How to get people to use your house rules…

  • '16 '15 '14 Customizer

    So you’ve got some great new House Rules (in your own view, anyway) for Axis and Allies and you’d like others to cooperate and play along. This is not always easy, but here are a few tips that will improve your chances of selling your ideas:

    1. Introduce your rules to brand new players. One of the hardest things for people to do in life is change. Just think how hard it is for people to stop smoking, stay on a diet, etc. - and remember it is just as hard for someone who has been playing this game for years to change a rule. On the other hand, a new player comes into the room ready for anything - they’ve never played before, so all is readily accepted.

    2. Play at your house. People will be more likely to try your ideas on your turf. Especially if they are eating your snacks and drinking your drinks.

    3. Learn the history of the rules of the game. This requires some homework. You should know the history of each of the rules that you are trying to adjust. There may already be a rule like you want in place from a past edition of the game. Or you may find you will have a hard time selling your idea of navy frogmen since that has never been in the game at all. This is a sheet I made in order to learn the history of strategic bombing rules in Axis and Allies:

    4. Create an official edition of your house rules and hand out copies to the players ahead of time.  This is not that hard to do with all the publishing programs available out there. Players will not be impressed with your crumpled, handwritten, misspelled house rules. And don’t try to get away with saying “the rules are in my head.” Here is an example of one of my Axis and Allies rulebooks that has house rules in it:

    5. Make your game changes look professional. Here is one of my player cards. After some practice I’ve been able to make these cards identical in quality to the stock cards that come with the game. If there are any price changes to the units, you cannot tell that there was a change. Don’t get sloppy and white-out prices or scotch tape your ideas on there - you are asking for trouble!

    Here is a photo of a change I made to my map recently. Can you see it? I added Burma and the Burma Road to my 1942 map with a sticker. I printed 3+ stickers before I finally got the exact size and shade to match. Don’t get lazy - if it looks professional people will accept it.

    6. If possible, have a precedent for your house rule. If you can say “this rule is based on a rule from the 1984 Edition of Axis and Allies” it will be accepted better than saying “this is something I came up with myself.”

    7. Gametest your rules ahead of time before introducing them - make sure they actually work. Bounce it off the veteran players on the forum. Don’t change something before testing and then have to change it back - it makes you look like you don’t know what you are doing.

    8. If you get a heckler questioning the change, point out that there have been about 18 OFFICIAL sets of rule changes published for Axis and Allies since 1984. Tell him this is not an ancient game with established rules like chess that has been around thousands of years - the rules aren’t hardened into stone yet.

    9. If you still get resistance, you can always hang this quote from Larry Harris in your game room like I did and point to it - after all, Mr. Harris invented the game - his opinion should always count!

    10. If everybody really hates your idea, don’t try to push it. It may really be a bad idea. File it away and rethink it later. Better to have a room full of friends playing a game that’s not quite perfect than playing your perfect game all by yourself.

  • Liaison TripleA '11 '10

    LOL Epic!

    Nice post

    I especially like the framed Harris quote! LOL!

  • I agree. I love your dedication to A&A.
    It is truly heart warming.

  • '22 '20 '19 '18 '17 '16

    The Harris quote is a great touch, and is indeed a long standing endorsement of his. I recall in the credits to the Hasbro PC game (15 years ago) he praised the unit editor, even recommending a A3D3 tank - “call it a super tank.”

  • An excellent post by D.K. giving wise advice.  I especially like the parts which advocate making things as professional-looking as possible: a formal supplementary rulebook (item 4), custom player cards (item 5) and precisely-matched map stickers (item 5), all produced to a high standard of quality.  D.K. also makes good points about having the house rules appear credible rather than arbitrary (items 3, 6 and 7).  And item 10 underlines that it’s important for house rule designers to decide to what extent they want to balance creating rules with a high personal appeal to themselves versus creating rules which have broad acceptability to the A&A community; the two approaches aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive, but designers need to consider which way they will tip on a particular house rule proposal if they have to choose between personal appeal and broad acceptability.

    Here are a couple of other ideas, to which I’ll give numbers that continue D.K.'s 10-item list:

    11. Keep the number of house rules manageable.  House rules can be viewed as seasoning which should be applied sparingly to the game; their purpose is to tweak the official rules, not replace them.  The greater the number of house rules, the harder they are to memorize and the more they have the potential to fundamentally alter or unbalance the game.  One way of splitting the difference is to have a large list of potential house rules, but to use only a small number of them in each game; choosing with your fellow players which house rules will be used in a particular game can be fun, and it adds variety to your get-togethers because you’re playing a slightly different game each time.

