How House Rules Can Enhance Your Board Games

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Chances are that if you play board games, then you have already played with house rules whether you know it or not.  Some of the most popular games out there like Monopoly are very rarely played the way the rules are written.  I didn’t know that I was playing the game differently until I was in my 30’s!

Free Parking House Rules Board Games
Probably one of the most popular house rules ever. Free money for landing on Free Parking!

Benefits Of House Rules

The main benefit of changing things up for your family is that you can cater to the way that you enjoy to play games.  You can set them to help speed up or slow down game play as well as just about anything that you can think of.  Sometimes it they don’t even change the way the game is played.

For Example:  When my family and I play Apples to Apples, we have a house rule that says the clue cards you win describe you.  This does not change the way the game is played, but does change the way we experience it.  This can certainly lead to many different and funny combinations!

Green Apple Cards
With our house rule, these clue cards describe me as: Witty, Bold, Glamorous, Intense, Stunning, Aged and Exciting!

When I was just a wee little lad, my family loved to play Boggle.  Due to my young age and limited vocabulary compared to others, I was allowed to score points for 2 letter words that the adults were not allowed to use.  As you can see here, we took a game designed for older folks and modified it to allow the whole family to play together and have fun.

Whether you are looking to create the game you want, change the speed of play or just make the game more available to play with your family, there are many benefits of creating your own particular house rules.

My House, My Rules

Clip Board
Write those rules down so that everyone is on the same page!

An important note when it comes to making these decisions about what you are going to change, is to make sure that everyone is aware and approves of them.  Many games have inherent strategies with them and even the smallest change can affect them.  Being clear about the house rules before a game starts is paramount!

There are many rules that are relatively simple, but if you start getting fancy you need to make sure that you have them written down.  This will help to make sure that everyone is on the same page when the game is being played and will help to avoid any conflicts that could arise.

What Are Your Favorites?

Now I would like to ask you, what are your favorite house rules to use with games?  I will list out some that my family uses and also update this list with those that you comment with below.

  • Monopoly – $500 on Free Parking, No Auctions and instead of paying fees and penalties to the bank you pay them to the Free Parking pot. You can buy properties your first time around the board.
  • Apples to Apples – The Clue cards you win, describe you!
  • Sorry! – Sliding on the sliders during a movement instead of just when landing on the start point.
  • Trivial Pursuit – Allow the kids to work as a team against the adults.
  • Scrabble (and other Word games) – Using handicaps for those with smaller vocabularies.
  • Risk – For Adult games (21+) Adding in secret landmines on your starting countries that cause conquerors to have to take a shot before proceeding.
  • LRC – All Players throwing in a dollar to play, winner gets the pot.
  • Smash-Up – Everyone picks a faction, then others are chosen at random.  No one can play Steampunk Wizards.
  • Journeys of Paul – Everyone starts with their ship token rather then trying to draw the ship card.

Wrap Up

Thanks for stopping by and I am looking forward to seeing what different house rules you and your family and friends use.  Share yours in the comments below and I will make sure to update the list here with them!  If you have any other questions please feel free to ask and I will do my best to answer you in a prompt fashion!

James W D
james@familygamenightideas.com

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15 Replies to “How House Rules Can Enhance Your Board Games”

  1. Whenever we’d play as a family we usually never kept score because someone’s feelings would be hurt. And It was always so much funner that way. We’d bend the rules a little bit too which always made it more exciting. I haven’t heard of a number of these games you mention, I’ll have to look into getting them now.

    • We have house rules for Cribbage at home, grandpa has different ones we play by on the boat, and nobody can beat grandma at the cabin with her rules.

      But we all play and have fun!

      House rules are a great way to mix up and put a twist on common games. Love the artle

      • Thank you much for your support and feedback! House rules are definitely a great way to mix things up and to make an old game new again!

