|Have you seen any rules lawyers lately? Well, I have heard rumors of them just like UFOs and Bigfoot and I believe the rumors about as much. But when it comes down to the wire, I like the accused much more than the accuser. Read on.|
Like their real life counterparts, rules lawyers are the people we love to hate. In ASL, the animosity runs even deeper. To call a player this is no small accusation. This person is the pariah in the ASL community, bending rules to serve his sole purpose and then changing them again against his opponent. He looks for loopholes in the rules to exploit and to gain nefarious advantage. He argues rules expertly and uses sophistry to set his point. Weak minds break at his savvy and stronger ones fall, bamboozled, at the wayside.
That may be, but I have yet to meet anyone that meets this description. Certainly knowing the rules well does not make a player a rules lawyer. First, there are some premium players out there who know the rules expertly. They are frustrating to play against but amazing to watch. By knowing the rules, they can plan strategy and tactics much better because they understand the abilities and limitations, down to subtleties, of each weapon. Second, you can only know the rules that well by sheer experience. They have the experience of trying different ideas, seeing others play, knowing and refining their own style. Experience and knowledge should always give a player an advantage. Yet, when they point out rules to an opponent or invoke an infrequently used rule, these players are not accused of being rules lawyers. The very opposite happens -- we respect them. So apparently there is more to that accusation than just knowing or enforcing rules.
Perhaps it is their use of 'sleaze tactics.' Although I have never heard a good definition of this term, which is something I will address later, I assume it means using tactics not explicitly prohibited by the rules but contrary to common sense. Vehicle bypass commonly referred to as 'freeze sleaze' or firing BMG's at armored vehicles to change VCA are examples of so-called sleaze tactics. Did the designers not mean for this to happen, so that allowing these actions cheapens ASL game quality? The answer is debatable but like it or not, these are the rules; everyone is aware them before choosing sides. If a player thinks it makes a scenario unfair, discuss it before play begins. Ironically, the tactic I dislike the most is called 'skulking' or as one player put it 'weeblewobbling,' that is, the phasing player moves out of LOS only to Advance back in, thus denying the other side a potentially damaging Defensive Fire Phase. Cheap as I think it is, the rules allow it. Yet, the same people that think loading six vehicles in a hex to prevent movement through it, because it is *so* unrealistic, will allow troops in a battlefield situation to move out of a building into the open simply because it is the 'Defensive Fire Phase' and call that realistic. Obviously there are many rules to discuss. And discuss we should -- the ASL community always gains by communicating. Again, players that use these tactics are not rules lawyers.
The person that uses rules incorrectly is a good candidate for a lawyer but be careful. Intentional abuse and overt misguiding is not rules lawyering but cheating and do not confuse the two. Cheating should be held as the most abhorrent category and the only action worthy of expulsion from the ASL community. This is the willful and intentional dissemination of wrong information to an opponent. Use this accusation sparingly, though. The rules are a complex set of instructions and no player knows all the rules at all times. Since learning is always part of the game, we should benefit from those that know the rules better. This is where the problem lies. Instead of trying to find the correct interpretation, some people get defensive.
I will admit I have never met a rules lawyer. I have met cheats, frauds and irritating little people who think they know the rules. These kinds are easy to put in their place once you recognize them -- just lookup whatever rule they are wanting to enforce. Some of the rules are actually clear and the majority of the time these people are just plain wrong. Challenge them several times and they will stop it. However, we need to dismiss these small people and cheaters and concentrate on honest, sincere rules disagreement. There are always rules disagreements during play. Look it up, discuss it and ask other players as a means of resolution.
However, occasionally the rules have a fine nuance or subtlety that requires a second reading. It is with these subtleties that I think rules lawyering accusations come about. Players often become inbred with rules interpretation since they game within their circle of friends. I will be the first to admit challenging rules and looking them up takes effort, slows the game down and many times, doing this for small, otherwise insignificant rules, is not worth it. After a while, players accept the interpretation of the group. While this is fine for a club or group, it becomes an issue during tournaments. Players base tactics on the rules they know. When there is an unexpected change, it unhinges them, an unwelcomed event during tournaments. As I mentioned earlier, most of the time, discussing the rules allows players to see the opposing view. Both players come out understanding that rule, abide by it and the game continues. Some instances, this outcome does not happen and neither player concedes their interpretation.
It is at this point, could the accusations start. I said earlier that facing an opponent with an impressive rules knowledge is "frustrating to play." He would constantly bring up rules that disallow your options but permit his. It would seem almost like cheating but he can cite rules to support his position. It seems the finer the nuance the higher the tension levels. I could list specific examples that I have come across, but since they are part of the rules, someone reading this would simply say "What's the big deal? It's the rule. That's the way we played for years." That person would be correct too, it is part of the rules.
This frustration level is often the cause of the accusation. Since I have never heard a good definition of a rules lawyer, I believe there is no objective meaning. It boils down to the simple case of whether or not you like your opponent. If you like him, you tend to respect his ability and recognize him as a superior player; if you dislike him, then nothing he does is good and he is out to chingle everyone he plays. This accused rules lawyer is penalized, not for knowing the rules, or even for having the audacity to enforce them but that he is disliked by his opponent. I can not dismiss this last case too quickly. There are plenty of obnoxious or pretentious players out there, people who I would never play again because I do not enjoy playing them. But we are not judging this aspect of the game. We are ascertaining who is wrong in the rules-lawyer problem. Since the term is subjective (and we need to look no further than the ASL Mailing List (ASLML) and watch the discussions) we can see the problem in a new light. I believe the accuser is more of the offending person than their opponent.
Again, I make this point with the help of the ASLML. How many times have people written for a clarification of the rules and the answer included a subtle shade of meaning? The person initiating the question is sincerely seeking information about the rules -- they are interested in learning more about some aspect of the game because they want to play it correctly. Yet, no matter how subtle the point is, nobody accuses either the person asking questions or the person posting answers as being a rules lawyer. Even when the discussion goes on for some time, this does not happen. People might be perceived as obtuse, stubborn or just plain argumentative but I have never heard anyone being called a rules lawyer. It only happens during face-to-face-play.
It is important to remember that the only common ground ASL players have are the rules. I support ASL groups and house rules. But tournament situations are different. Of the people I play there, I do not know their house rules and they do not know mine. That is the way it should be; I am there to see new ideas. But we are playing by the only thing we have in common: the printed rules. In several situations, my opponent has implied I should play by his interpretation simply because that is the way he has always played it. By the exact same measure, why does he not play by mine?
The only solution is then to check the rules. Ironically, one aspect of ASL players do not like is looking up rules. Yet, this is the most important. Look at the book, it is 100 pages of loose leaf rules designed for change. Not only can a single player not know all the rules, but different players will have their own specialty within the rules; some will know armor rules better, others infantry and others still will know the unusual and odd ones. It is all a matter of their style of play. Learn from the players. Do not get angry when rules are challenged or a different interpretation is presented.
Above all, watch out for the player that makes the first accusation of rules lawyer. In most cases, *he* is the immature one, acting out of frustration and anger more than a sincere desire to learn the rules. By doing this he is trying to intimidate you into acquiescing. You are not going to change him. Finish out the game but avoid wasting your time with him again.