    12. Have your supplementary rulebook state the overall objective of your house rules (assuming that they’re guided by a defining principle).  For example, the purpose of your house rules could be: a) to make the game go faster; b) to alter the balance of victory probability for one side or the other; c) to explore a particular alternate-history scenario; d) to correct perceived flaws in the official rules; e) to reflect more accurately the performance and/or cost of particular combat units; f) to create a game variant that uses a fundamentally different game mechanic (such as concealed play, using two game boards and a referee).  Players may be more willing – or may even be enthusiastic – about using your house rules if they understand what you’re trying to accomplish with them.

  • Customizer

    Definitely agree with #11. We have come up with several house rules, I think we are up to 14 now, and while we like to incorporate them into our games, sometimes we simply forget. For example; one of our house rules is giving cruisers AA capability. Each cruiser acts as an AA gun getting up to 3 AA shots (or the # of attacking planes, whichever is lower) before the regular combat starts. Problem is, we get so caught up setting up the game and getting started that we forget to implement that rule until we are already part way through the game. I mean, Germany’s 1st round move is sending the Luftwaffe against the Royal Navy –- many aircraft attacking several cruisers. Yet almost every time we forget to do the AA and go right into the regular combat. Then, several turns later, we will notice a battle involving attacking planes and defending cruiser(s) and someone will say “What about the AA shot?” Then the rest of us are like “Well, we can’t start it now.”

  • Sponsor

    Great thread, agree 100%. I hope everyone here uses your advice as a guideline for the creation of future house rules.

  • Wow

  • CWO Marc: I like your additions!

    #11: There shouldn’t be too many house rules, otherwise you’re no longer playing Axis and Allies. And I think part of “manageable” is making the house rules consistent with the spirit of the game. This will make rules easier to remember. For example, you pretty much roll dice for everything in this game. You should leave that part in there with your house rules if possible.

    #12 - I like the idea of purpose - people can accept change if they understand why there is a change. It may be for a historic reason, logical reason or gameplay reason, but do have some purpose behind your change, and explain it so that makes sense to people.

  • '18 '17 '16 '15 '13 '12 '11

    Bravo. Well done.  :-)

    J. 8-)

  • This thread should get sticky’d ( or is it stickied? Idk…), seriously, 'cause it brings up a valid point that pertains to a broad audience.  I have no idea why it doesn’t have several more views than it does now.

  • '12

    I was going to be smug when I read the title and just suggest a loaded firearm up to the side of the head would work.  But then I read the posting….

    Well done!

  • Customizer

    I was a bit late to this party DK but I must say I’ve enjoyed this post a lot. I’ve also enjoyed discussing house rules with you quite a bit. Your dedication to the game especially regarding F2F gaming is a benefit to us all.

  • As a fan and designer of several variants myself, I concur wholeheartedly with the spirit and content of DK’s post.

    This was really well done. I would like to nominate it as a front-page article for A&, so that it gets more exposure.

    Best regards,

    Christopher Yorke

  • Sponsor


    I was going to be smug when I read the title and just suggest a loaded firearm up to the side of the head would work.  But then I read the posting….

    Well done!


  • I guess we could make that tip #13 “last resort” - lol

  • @Der:

    I guess we could make that tip #13 “last resort”

    Tip #14 could be: “If you have to resort to tip #13 to get people to use your house rules, it probably means that you forgot to apply the twelve previous tips.”

  • By the way, the Cliffside Bunker House Rules for G40 mentioned in this thread…

    …are presented in a way that I find very useful.  For each rule, three elements are given:

    • HOUSE RULE (a statement of the rule itself)

    • REASON FOR THE RULE (the rationale for it)

    • PLAY TEST ANALYSIS (a post-game evaluation of how well the rule works)

    This is an excellent way to present house rules because it provides context and because it shows that the rule was actually tested and evaluated rather than just developed on a theoretical basis.  (An analogy would be the potential difference between how a new weapon looks on the drawing board and how it actually performs in combat.)  So an additional tip for DK’s list would be for house rules booklets to present their rules in the three-part format used by Young Grasshopper.  Let’s number that idea as (serious) tip #13, since my tip #14 above was made entirely in jest and since the earlier tip #13 which inspired it was presumably (hopefully?) meant to be taken in the same spirit.

  • Customizer

    Going along with YG and DK’s use of professional house rule materials, is there a tutorial on how to make some of these battle boards, charts, etc. ?

    I have a lot of ideas I’d like to share but presentation is the key.

  • Sponsor


    Going along with YG and DK’s use of professional house rule materials, is there a tutorial on how to make some of these battle boards, charts, etc. ?

    I have a lot of ideas I’d like to share but presentation is the key.

    Rather than us create a tutorial covering everything, why don’t you tell us some specifics of your ideas and then we can help you manifest the materials you might need to pull it off.

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