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My friends at work and I meet up for lunch to play short card and board games.

Lately, we've had enough people to play a card game every day. (Not like poker or such, packaged card games). This is great! It's usually a huge stress relief for me, and a lot of fun!

But one of the newer guys, who seems to get agitated easily and get pissy quickly, makes jokes about my enforcing the rules of the game (however convoluted they may be) whenever someone asks about rules of the games. Admittedly, I make jokes on occasion as well, so I haven't been letting it bother me.

Until today. Today during a game, one of the players started clearing "out" cards off the table mid game and preparing for the next game. This is explicitly against the rules of the game, but I refrained from making a scene about it at the time. I figured it really usually doesn't affect the game, though this was the first time he'd done it, so why make a scene? I could just point it out after.

Well, this time, his clearing the "out" cards did affect the game. With one card left each for two players, one player used his turn to call a card that had been played out. (All the cards of that type were out.) He had no way to know this, because the cards were all taken back and were being shuffled. Normally, not a big deal. However, to mix up the game, we had houseruled a little. We had removed two cards from the deck before we started.

Luckily, the player that had picked up and shuffled the cards knew for sure what the burn cards were, and everything was fine. But, the first player lost the game because he had no way of knowing the card he was calling was out, not counting the burn cards. The second player stopped to ask how many of that card had gone out already, so he was able to win in that move.

In the moments of this incident happening, I pointed out that this was against the rules and it impacted the game. I'm a stickler for rules for the most part, though I'm all for house rules if everyone has a say in whether we play them or not. (We put it to a vote, usually).

When I was pointing out this being against the rules, a lot of the group gave me these looks like it really didn't matter. The gentleman that makes jokes probably made another joke, but I was so bothered by the looks that I excused myself to go grab my lunch.

My immediate instinct was two fold:

  1. Apologize on Slack because I think part of the looks was my tone. I may have sounded too aggressive or hostile, though that was not my intent. I don't know for sure that this was the case, but I will still apologize for it because these are my friends.

  2. Explain that if the group wants me to not care about the rules so much, I can do that. That's fine! I've got no problem with it... But if we go this route, I no longer feel comfortable offering up my own games to play.

First thought, naturally, no problem. I'll be doing that regardless. The second thought, however... It feels like "taking my ball and going home." The others don't seem to care as much about how closely we follow the rules. Again, I'm fine with this! As long as we all agree to how closely we're following them, or as long as I don't know them that well. I know the rules for all of my games pretty damn well, mainly so I can teach them to the group when we play.

I want to express to my friends that I'm cool with being more lax on the rules, but I'm not comfortable with being more lax with the rules on my own games (Mainly because I know them so well I'm not sure I could be more lax...) though I'm more than open to compromises that are suggested. I don't, however, want to come across as petty or "my way or the highway" when/if I bring this point up.

How can I express this without sounding petty?


Further context:

We are all IT professionals in a State job, but in different departments. We're all in the same building. I am the only female of our group, most days. I'm also one of the better players.

The easily agitated player is one of the older men. The age ranges are from (guessing because I haven't asked any of the older guys) probably 40/50ish to 22. I'm on the lower end of that, with only two of the guys younger than me.


For clarity, the game was Coup. In it, you get two of five types of card, there's a set number of each type in the deck. You can claim to be any card in the deck, but if another player calls you on a lie, you lose a card. If they call you and you're lying, they lose a card. Lost cards are flipped face up and remain so on the table. We also had a house rule to remove two cards from the deck before starting.

