This has been on the FAQ to be answered for a while now, and yesterday I took a stab at it. However, the more I ponder it, the more I think that my initial reaction was wrong. I’ll explain why in a minute, but firstly I’d like to wander through some more general points it throws up.
Firstly, as I mentioned yesterday, jumping from one system to another requires a bit of acclimatisation time to get back into the appropriate zone again. I’ve been working on Deadzone a lot lately as well as other projects, and all my recent work on DreadBall has been Season 3 new teams and rules for things like GIANTS and multi-player games. Dealing with intricacies of individual plays requires a different sort of thinking. That’s not an excuse, but it is a partial explanation.
What’s more interesting is the general process of developing a game that continues past its original parameters. DreadBall was initially going to be a single boxed game with 4 teams. As I’ve mentioned before, I find that games have a natural size and so I’d thought about S2 and S3 as possibilities, but only vague ones. Kickstarter rather changed that.
Still, the initial box was the bit that had been played and tested and that was what the extent of what we knew worked smoothly when we started.
When you design something that you think (or know) will extend beyond the initial release, it’s sensible to consider how the core rules can be built upon. Things like special rules are a favourite method of many designers as they allow for characterful rules tweaks to accommodate new playing styles as the game expands without messing with the core mechanics in ways that mean the rest of the game needs rewriting. Their interaction can lead to problems in other places, but in terms of making a game easily expandable they are very helpful indeed. In essence though, whatever mechanical tricks you use, the point is to think about how things would expand and then build that ability in wherever possible.
Of course, the best laid plans are prone to being overtaken by events. As von Clausewitz is often paraphrased: “no plan survives contact with the enemy”, and though it’s harsh to call gamers the enemy when they’re not across the table from you, the general sentiment still applies. However much you plan, it’s likely that as future expansions roll out there will eventually be some unforeseen interactions where either rock meets hard place or everything is foggy.
In the first instance, where two rules directly contradict one another, you simply have to decide one way or the other. There’s no way round that. If two rules both make a unit go first, then clearly something has to give. If an armour always protects, then what if it is struck by a weapon that always penetrates. Both can no longer be true. So, in this sort of situation you have to pick a side of the fence. Hopefully you pick the side that will solve similar issues in future cases too.
When rules are simply unclear and offer no guidelines, then you have to make up new directions to help the player, and these situations are usually trickier to untangle. Typically there are arguments for a number of different interpretations, many of which have merits, but all of which cannot be true. Most designers have a sort of internal set of rules for themselves by which they resolve these problems. Personally I tend to favour the minimalist approach: which version requires least change/addition? Of course, that is too simplistic a formula to work on its own every time, and in reality you have to also balance how you think this will impact future planned additions and changes. Knowing where you’re going is very helpful, and new facets of a game can be used to help old problems. Sometimes this is planned, as with the additional Jack rules in Season 2 of DreadBall, other times it denotes a change in direction or an adaption to the way the game has evolved.
So what of this particular question? Slamming, Running Interference and all that?
Well, after re-reading the rules a few times, I think my initial response was wrong. Whilst the rule is about the initial position of the Slamming player, it is also about the side of the target he hits. What the rule actually means is does the Slamming player move from being in front of the target to being behind. If we take this as the rule then the answer is what I initially said: no, it’s not a foul if the target is the one causing you to hit them in the back. However, this is not what the rule says.
Let’s imaging that a player declares a Slam action while in the front arc of a target. The target then declares RI and turns around at the last moment. As the rules currently stand, the Slamming player started in the target’s front and is now hitting him from behind, hence it would be a foul. Taken at face value I think this is pretty clear.
So I’m left with a choice here. On the one hand, we have what the rules actually say at present which is that the action would be a foul. On the other we have what was originally intended by the rule (and which I think is clear as long as you don’t allow RI) which would suggest the angle of attack is not the Slamming player’s fault and so it isn’t a foul at all.
Where then is the balance? Is it worth changing the existing rule to accommodate what I had in mind when I first wrote it, or does the intention need to change slightly to suit the way the game could be played? On balance I can’t see that the benefit for changing the rule is worth it. Allowing cunning Jacks to make it look like they’re being fouled seems to be entirely in character both for that player role and the game in general. It’s the kind of thing that a DreadBall crowd would love and which would probably make the game highlights on the tri-vid later. As is often the case, I go back to thinking about what it would really be like, and this makes most sense to me.
So yes, use the rules exactly as they stand: if the Slamming player starts in the front of the target and makes a Slam from the rear then it’s a foul. The rule doesn’t ask how either he or his target got there.
This has the benefit of requiring no rules changes and also being quite characterful for both the player role and the game. It’s also a tiny help to Jacks and a slight curtailing of Guards, which isn’t a bad thing either. A win all round 🙂