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A generic question across most board games: once a player has taken their turn (taken their finger off the piece they are playing), should they be allowed to change their mind?

Similarly, if a player forgets to take a privilege, such as an occupied building in Puerto Rico giving an extra worker, or plantation, if they remember a few moves later, should they be allowed to take the privilege?

Very few rules explicitly express how these events should be dealt with, so they are generally left up to the group. However, my group's rules will change depending on the personality of the players playing (not all members are available each time we play). I would like to make this consistent, and would appreciate feedback on how others deal with this scenario.

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13 Answers 13

up vote 61 down vote accepted

I like the following rule:

If no new information has been disclosed since a decision, then a player is allowed to take back any action or inaction where this is practical.

Information could be cards in a deck, rolls of dice, but also intentions of a fellow player.

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But also if it could have affected another player's decisions. –  Matthijs Wessels Oct 20 '10 at 6:14
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How long it's been since the event is also a factor. The longer it's been, the more strict we are. –  Don Kirkby Oct 20 '10 at 6:52
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@Erik P - Just to note that tonight my group used this rule, and it went down pretty well. As it was agreed up front, everyone was happy about it and it came in useful on a few occasions. +1 for Great answer. –  Codemwnci Oct 21 '10 at 0:54
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This is generally how we play Dominion where I work. I seem to recall doing it for Magic the Gathering under the term "Wait a moment phase." –  Powerlord Oct 21 '10 at 19:58
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@Matthijs: of course "new information" also includes any kind of player reaction. @Powerlord: actually Magic has rules for pretty much everything, so I don't think it fits talking about it here. –  Lohoris Nov 10 '10 at 20:36

I'm pretty lenient in general. Unless it is a tournament or something akin to it, denying someone their privilege may result in hard feelings.

The exception is if another person made a move that would have been different if the privilege had been taken. To use your example, in Puerto Rico, if a person used the builder and forgot to deduct $1 a went to take it back a bit later I would disallow it if another players pipes up with, "I looked at the start of my turn, you had no money. Based on that I chose to XXXX"

In that case, its too late, and the first person is stuck.

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I usually game with my family and friends. And we generally have a "one takeback" rule in effect, especially our first few times through a game.

Someone will make a bad decision, or miss out on a privilege, and will ask, "Can that be my takeback?" and if everyone agrees that they could and / or should have made the other play and it doesn't impact what's happened since, we generally let them change it.

Once.

That way, everybody gets one during a game. It's not usually disruptive (because of the limited number) and nobody feels like people who make bad decisions are rewarded with endless do-overs.

Of course, this is predicated on the idea that you're playing for fun and want to stay friends with everybody after the game is over. And when we're really playing hard, we'll announce before the game starts that there will be no takebacks and players will just have to live with suboptimal plays.

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In my experience of playing games, it doesn't really matter that much, as long as you are consistent. That is the key for me, people will not feel aggrieved if you toe a hard line if it's the same for all, and the same is true if you are highly forgiving.

Personally though, I try to play as close to the rules as possible, as it teaches people to play to the rules, and makes them better players. If they are forgetting to take privileges, how closely are they really monitoring their strategy? While it is not nice to lose a game because you forget to take your bonus, it rarely affects a game that much because the better players tend not to make those basic mistakes.

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My choice is the third alternative.

Suppose you play a game with the rule that "forgotten privileges are lost", then that game might be less fun. So, in such games it would be good to make the previous(/next) players to remember their privileges.

If it will be a problem with the "forgotten privileges are lost" rule, then that game might probably be bad designed. Such a bad design can usually be easily fixed, using pen and paper.

On the other hand, any rule where "forgotten privileges are NOT lost", might still be worse than the lost rule, depending on the situation. So, there should be a third alternative:

  • At least as long as no privilege is forgotten and no pen and paper are used, pay attention to the previous(/next) players and remind them of their privileges.
  • First time any privilege is forgotten should go with the rule "forgotten privileges are NOT lost".
  • Any time, a player forgets a privilege again, it should be lost. So, the general usage of pen and paper (for at least that player) should be established after the first time.

Dependent on the type of game, it is very irritating and therefore suboptimal to pay attention to the previous player: Oneself has to be reminded whenever it is the previous player's turn, and one cannot think about the own turn while paying attention to the previous player. So, at least in that case, it will be better to pay attention to the next player's turn instead. To do this is actually contra-intuitive, because one's stress is gone when the own turn ends; so, this has to be trained and secured by observing the observer: pay attention that the next player pays attention. If this is too bothersome, remember that pen and paper might be good alternatives to minimize the needed attention span.