  • When you say "not with my game", do you mean "not with complex games that I usually bring" or "not with my playset"? That is; what would happen if someone else decided to buy this same game and bring it? – Erik Mar 1 '18 at 20:06
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    If someone else bought this game and brought it to play instead... I'd probably pass for the game and instead practice one of my lessons for the day. Which I would make clear to them in discussing this. – Kendra Mar 1 '18 at 20:08
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    I'm naturally competitive and often a stickler about rules since often, the rules exist to protect the competitive integrity of the game. I resonate with your issue and without trying to answer in the comments: I found that people who do not take the game as seriously as I do can certainly be a source of minor conflict. – spiral succulent Mar 2 '18 at 1:08
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    Oh, you absolutely cannot mess around with the game elements in any of the games in The Resistance family! The games are carefully balanced to have just the right amount of information available, and will become fundamentally unbalanced if it's casually messed around with. – curiousdannii May 4 '18 at 11:31
  • @curiousdannii We've actually found some house rules that don't unbalance the game, but do make it more fun. Most of us are quite good at counting the cards that are in the deck, so we'll ambassador through the deck if we can... And almost always be under the radar because duke calls. So, we had to mess with things a little to shake things up. – Kendra May 4 '18 at 13:09
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Sit everyone down and talk it through.

Some friends and I like to play Settlers of Catan from time to time. There used to be maybe eight or nine of us, and given that the game's for up to four (or six, with an expansion pack), only about half of us get together to play at any given time. That means that there are sometimes inconsistencies in how minor rules are applied. We've also tried to modify the rules to implement one or two that made things smoother.

One controversy we had a couple months back involved whether one player can break up another's set of roads, therefore possibly losing them points (technical detail: it was about whether settling on an opponent's road can break the chain up and possibly stop them from getting Longest Road). During one game, someone tried to apply the rule to take points away from another player; that second player got upset, and we had a small problem. I don't recall who won the game.

After that incident, we tried to go over all the rules that could be problematic (turns out there are a lot!). We formally established which ones would be modified and which would be used, and when certain rules could take effect. We made sure everyone knew about them. Most importantly, we made the decision as a group. We actually cut the precedents entirely and tried to work it out from scratch.

I would do something similar here, reexamine the rules themselves. There's clearly a disagreement about the validity of one of them. Look at the possibilities, look at their strengths and weaknesses, and figure out which will work the best. If the group as a whole wants to be more laid-back, then maybe go with that option. If they indicate that they're good with a compromise, maybe modify the rule so it only applies in certain circumstances or use it in some games but not others (that was our ultimate solution). Try to be as objective as possible.

I've found that in this sort of case, people are happiest if everyone can reason things out. It's possible that you accidentally came off as enforcing the rules for the sake of the rules, rather than as enforcing them because there was a really important issue. Talking it out logically should be able to quell those assumptions, and let them know that you weren't trying to be controlling - you just saw a problem and tried to fix it. Actions, I think, speak louder than words.

  • We have gone over and discussed the rules for this particular game before, but perhaps it's time for us to do so again... – Kendra Mar 1 '18 at 20:10
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    @Kendra I think periodically discussing the rules again is a good move. It sounds like you all play a number of games; it's possible that people forget a bit about some of the rules if a game isn't their favorite. – HDE 226868 Mar 1 '18 at 20:12
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    Anymore, just two: Coup and Resistance. :) For some reason, we enjoy lying to each other once a day... – Kendra Mar 1 '18 at 20:15
  • In similar situations, where I was in the same spot as OP, this is an easy way to make sure everybody is on the same page before conflict arises mid-game. – spiral succulent Mar 2 '18 at 1:09
  • The worst situation I've ever faced was over a game of Catan and had to do with an exploitation of the robber to extort resources from people to not place the robber on their high production tiles (don't do this, or at least, limit it) – spiral succulent Mar 2 '18 at 1:11
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In your own words, the purpose of this outing to begin with is stress relief. If this game can't be played casually without stressing you out, perhaps it's time to pick another game.

When you go to apologize, just mention that this game is important to you and it honestly gets frustrating when it's not played correctly which causes incidents that derail the game. Come up with a suggestion for a game that won't grind your gears or anyone else's so that the gameplay can get back to being fun for everyone, including yourself.

In your own words, you're unsure if you could come down on certain games. If that's the case, it's best to just try to move on to another game.

