Rule enforcement, or, why I don't love our robotic overlords

Continuing the discussion from Gloomhaven on Steam:

and this reminded me of

and I think that this is why I still like TTS while BGA and even yucata produce a feeling of “oh, do I have to”. It’s not that I don’t want to play by the rules, but I want the rules to be open: Dave says to me “no, you can’t do that (because X)” rather than something being greyed-out in my list of actions.

Indeed, that’s one reason I like boardgames over video games: if I don’t like a rule, I can change it. Not that I do very often, but the option is there. I have a toolbox of bits with which I can play this game or a different game, or fine-tune this game to be more what I want without forcing everyone with a copy to play it the same way.

But what it really comes down to is that what I want from gaming is the physical bits and the socialising. BGA/Yucata already takes the physical bits away, and the more the interface is telling me to hurry up and make my move, the less socialising I get even if there’s a video chat going at the same time.


I agree with all this. There are difficulties to rules both online (BGA/Yucata) and offline, and it basically boils down to what kind of mistakes you can make. Offline, you and the group have to be the ones familiar with the rules and able to enforce them and catch when they’re broken. (Or not enforce them! Whatever.) And you also have to add up all the scores at the end correctly there too. A lot of room for mistakes in terms of getting the rules wrong or forgetting or whatever.

Online, no one is ever going to break a rule so you can take that mental load off. However it adds on a whole lot of other things - no undo, not always clear why you can’t do something, etc. When we played Voyages of Marco Polo on Yucata, my friend completed a contract that gave him a black die, but he didn’t realize it had already been added to his pool so he clicked on the black die and accidentally bought another one with camels (which of course was automatically rolled so he couldn’t take it back). Not a mistake one could ever, EVER make in person, because it just had to do with the interface!

I tell you, the offline class of mistakes feels a lot better than the online class, because if someone explains a rule wrong or something it’s harder to get mad at a friend than at a website that just torched your game for misclicking once.


This is what turns me off from digital implementations of board games most of all.


With a few exceptions, I avoid computerized boardgaming. It just doesn’t feel natural. Most board games could be compressed down into a handful of data points (I’m pretty sure you could play Container in a shared spreadsheet, as long as everyone agreed to not peek at secret information; and the spreadsheet would just not be that large). Board games are more than the data and the rules that govern them.

But if I click on a thing on BGA and suddenly my meeple is somewhere else and it’s already collected the awarded resources for me… I just don’t feel like I’m playing a game (and, for all I know, I’m just clicking through a PowerPoint presentation). If I can’t (awkwardly, in the case of TTS) pick up and place my meeple on the space myself, it doesn’t feel like playing a board game. I tolerate TTS but mostly eschew the custom-interface, rules-enforcement platforms like BGA, Yucata and


I’m so opposed to online boardgaming, I ended up pursuing heavy solitaire games over the pandemic. My eye twitches every time I read these gripes because they ALL drive me nuts.


On a slight tangent, the Descent app is what soured me app-driven games and dungeon crawlers.

The one time I played Descent, we played through the free mini-campaign that came with the app. One of the missions involved rescuing prisoners. We got two out before the app started repeatedly doing an environment action that prevented any progress with other prisoners. Leaving us with the only option being to abandon the rest of the prisoners to finish the mission.

Then it offered us no chance to rest before the next mission, so all we got to do was about two turns before everyone was dead.

Just a couple of the things that wouldn’t happen when playing against a human, because they’re no fun for anyone.

I finished that session with a headache and no clue why anyone would play such games when RPGs exist.


Reminds me of the SUSD review for First Martians

QUINNS: What does First Martians do with an app that can do anything at all? It gives you a drunk butler

QUINNS: Oh, I’ve had an adventure gathering boxes outside. What happens?

DRUNK BUTLER: It’s, uh, you, it’s a steam geyser. Yeah. It’s a geyser full of steam. Just <whoosh> it’s a family show! you up! Take a wound!

QUINNS: Just… randomly? That seems… unlikely.

DRUNK BUTLER: Yeah well, them’s the breaks. So. I have to play music now.

QUINNS: Don’t play…

DRUNK BUTLER: <weird ambient music>


I have to say that I’ve really enjoyed BGA over the last year. I haven’t done it loads, but rules enforcement has allowed me to pick and play games that I have no idea about.

The more recent BGA adaptations include a confirm button which makes misclicks less likely but some older ones can be devastating (looking at you Troyes).

As @Whistle_Pig will confirm, my wife and I are not naturals at TTS! TTS certainly feels more like playing irl than BGA but I prefer the ease of BGA.

1 Like

Not to forget why these computerized boardgames got so popular in the first place: we couldn’t meet with others as much as we wanted to. And while I always enjoyed solo-gaming, TTS, BGA et al provided me with options to play games with others when it would have been impossible to get together in person.

  • Quick, light games work best IMO. Because if you make a mistake in 6 nimmt it might win you the game instead.
  • Games, that all participants know really well, work, too. I have played a ton of games of Hardback or Tash Kalar (which has a really nice undo function until you click “finish”). Even Beyond the Sun lets you undo quite a lot of your turn–that recent mistake was a combination of someone playing their first game ever on BGA and their first game of Beyond the Sun

I think overall, TTS and Vassal cause less issues with the game itself but to me the former means I have to hold a lot of hands both because of the UI and the game way more than on BGA where people get the hang of the UI usually quicker and the latter is just plain impossible to convince people to use unless they write their own modules. And I find I have a hard time with Vassal as well. But it has some games otherwise completely unavailable to me so…


I’ve said it before, but I think giving the players the ability to override and correct the game state would solve so much. Rule enforcement is great, until it isn’t, and just adding the ability to correct UI snafus would provide the best of both worlds.


When playing live games, it annoys me when players do something but don’t describe what they are doing. Don’t just play a card, pay the cost, then do the effect. Say, “I’m playing card, for money, and doing .” No, not every action or move needs to be narrated, but help us follow along what you’re doing. Computerized board games lack this description and are often hard to follow for me.


I think I fell into that pattern because of game demonstrations, but (particularly since there’s often at least one first-timer at any given game I play) I often do it anyway.