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Good point: "Forget once, shame on you. Forget twice, shame on me." –  Tom Au Nov 17 '11 at 0:14

We follow an (admittedly odd) rule whereby the distinction lies between forced moves and optional moves. Essentially, if you forgot to do something you were required to do, we do our best to roll back to that point. However, if you forgot to do something which you were allowed not to do, then you're stuck with that move. This may come from the fact that we frequently play games like Battlestar Galactica, wherein "I forgot to do move X" may in fact be cover for "I did not want to do move X, but don't want you to know that, so I will instead claim error".

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If the game is friendly, taking back a turn shouldn't be a problem. With competition, it is and it should be communicated to all players in advance.

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I would also add that in general, once the next person's turn is done, going back and rehashing "oops, I forgot to do this on my turn!" is not appreciated, even in a friendly setting. –  tryaria Oct 19 '10 at 21:42

A variation on this rule occurred in a game we played last night. A rule was mis-interpreted while playing Brass. The move was discussed before the piece was placed to confirm it was valid, but later was found to be an invalid move as a supplementary rule clarified that move was illegal.

We did our best to roll-back the move to make it as "fair" as possible. I would never see this happening in a tournament scenario, but then again, clarifications of rules would not be so subject to mistakes, and the judges rule is final would take over here.

The general theme we have been playing however, is that a turn can be taken back, as long as no new information has become available. Privileges are allowed to be taken only if it does not affect someone else's decision (so simply forgetting to take £200 for passing Go, would be such a privilege we would allow to be back dated).

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How new is the player asking for a take-back to the game, and how much do you want them to want to play the game again?

If a veteran who regularly wins the game within your group is asking for a take-back, I'd call that very poor form. If it's a new player who suddenly realizes their mistake, I'd call it poor form to refuse them a second chance.

The first time I played Caylus - quite a complicated game to get your head around! - I asked another player during the move-the-Provost round if I would be safe not paying to move it. "Oh, I should think so," he said. "Okay then, I won't pay." The player who'd given me the advice proceeded to pay 3 and deprive me of some key resources. "Oh," I said, "so I could have paid the bargain price of 1 and been completely safe from that jerk move? I didn't understand that, can I take it back?"

The other players decided not to let me - which they were in their rights to do so, of course, but I'd still call it poor form. As a result, I decided I didn't like Caylus much and didn't play it again for a couple of years. At which point I discovered I actually really liked it!

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We try to be as lenient as possible, no one wants a crappy game because they forgot one thing. I always give slack, because I always want slack.

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Interestingly, I'd like to think that I always give slack... but I almost never want it in return. Making mistakes and forcing myself to live with the consequences is a great way for me to get better at games! –  thesunneversets Dec 15 '10 at 22:31

Not in really fast paced games (Where doing something stupid can really be a mood-lifter) like Mag-Blast for example. Almost all other games shouldn't be played too competitively. Usually you don't get to take back a move as soon as an effect of the move is being resolved (dice/cards/etc), but before that, absolutely no problem.

With the exception of chess: Touch a piece, and that will be the one you are moving. Let it go, and it is set! (I must admit that I treat chess more like a sport than a game)

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We generally have very friendly games, but it of course depends on your particular group. Our games tend to be so uncompetitive that we'll ask each other for advice and reveal our hands if we're trying to make a decision on our turns; it's more of trying to find the optimal move as a group. So generally as long as we can rollback enough to figure out how the game would play up to that point with the modification, it's ok. If something significant has happened since then that wouldn't have happened with the change, or if something has happened since then that prompted the change (which would be rather rude), we generally won't do it.

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Depends heavily on the complexity of the game - I'd generally allow a lot more take backs in ASL or WiF than in chess.

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+1 for ASL...... –  Lance Roberts Oct 20 '10 at 0:33
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Chess is one of the game I feel most inclined to allow takebacks in. Maybe it's just that I've played too many complete newbies, but when they move their queen or whatever to a square where you can just take it with no consequences - there's no way the game stays fun unless you allow and indeed encourage them to take the move back! –  thesunneversets Dec 15 '10 at 22:28
    
Could you edit your answer to expand the acronyms ASL and WiF please? :) –  Timothy Jones May 9 '12 at 2:24
    
@Timothy: ASL is Advanced Squad Leader, probably the most rules-heavy wargaem in existence. WiF is World in Flames. Both of these had their own tags here at one point, but tags are often deleted if not used. –  TimLymington May 10 '12 at 17:55

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