If you're having issues with the new player shaking the boat, the same kind of solution applies. It's possible that having to follow such a strict rule set annoys the new guy, which he expresses via jokes. The incident also follows that perhaps the rules may just be too complicated for a casual lunch setting for everyone involved.

It sounds like for this game it's easy for the game to derail if the rules aren't followed closely, which is why I suggested another lighter game.

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    The game(s) can be played casually without stressing me. Usually we don't have rule situations that bother me any. Right now, it's just the jokes from one of the newer guys and today's incident causing me stress, but generally the games are fast paced, fun, and stress free. And "just so" isn't the problem either- I'm often the one suggesting coming up with house rules, or suggesting the house rules themselves. It's more a want to adhere to the rules (the ones we alter or otherwise) than anything. Otherwise, good answer! – Kendra Mar 1 '18 at 20:06
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    You can comment on your own posts. :) Or answers to your own question, if you were to ask a question. – Kendra Mar 1 '18 at 20:19
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    I got the answer fixed up. Thanks for the tip :) – Froopy Mar 1 '18 at 20:22
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Personal interactions at games clubs can be tricky, especially since geeky types are sometimes a bit weak in their social skills.

Don't apologize, don't explain, don't defend yourself.

Start rotating out which games you bring. Then, if you take an extended break from bringing Coup, it won't be so noticeable.

Take the long view. The unpleasant newcomer may start to find himself somewhat isolated as time goes on. Keep your eyes and ears open. This will be interesting, and it will also help you keep your cool.

Cultivate allies among the regulars, and try to recruit women to join the games lunches.

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    and try to recruit women to join the games lunches. You can't just drop this and not elaborate. What does gender have to do with any of his problems? Not to mention you talk about weak social skills yet want to change the dynamic by adding women to the mix? Where you going with this? – Sidar Mar 2 '18 at 9:53
  • @Sidar I mentioned in the question that I'm the only woman in the group. Which, as someone who's frequently the only woman in the group with other groups, can indeed cause at least some perceived conflict just due to how women (generally) are wired compared to men. As the only woman in groups, I have sometimes brought up concerns or issues just to be told I'm just being a whiny girl or something similar. (Not the game group, specifically. Though it's always a treat to be told that and then what I brought up being a huge issue in the end that could've been avoided if I'd been listened to...) – Kendra Mar 2 '18 at 13:57
  • @Kendra I understood that part. I just don't see how "geeky types" have weak social skills is going to be countered by introducing more women? I have nothing against the idea of adding more women to the group, I just don't understand the reasoning behind his statement and the follow up. Don't forget you're only whiny because they are told not to ruin your stress-free time, it should be made clear. – Sidar Mar 2 '18 at 14:26
  • @Sidar I wasn't entirely sure you did understand that part, given you called me "him", which would indicate you were unaware of part of the situation. Adding people with better social skills can actually help teach people with weaker social skills how to handle things better, barring medical reasons for the weak skills. Adding more women would also help balance out the opinions and thought processes among the group. (For lack of room for a more wordy explanation of my own...) The answerer might have a different reasoning than I for it, but it does make sense to me. – Kendra Mar 2 '18 at 14:40
  • given you called me "him" That was an error on my part. I blame it on memory muscle...eh. I understand leveling the playing field, I'm just not too sure how people with weak social skills will react to it. But I feel like the guys just don't really care in general about the games that much and finding their own "stress-free" time as they see fit. But I digress, dicussion should be limited. – Sidar Mar 2 '18 at 14:56
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If possible, try to make light of the situation without changing your opinion.

Hey, you might call me a "Rule Nazi", but be aware ve haf vays off makink you comply! Brink out the vet noodles!

I agree that the game itself, and the exact rules, and even the winning, all matter less than the fun of playing the game. The rules are there for a reason, and it can be frustrating to try your best to win a particular game, only to find out someone has been playing a slightly different game.

Let everyone know that your role in the group is to enforce the rules of every game -- but as much as possible, do it with a sense of wit and humor. Eventually I think everyone will appreciate that there is someone in the group who has memorized and is a stickler for the rules, so they don't have to worry about it.

