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5 Crucial Rules of Every Game (Not Found in the Rulebook)

#2. Timeouts and Time-Ins

Professional sports have all sorts of complicated rules about when play can legally take place. But amateur sports, lacking referees and clocks and such, have to rely on unwritten rules that generally state that everyone has to be "ready" first. You don't serve in tennis when your opponent is tying her shoes, you don't shoot in hockey if their goalie is still strapping on his pads, and you don't snap the ball in football when your opponents are still slapping each other on the ass after the last play.

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You just slap your teammates' asses some more until everyone's ready.

The whole intent of these rules is for the next play to be fair and, by being fair, more fulfilling. Multiplayer video games have similar rules; in the old-school kind where you sat on the same couch, there was a lot of etiquette that revolved around the use of the pause button. Using it to disrupt another player while they were doing something was considered poor form. Unpausing while an opponent was in the bathroom was considered hilarious, but also poor form.

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Leading to many players finding out what controllers tasted like.

Even in cases where everyone is present and not urinating, there might be unwritten rules designed to make sure everyone is "really" ready. In the Battle Mode of Mario Kart 64 (and probably others), when a player takes a hit, they not only lose a balloon, but also spin out and come to a complete stop. Although invincible during that spin, they're badly vulnerable after, as being stopped is basically the worst thing to be in this game. It was a trivial matter for a well-armed player to brutalize their opponent after getting a single hit, thus quickly ending the match.


A showcase of Nintendo's famously bloodthirsty opinion of mankind's tendencies.

Which is why, whenever I played Mario Kart 64 with my friends, without really discussing it, we agreed to retreat to the far side of the map after each hit, giving our opponent time to regroup. That made each match longer-lasting, and presumably more fun.


Although in retrospect, if the matches had been shorter, I might not have nearly failed out of college
because of this stupid fucking game.

Understanding when play can and cannot begin is useful to know. If you've spotted a winning strategy that relies on surprise, don't waste it when the opponent can credibly claim that they weren't ready. Let them get nice and set up before crushing them. And if you're a terrible, terrible person, keep a stock of "I wasn't ready" excuses in your pocket, to be broken out as needed.


"We've got to do that over. I had a rock in my shoe. What? Fuck me? Fuck you, fuck me."

#1. How Much Wrestling Is Too Much Wrestling?

So you know Monopoly, I'm sure.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News/Getty Images
It's the reason you're no longer friends with eight people now.

The object of Monopoly is simple: to take all of your opponents' money. And if you step back for a moment and consider the game board, its layout, and the physical arrangement of the players, it soon becomes clear that the fastest way to win Monopoly is to throw Mountain Dew in your opponent's face and just reach across and take their money. It's sitting right there.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News/Getty Images
And now it's the reason you don't talk to nine people.

The amount of physical violence that's acceptable in a game is probably the biggest unwritten rule of all. It might seem so obvious what is and isn't acceptable that it doesn't need mentioning, but when you consider the edge cases, where the threat of physical violence is non-trivial, you can see how much it matters. Consider a poker game you're playing with people you don't know too well, where halfway through one of your opponents drops several hints that he's an incredibly dangerous person. Maybe he bets a severed foot or something. Tell me that the threat of physical violence doesn't affect the way you play. Tell me that he isn't expecting the threat of physical violence to affect the way you play.

Hemera Technologies/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images
"No, that's not a threat. Just my lucky Rabbit's foot. Got it from a dude named Rabbit. No, I suppose it wasn't lucky for him,
now that you mention it. You're funny! I like you! I'm going to call you Rabbit."

In sports, the lines become all sorts of blurry. A big dude playing amateur soccer might leave a little more in his tackles than the smaller dude he's playing against. Professional hockey has a long, unwritten code of conduct about how "illegal" fighting is to be conducted. And stupid, shitty baseball has the "beanball," a totally common and accepted tactic where you can throw a fastball at another player's head under various circumstances. Like if you don't like him. It's assault in any other context -- hell, it's assault even in that context -- but it's a widely accepted part of the game.

Just that game, though.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News/jocic/iStock/Getty Images
"AGHHM, MA FATH! WHU TH FUCKH, JEFF?"

So what? Should you physically threaten everyone you play games with to gain a competitive edge? No. But you should at least have an idea of what level of physicality is acceptable to guide your strategy. Because you can bet it will drive your opponent's strategy, and it will give you a much better idea of the level of trash talk and posturing you'll be able to get away with.


"Is that supposed to scare us, Jeff?"


Chris Bucholz is a Cracked columnist and has ruined hundreds of board games. Join him on Facebook or Twitter to ask for his no-holds-barred list of winning Monopoly strategies.

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