Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Rules 4: Use Your Words

Many innocent words and phrases may be interpreted differently by different people. Even within a given context, meaning may not be clear. It's virtually impossible to avoid this completely, but at least be aware of your words, and learn to see all possible meanings.

If condition A occurred in the last round, score 2 bonus points.

Does "last" mean "previous" or "final"?

If there's a token at either end of the road, score it.

Does "either" mean "one or the other", or "both"?

In software, programmers are acutely aware of the difference between inclusive and exclusive "or". "A inclusive or B" means A or B or (A and B). "A exclusive or B" means A or B, but not both. So what does the simple use of the word "or" mean in game rules without further qualification? Do you think you could come up with a rule to its interpretation? Try it, then try to apply it to these two sentences:

On his turn, a player takes action A or action B.
The game ends if condition A or condition B occurs.

Instinctively, you will likely assume the first "or" is exclusive, and the second inclusive.

2 Comments:

At 5:33 PM, Blogger Josh Edwards said...

When reading through some of your old posts I stumbled across this one, and I thought it was a nice example there at the end. At the same time, you observed a comment about computer developers - I'm not really sure what that connection is, but I do think (as a developer myself) that the people how are best at "rules lawyering" at least have some of the necessary skills to be a developer.

Josh
Board Game Reviews by Josh

 
At 5:58 PM, Blogger ekted said...

I was simply pointing out how we take words for granted in conversational English, but are much more explicit when writing code. I think game rules should fall firmly in the latter camp.

 

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