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The way you describe it, there are 3 "parties" in this "conflict":

  1. You
  2. New guy
  3. Everybody else

But actually I think that the new guy making jokes about you enforcing the rules is kind of a red herring to this entire question. The reason I think this is because all he is doing is voicing an opinion - an opinion that everybody sat around the table either held themselves, or disagrees with, but didn't voice.

Basically some people do care about the rules of a game, and these are generally people who find relaxation in the actual playing of a game itself. There are other people who find relaxation simply in the social aspect of playing games. This second group I would imagine are less likely to care about the rules being strictly obeyed, or who wins and loses, so long as they are with other people, chatting, laughing or whatever.

This is one of those occasions where I believe that the best "interpersonal" approach is, in the main, to be silent. At least for a while. "Non-verbal" communication is an interpersonal skill. Knowing when not to speak is as important as speaking.

If you speak up about the rules then you are going to divide people, broadly into the two types of player I mention above - those that care about the rules, and those that aren't bothered so long as they have fun. Your entire concern seems to be over not wanting to come across badly, which is fair enough. So my answer is simply don't be the person to raise this - wait and see if anybody else does.

The likely outcomes of you just leaving this situation to resolve itself are:

1) Sooner or later someone else will probably say something about the game, if they care about the rules. It may even be that people are already discussing it, and perhaps more than one person will express this feeling. This could result in it being resolved, as the culprit is more likely to listen to a majority rather than one person.

2) Some people may start to quietly leave the game if they don't feel that it is worth playing. This would be a shame, but you could then identify the people that care about the rules and maybe even set up a separate game with just them, if that is what you want.

3) If the majority of people don't really care about the rules then the situation may just continue as it is. If that is the case, you may just have to come to accept that maybe you were the only one who saw it as a competitive game while everybody else just saw it as a bit of fun. Maybe you could try and view it the same way and just enjoy some association and banter?

As a separate issue, I think there may be a conflict of personalities between you and the "new guy". For someone so new to make an issue over your concern over the rules of a game does suggest they might have a problem. Again I would just let that slide, and be the bigger person. People like that tend to make a fool of themselves sooner or later, but if you argue back you just give them fuel.

At the start of this answer I said you might believe it is you, him, and everybody else - but it sounds like before the new guy came along you were just one group. It wasn't you Vs everybody else! People that cause divisions often don't just split people two ways, they divide into three, because while they try to make someone else out to be a problem, they also try to make themselves a victim of sorts. Staying quiet and not retaliating prevents them from doing that to you, and they only succeed in alienating themselves from the group.

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In general I agree with HDE's post, but thought I'd add an answer based on my experience with games in The Resistance family. I haven't played Coup itself, but I have played some of the others. If you take HDE's approach of discussing how you play, reexamining the game rules, and reconsidering your house rules, you might like to consider presenting an argument like this.

Unlike many other games, the games in The Resistance family are all carefully balanced to have just enough information available. The history of The Resistance is that it was inspired by Mafia/Warewolf, but introduced elements which replaced essentially random lynchings with evidence based logic. All the elements which you can see, and all you can't, are important.

Now because I haven't played Coup, I don't know the merits of your house rule to remove two cards. I'm guessing it makes the game slightly harder at the beginning as there are cards you can't account for, but maybe a little easier at the end if you can figure them out, because then there's less to count? In any case, everyone should be on the same page about the house rules and their merits.

In the case of clearing away the face-up characters, this would increase the difficulty of the game, as it requires you to remember everything, rather than being able to check visually as you play. If everyone feels they want to add that challenge to the game, then fine, that should be a workable house rule. But you'd need to play it consistently: every face-up card gets immediately hidden, and they should be hidden neutrally, not in one person's hands while they "shuffle" them (but actually gain the advantage to check on the cards while no one else can.) It's fundamentally unfair to turn a game while it is being played from one in which memory is not important to one in which it is. That goes against the entire reason of playing logical games such as these.

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