House Rules: The REVENGE

Hello again. It’s been a minute. Later this year House Rules is coming back to Kickstarter.


If you don’t know what House Rules is, the next few posts are going to bring us all (even me!) up to speed about the game.


The Inspiration


House Rules began as a silly game where a group of friends was writing crazy things on cards, tinkering with mechanics, and figuring things out as they went. This is the soul of the game, but it has evolved; the rough areas sanded down, and become an experience focused on big moments and laughs.


One of the inspirations is Cards Against Humanity (CAH). The humor of the game struck me and inspired the weapon cards in House Rules. The weapons themselves are absurd, but when they are paired and clash together it evokes a great feeling just like in CAH.


At its core, CAH is a game about deciding between the least terrible of equally bad choices. A lot of the fun derived from the game is crafting super funny jokes, but without the accountability for the bad, and sometimes cruel humor. A player could throw things out like “Not giving a shit about the third world”, and it was okay because the joke didn’t belong to the player, it belonged to the game. This is one of the main criticisms against the game, and while I think its valid, it’s also the reason the game is so effective. This firewall exists in between player and game all the time, not just in CAH, and helps sustain the player fantasy; CAH just leverages it heavily.


In CAH, the game comes with white cards that are completely blank, and the intention is for enterprising players to write their own irreverent and funny cards that let people cut loose and be funny in their own way. In theory this is a great idea. It encourages players to get into the spirit of the game and impress their friends with their razor sharp wit.


I think in practice these blank cards fail for a couple reasons.

  • Writing funny jokes is REALLY HARD. CAH even acknowledges it in a tongue and cheek way and sells a pack of blank white and black cards called “Cards Against Humanity: Your Shitty Jokes.”

  • Using the blank cards also breaks the firewall between player and game that I mentioned earlier; the jokes don’t belong to the game anymore, they belong to you. It’s intimidating to write something that turns a fleeting thought into something that will exist forever in card form.


My main goal for House Rules is improving on the idea of the blank card. The weapons in the game are absurd and complete, but thrown into the mix are weapons with mad-lib style blank lines for the player to fill in themselves or complete blank slates that the player can go wild with:

Weapon10.png       Weapon48.png       Weapon91.png

I’ve even had playtests where people have drawn pictures.


The mood of the game is silly from the offset, so the player doesn’t need to worry about breaking that wall down as much and there is no peer pressure to write something that brings the house down. Just get in there and write something weird! The cards are dry erasable, so every game brings something new and unique to the people playing it.


The other main inspiration for House Rules is Fluxx.  

Fluxx’s main mechanic is players actively changing the rules of the game in order to satisfy a win condition so that one of the players wins; hopefully you win the game but sometimes you inadvertently crown another player the winner. I think this mechanic is super novel, as most games have a fixed win condition that the players aspire to, while Fluxx turns this on its head and asks the players almost to solve a puzzle. I really liked that the rules of the game were not just ones that you picked, but all players had a stake in what rules were in effect.


The downside to this mechanic is that there is high variance in the rule cards, in that there are some games of Fluxx that last 5 minutes and there are some games that last over an hour. There were also situations where the rules would pile up to an extent where there was a lot of accounting of what happened in which order, until someone played the “Reset Rules” card that wiped the whole mess clean.


Fluxx is a game that sometimes plays like an algorithm; the player goes down the rules in play, performs their actions in order and ends their turn. There are some tactical decisions in the game, but if a certain combination of rules are in play it can negate player agency. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t be so critical of Fluxx if it didn’t have a special place in my heart, or even take inspiration for my own game.


My second main goal of House Rules is to give the player back some of that agency while leveraging the variable nature of the game rules; each player has the opportunity to change the rules at the beginning of each round, but a maximum of three rules can be in play. A lot of the fun comes from combining the rules that each player chooses individually and seeing the result.


I even went further and gave each player a completely blank rule to make the game their own! The only drawback to making your own rule is that you need to get one other player to endorse it before it goes into effect.


Thanks for reading the first installment of House Rules: The REVENGE. More to come!