no, they can take liberties with even short rules.

"The rule says I can move up to 4 inches. It doesn't say I can't move more than once."

That was the last game I ever played with that guy…

Ottoathome Inactive Member24 Oct 2017 3:16 p.m. PST

And people wonder why war gamers have such problems recruiting new people.

Vamps, tramps and mules.

thehawk25 Oct 2017 2:54 a.m. PST

I thought it was Napoleonics that attracted rules lawyers.

Personal logo etotheipi Sponsoring Member of TMP25 Oct 2017 6:12 a.m. PST

Being a rules lawyer is an affect behaviour. It doesn't need a reason, so whatever ruleset the rules lawyer attaches to will be sufficient.

As some have said above, length may be an attractor, but most likely not a significant one. Clarity as an attractor probably marginalizes the effect of length. Popularity is probably the driving factor. I would say this is a supermarginalized behaviour – the larger the group, the smaller the percentage of the total who engage in the outlier behaviour. So, the more popular a game, the larger pool of potential opponents who will not be prepared to counter your arguments.

Garth in the Park25 Oct 2017 6:59 a.m. PST

Length has nothing to do with clarity.

Thomas Thomas25 Oct 2017 10:45 a.m. PST

It depends on the concepts. Complex concepts with poor explainations will produce the most rule disputes. Many are honest disputes where people simply disagree on the meaning of a rule.

Games that are played (as opposed to sitting on a shelf) esp in tournaments are often unfairly condemened for rule lawyering – the disputes come from people actually trying to play the game not form an inherent inferiority to games no one tries to play.

Concise is nice but rules can be too cryptic: hence the diffiuclties with even simple DBA. As a rule writer I try to explain each concept as simply and consistently as possibile – but no simpler. Some stuff just requires a certain amount of verbage to be clear – less is not more and will only lead to more disputes.

Coherent concepts, applied intelligently and explained consistently will eliminate most rule lawyering. At least its worked for me….

Thomas J. Thomas
Fame and Glory Games

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP26 Oct 2017 9:55 p.m. PST

Rule Lawyers, honest disputes and poor concepts:


USAFpilot27 Oct 2017 6:59 p.m. PST

So in the above pictured cartoon, the guy playing the DMG is the one who is the 'rules lawyer' and the gal is just using her imagination, and quite well too. I could see how some of you guys may think it is just the opposite with the girl being the one who is the 'rules lawyer'.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP27 Oct 2017 9:30 p.m. PST

I can see how knowing exactly who the rules lawyer is depends on which side of the rule you are siting. You could say that the DM was following the 'spirit of the rule' and the player was looking for a loophole to use.

The fact is that players, lawyers or not, will try to ferret it out any and all semantics and implications regarding the rules when that can be manipulated to provide an advantage. It's human nature…

That is true of just about any game from golf to chess.

Ottoathome Inactive Member28 Oct 2017 7:16 a.m. PST

Rules lawyers are cheats pure and simple.

This is why every game should have an umpire. It shuts down the rules lawyers at the first peep.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP28 Oct 2017 9:29 a.m. PST

Rules lawyers are cheats pure and simple.

Well, not everyone who questions or suggests a rules interpretation is a cheat, so let's just call those who would be termed 'rules lawyers' 'cheats' and leave it at that. I always prefer the pure and simple.

Ottoathome Inactive Member28 Oct 2017 2:11 p.m. PST

Oh stop McLaddie. Anyone can tell an honest question or request of an interpretation, and when some weasel is trying to game the system. As for the rules lawyers, I've already called them that.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP28 Oct 2017 10:07 p.m. PST

If they're cheats, screwing with rule interpretation is simply one of many ways to cheat.

Ottoathome Inactive Member29 Oct 2017 6:16 a.m. PST

That is what rules lawyers do, screw with interpretations.

In all things.

Mules rule.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP29 Oct 2017 7:53 a.m. PST

So all rules lawyers are cheaters?

Is there any situation where someone can be an annoying rules lawyer without any intention of cheating?

Ottoathome Inactive Member29 Oct 2017 9:14 a.m. PST

"annoying rules lawyer" is enough to get tossed from a game. Cheating is frosting on the cake.

Life is too short to waste a rare day of gaming having your pleasure diminished by annoying players.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP29 Oct 2017 9:33 p.m. PST

Understood. I was just wanted a better grasp on what you saw as a Rules Lawyer vs a cheat.

Ottoathome Inactive Member30 Oct 2017 5:54 a.m. PST

My Taxonomy is quite sweeping due to experience. In the late 1960's to mid 1970's I gamed with a group of six Napoleonic gamers who were simply toxic, and all of them were extremely unpleasant and of the rules lawyering type, and cheaters to boot. Every game was a running argument and every move was fraught with animosity and endless debates as to what the 443rd Fusilier nose-pickers of the Guard would or would not do in real life. We played Frappe, but the rules didn't matter. One day I went to the game. We started at 7 am and by 9pm that night we had gotten to only about the second half of turn two. I had a splitting headache and had enough. I quit war games and left all my terrain, rules, game stuff and 1,000 figures there.

Obviously I didn't leave wargames and six months later I was back in, but in the 18th century where there was no Guard. I've never played Napoleonics again. But more important the moment I hear the arguments and quibbling start, I'm outta that group. Cheaters, rules lawyers, arguers, I'm not going to waste six minutes with them let alone seven years again. I have friends who go to clubs and groups where these players are, and they go because they are so desperate for a game they will put up with it. They complain bitterly about them, but they put up with it because that's what they have to do.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP30 Oct 2017 7:28 a.m. PST

Cheaters, rules lawyers, arguers, I'm not going to waste six minutes with them let alone seven years again.

No body was questioning that position. It would seem everyone here agrees with that response to those groups.

Blutarski30 Oct 2017 2:36 p.m. PST

To be fair to the "rules lawyers" out there, "cheaters" IMO occupy a very separate and distinctly more despicable category.

The "rules lawyer" openly confronts you. You have a chance to respond.

The "cheater" seeks to take you unaware. He rolls dice when you are not looking and lies about the result; he measures with a "rubber ruler"; he invents fake rules and modifiers to his benefit in the hope that you are gullible enough to believe him, then feigns bad memory when challenged.

I might buy a rules lawyer a beer after the game, if he has been especially "creative" in his argumentation and provides a good laugh. But I will have absolutely nothing whatsoever further to do with a cheater, once identified.


Ottoathome Inactive Member30 Oct 2017 7:14 p.m. PST

I prefer the cheaters to the rules lawyers. The cheaters make no pretense of being legal. They know they are cheating and accept the rules but cheat around them. The Rules lawyers add insult to injury and attempt to convince you they're not urinating on your shoes, but that it's really rain.

Simple cheaters just cheat. Rules Lawyers think it makes a better game when they cheat.

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