JUDGE! 006: House Rules
One of the things that frustrates me when I'm trying to curate the history of the game is that a lot of information has been lost. Wizkids' official forums (pre-WIN) are long gone, not many people are as obsessive as me about saving PDFs of old Rules and the old Tournament Rules are almost the stuff of legend.
So imagine my delight when I discovered a PDF of the 2008 Wizkids official Tournament Rules. There are a lot of good nuggets in it that I may dive into more but one that I found interesting was the section on House Rules.
Now, first up, this document doesn't use the “official Wizkids event” language. It separates events by Sanctioned and Non-Sanctioned events, which I personally think is a better way of classifying it. Your local weekly venue should be playing by Wizkids official rules/erratas/etc., but those events are not “sanctioned” by the company. Not super important to what we're talking about, but I think it's worth mentioning.
5.3 Nonsanctioned Events/House Rules
Judges and venues can use house rules for nonsanctioned HeroClix events. Nonsanctioned events are any events not offered by WizKids, plus those events for which WizKids specifically allows house rules in an event. House rules allow judges to run special scenarios of their own design and change or ignore certain game play rules and tournament rules. Specific house rules must be indicated as part of the event description on the WizKids website at least one week before the event. (Note: Links to full descriptions of house rules are acceptable.) Casual events scheduled by a venue are by default nonsanctioned events that allow house rules, though the envoy can choose not to use house rules and instead specify any particular format described above.
Pretty standard stuff. Envoy is a dead concept that we may talk about at another time, but it feels pretty clear. If Wizkids isn't running it or if Wizkids is allowing House Rules to be run, it's a non-sanctioned event. It also plants the idea of House Rules/special scenarios for Judges, which is necessary to keep a local venue thriving.
5.3.1 What House Rules Can’t Do
House rules can’t substantially alter the core mechanics of the game, or any rule not contained in the official HeroClix rules described in section 1.2. The Official Event Policy can’t be altered. House rules can’t make or alter any decision beyond the scope of the local venue and local judge. House rules can’t be used to target and exclude specific players from playing. House rules not specified at least a week ahead of time on the WizKids website can’t be implemented at all, and the event is assumed to use normal rules.
Now this is the real meat of the matter that I love. Because while this feels very “common sense” to me, I think we've all seen these things get out of hand.
House Rules Can't alter the core mechanics of the game: You shouldn't make a house rule that a character can receive a third action token. Or that characters don't need to breakaway. Maybe that's fun for a scenario, but making it a House Rule gives it an extra layer of authority and use that makes it harder for players to play anywhere but that one venue. Because even if it's called a House Rule, if you play with it long enough, it feels like part of the rules.
House Rules can't make or alter any decision beyond the scope of the local venue and local judge: Anyone that has been in Heroclix Rules Chat knows how I feel about this. Your local judge ruling something has zero impact on a discussion of the rules. They are a local judge and their ruling stands for their event. But if someone is asking how something works, or an interaction plays out, “my local judge said,” is never something that should be typed or said. It doesn't mean they're always wrong. It just means that one should bring up the rules reasoning for the ruling, not an appeal to authority.
House rules can’t be used to target and exclude specific players from playing: Again, a simple one but it feels like it needs to be said. Don't try to run people off. If a player has stolen from the store or repeatedly cheated, banning them from the venue is understandable. But don't try to make house rules that you know will exclude a player/players.
House rules not specified at least a week ahead of time on the WizKids website can’t be implemented at all, and the event is assumed to use normal rules: This is another one I'm a proponent of. Make sure your House Rules (or scenario rules) are posted well ahead of time and in a place everyone can easily access them. A week is the bare minimum for people. Heroclix is supposed to be a fun respite for all of us and it really sucks when you show up only to be told the scenario changed last night and was never posted anywhere.
5.3.2 Examples of What House Rules Can Do
House rules allow judges, at their discretion in nonsanctioned events, to:
• Play formats and build totals that are different from recent sanctioned HeroClix events
• Substitute custom maps or terrain for the official maps
• Allow some or all purple-ring characters in a tournament
• Require the use of an event dial for a tournament
• Require all characters to possess a shared team ability or keyword, or exclude certain characters based on a team ability or keyword
• Require players not to have more than one character with the same name in their force
• Ban or restrict certain game elements such as feat cards, special objects, or battlefield condition cards
• Alter anything else within reason and generally agreeable to players in the tournament that is not prohibited by this document or other official rulings from WizKids
These are just included for context. Again, running 300 Modern every week can get stale for anyone. And I know that some judges do it because they don't feel comfortable going outside of that lane. But it used to be encouraged in the official Tournament Rules, with ideas given.
This article isn't really about me advocating for anything specifically or answering a specific question. I just found it interesting and hope that it may help someone else.
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Until next time, no house rule can stop you from calling a JUDGE!