  2. Some games are great for house rules, especially if playing with smaller children. Monopoly for instance, the kids love it, but we have simplified rules. Other games, like Axis & Allies (only playing with my mates), Carcassonne, Agricola, Bohnanza, Puerto Rico, Settlers of Catan and more – we don’t use house rules. It really depends on the game.

    I see that you also mentioned Risk, a game I used to have and played as a kid, but later moved on to the various Axis and Allies game. But as my kid is 10, I feel A&A can be a bit overwhelming for him. Might have to buy that game again! Great post.

    • Robin, you are very right. Some games lend themselves well to house rules while others do not. You mentioned some great games there and I have played at least half of them and agree that house rules are not really needed.

      However when it comes to Axis & Allies, my friends and I have taken it to another whole level. What at first began as some house rules for it, turned into a completely different game. Right now my partner and I are creating a board game company and one of our bigger projects is our WW2 game. Just goes to show that sometimes house rules can take on a life of their own. Risk is definitely a good starting spot for the younger folk though and then graduate them to Axis and Allies.

  3. Great post James! As for house rules there were/are only 3 games played, Monopoly, Risk & LCR.

    Monopoly: Same exact house rules as yours except we still did the auctions.

    Risk: These house rules only pertained to the games where grown ups that drink alcohol would play. Out of the all the countries you control at the start of the game secretly choose 2 or 3 (depending on how many players are participating) and write the name of that country on 2 or 3 separate pieces of paper and place them face down on the table on your side of the board. Who ever attacks and then occupies that country gets hit with a land mine and has to do a shot tequila before they roll again.

    LCR: Everyone that plays has to put $1 into the pot and whomever is the final winner gets all the money.

    • Thanks for sharing your House Rules Robert. Many games can be turned into drinking games or adding a little bit of money to help make things interesting. I have a friend that loves to play Madden and some other games and always insists we play for $5. I never minded though as I win about 90% of the Madden games so it was like a part time job for me.

  4. I never thought about house rules either. I think we have our own little version of bumper pool 🙂 We also let the kids pair up in Trivial Pursuit. James, that must have made quite an impact on you! Sometimes we just don’t give kids enough credit.

    • I was certainly frustrated throughout the debate as to me it was common knowledge and I could not believe that my team didn’t know it and didn’t believe me. There was a certain level of satisfaction gained when the other team started making fun of my team for not listening to me though.

  5. These are some great ideas. I would love to create a family game night. My family has mostly grown up and moved into their own homes but it would be nice to invite them over at least once a month for this. My husband and I use to play scrabble on line but he has a lot bigger vocabulary than I do so he always won. I would like to play but I think he needs to give me a handicap of some sort. Any ideas. Robin.

    • A family Game night is a great way to bring the family back together that is for sure! As for Scrabble, adding in a handicap is definitely something that you can do and I would count that as a house rule as well. Thanks for sharing!

  6. When playing Monopoly, we also put all fees and fines in the Free Parking pot, then anyone landing on Free Parking gets the pot.

    As a kid, playing Monopoly with friends, we would all use calculators and store our money in memory. Buying property or paying fines meant subtracting that amount from memory, while receiving money meant adding it. It was an honor system, of course, but it saved us all of the paper-money handling time (including making change), which gets old after several hours. This sped the game up little for us.

    Bart

    • Glad to see I was not the only one that paid the fees into the Free Parking Pot. Using calculators instead of the money is definitely interesting, will add it to the list!

  7. Funny! Never thought of that! I can’t think of any special house rules except for in Trivial Pursuit where the kids were allowed to answer together as a team against the addults, and when they were really young they got easier questions of course. Like your site!
    Regards, Kristina

    • I like that house rule for Trivial Pursuit. I remember at a family Christmas party when I was about 6ish that they were playing two teams versus each other. While I was not a huge help to my team at that age, when the question of what color was the bullseye in the center of a target I knew the answer. Unfortuneately my team did not listen to me as they debated and decided on yellow. The other team meanwhile just about died from laughter as I plead my case for red as the answer.

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