It’s the second half of August, the town of Rowy, a table just by the sea side. It’s blissfully quiet, a nice roar of the waves while we play a game of Citadels. There’s a mixed party here, two players from Gliwice, four from Warsaw. I have a Merchant in my hand, I’m picking two pieces of gold, plus a third one, decide to build a Palace, when I suddenly hear it’s not allowed…
“Excuse me?” I’m asking in surprise.
“You’re not allowed to build after taking a third gold piece. You take gold after you’ve completed your actions.” An answer comes.
“Yes I can.” I smile. “I assure you I can.”
We pick up the manual. I point at the relevant paragraph with my finger. We read it aloud, and all becomes quiet.
„Great. We’ve been playing it the wrong way for a year…”
A few moments pass, an assassin kills a king. “The crown goes to the dead king”, I point out seeing that no one is willing to pass the crown. “No, no, the king is dead, he killed him, he doesn’t get the crown”, I hear. “The king is dead, but he receives the crown nevertheless”, I argument. “No, he doesn’t. Yes, he does. No. Yes.” We take a look in the manual. I get my own way. I feel like a half-wit spoiling the fun for everyone else. Like an accountant eager to ruin someone’s holiday. I feel very, very awkward. Eventually a third discrepancy with the rules comes up. „You’re going to kill me”, I say, then hide under the table…
Two weeks after that the holiday was over. Now people are returning, there are meetings and visits in the hometown of Gliwice. I’m receiving Bogas and Dagmara, a married couple from Tarnowskie Gory. We’re playing Verflixxt, but not before we’re five minutes into the game, when another charming fun with settling for common rules begins. I want to move the bird and the pawn every time a question mark is rolled. Bogas wants every player to pass his or her token to the player on their left. Multidej shows off his German and quotes the manual. Dagmara cuts him short by saying that she’s graduated from German philology. Merry munches on crisps and enjoys the whole scene.
Eventually, both Bogus and I, we shake our heads and give up on the whole fuss. It is settled – since we’re playing in Gliwice, we’ll play according to the Gliwice interpretation. We’re having tremendous fun, unaware of the fact that both versions, Bogus’ and mine, are wrong, which turns out a couple of days later. A few days after that a final, irrefutable translation of those rules lands in my Verflixxt box. And a week later, over two years after I had bought Verflixxt, I have an uncommon pleasure to play it according to the genuine rules. The match is sweet, a breath of fresh air, it brings new experience. We’re all satisfied with this new version of Verflixxt.
The number of games I have played not according to their rules is overwhelming. There was a period when virtually every board game I played, I played according to my own custom rules, since I would go and mix up and change things recklessly time and time again. Rules are eight, sixteen, and often twenty pages long, thick with text, full of sentences and every single one of them purposeful. Full of words, that are not just decoration, pretty feint or accurate metaphor. It’s a dozen or so pages of simple and precise rules, full of indicative sentences describing how to play the game.
Miss one and the game is out of control.
And a king’s ransom for the one who has never overlooked a sentence, who has never missed an exception, who has never misinterpreted an example.
And so, to celebrate the beginning of holidays, I have an offer for you. Take the rules of your favourite game and read it very, very carefully, one paragraph a time. There’s a chance that you find a detail or a few proving irrefutably, that you’ve been playing it the wrong way.
Do play it according to the genuine rules. Experience the taste of freshness, discover new possibilities in your beloved board game, and name the new rules “Trzewiczek’s expansion”. It applies to any game. And you get it from me for free.