Rules That Micromanage: Please Don’t!


Recently, we played through London Dread.  Pretty good rulebook, decent game.  One thing struck me when I was reading the rulebook in the Gaining Resources section on page 11:

Whenever you gain resources, they must be distributed as evenly as possible among the Characters present in the location responsible for the gain.  For example: … It’s not legal to give all 3 items to one of the characters …

This is a very minor point in the game, but it really bothered me.  What if my character has been rolling bad and needed for all 3 items for the endgame?  The other characters may be doing fine, but I may need all the items so I can go further!  It’s clear, that in order to win the game, all characters need to do well in the final challenges! Or we will lose.  So, why was the game micromanaging such a small decision?

It bothers me because the rule doesn’t seem in-line with the overall structure of the  game: this is a cooperative game where we are making decisions together to decide our fate, and this rule micromanages how we can share.  I suspect the rule is there to mitigate Alpha Player Syndrome.  But, I don’t think it will: if you have an Alpha Player at the table, this little rule won’t do much.  Or maybe it’s there for balance?

All it does it make me mad (not real mad, but irate).  Why take away a decision in the game?  If we lose because of this rule, I will be more than mad.  I will be … a lot more mad.

Rules That Micromanage the Cooperative Experience

I have seen rules like this in other games:

  • Arkham Horror: You can only buy 1 item at the store when you go shopping.  Um .. what?   You already get a “random selection” of items anyways.  And it seems very unthematic that the store wouldn’t let you buy as much as you want!
  • Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game:  You can’t pass using stunts. In my review of the Dresden files, I was surprised how much space  in the rulebook was spent on this minor clarification.  Usually you never want to waste a stunt, but if it means the difference between a winning strategy or not, why limit us?  It seems arbitrary and limits choice.
  • London Dread: You are forced to share your items as fairly as possible.
  • Uno: This isn’t a co-op, but this rule always struck me as the prototypical micromanaging rule: You have to play Draw 4 if you can’t play another card.  Really?  We have always house ruled that you can play the Draw 4 whenever you want (I don’t really play Uno anymore, but it’s one of those strict rules that always seemed stupid.  You have so little choice in the game anyways, why restrict choice even more?)

Can you think of any other games with micromanaging rules like this?

House Rules


In our games, we house rule these.  You can buy as much at the store as you want, you can pass using your stunt, you can share your items as you which.  And you can play Draw 4 whenever you want.

I don’t feel like we are cheating.  I feel like we are overcoming a micromanaging rule.  We get more choice, and the game becomes more fun.

Or, a better way (for the manufacturers to look at this), is that we want to play their game more!  So, let’s not make rules that micromanage!





One thought on “Rules That Micromanage: Please Don’t!

  1. Totally agree, especially with the ridiculous Arkham Horror rule. From a cognitive load standpoint alone, why have it? It’s is exceedingly rare that you even have enough money to buy two, so that limitation is in play naturally the vast majority of the time.

    Also, in Uno, I think the rule is that you *can’t* play a Draw Four if you *can* play another card, not that you must play the Draw 4 if you have no other viable card. I don’t think you’re ever required to play a card in Uno.

    This particular rule doesn’t feel like micromanagement to me, though, unlike the other examples you cited. To me, it certainly doesn’t feel like it is removing choice, since you can still choose to play that Draw Four, after all. If the other player challenges, you will take a penalty and have to take that card back, but you *can* play it. It’s just risky. Indeed, it’s one of the few interesting choices you have while playing Uno, since usually, your choices are few and largely uninteresting (“should I play the yellow 2 or the yellow 3?”).

    Indeed, I’d say that the rule *adds* choice to the game, because it doesn’t take a choice away from the person whose turn it is, and now you’ve added a new choice for the next player – to challenge or not challenge. They may do it because they think you’re bluffing, or they may do it because the extra two cards might be worth seeing everything that’s in your hand. Either way, it adds a whole new bluffing / social deduction / strategy wrinkle to the game that wouldn’t be there otherwise.

    But, yeah, totally on board with that Arkham Horror house rule. That’s stupid.


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