34 votes, rating 4.5
This turned into a bit of a long one. Probably not a good idea to read it if you don't like waiting 4 minutes for a turn...
The four minute rule (and it’s implementation here on FUMBBL) is a bit of a hot potato this week for more than a couple of reasons. It’s a pain in the backside fleshing out what’d like to consider an argument in the ‘against’ column during spec chat or in IRC as the great and the good put their two penneth in and the screen scrolls along at a rate of knots, so with a spare lunch half hour, just some thoughts.
I suppose, at this point, the usual disclaimer. I understand the status quo is the status quo (and BigC is always right, whether he’s right or we’re doing as we’re instructed), and also that if you disagree with me, you aren’t wrong, you disagree. Hokey dokie. Let’s all be friends. This is a moral issue for some, not for others, and I’m understanding of your point of view.
Sport is a funny thing. There are rules and laws, and there are unwritten codes of conduct by which the participants abide.
Rugby Union is my thing, and was the closest sport to my heart growing up. As you cross the white line to play, you enter into the unwritten brotherhood. The referee is there to enforce the rules as they are on paper, you are there to bend them as far as you can without being caught in order to benefit your team (well, sort of. Over-egging a bit to make the point). If you get whistled, fair enough, if not, well played. Moreover, it’s absolutely acceptable as a sportsman to give a bloke a punch if he’s done something naughty, or punch a bloke that’s punched your mate who’s maybe been naughty, but only on the understanding that in the bar after the game, he’s the first Gentleman you buy a drink, you put your arm around him and you have a good laugh about it. On the other side of the imaginary line of acceptability is stuff like spitting or eye gouging, things I’m lucky enough to have never encountered, but everyone knows that guy is not only a word that I can’t say, it’s not acceptable and he’s not welcome any more on your own team or as an opponent. He is a social pariah. He is dead to the Rugby community. There (in a nutshell) is outlined the rules and the sportsmanship that goes with the game. Lots of that stuff is ‘against the rules’ not all of it is ‘against the code’.
This line of where the rules stop and where sportsmanship begins is a blurry thing in most games. As far as I know, every time there is a corner whipped into the penalty area in a game of football, there is enough shirt tugging, barging and general foul play to warrant a penalty by the letter of the law, but the referee gives less than 1% of the offences we all see. It’s the way the rules are commonly known to be enforced. Diving is seen as part of the game; commentators will praise a player for staying up, but note that he should have gone down. In the rules, it’s ‘simulation’, but when your centre forward takes an elaborate tumble, there was ‘enough contact’ and it’s well played. There is holding on every down in the NFL, if a zebra applies the rules correctly. It’s seen as unsporting and punishable with a penalty for celebrating too much, whereas a football player can seemingly do whatever little dance he likes so long as he keeps his shirt on. I’m sure you can input any sport into this conversation and highlight laws that exist that are treated with what is deemed to be common sense (i.e, not applied) and also the invisible line of sportsmanship, what’s cool between players, and what is too much. It’s how society exists; you may have downloaded some music illegally at some point, but does your mate now think you’re a scumbag? What about if you stole the same CD from a shop? From the hands of a small child? At gunpoint? Somewhere in there, there is a line, but it’s all illegal. There are black and white rules in all walks of life, and there is the accepted common sense norm that builds up over time in communities of like minded people.
So then, to BloodBowl. I’ve been lucky enough to play the game on tabletop both at home and abroad, in a well supported league, at tournaments, internationally. What constitutes being a sport whilst playing BloodBowl? I’m a stickler for being a sport, but also desperate to win. Foaming at the mouth desperate. But it’s still only secondary to being a sportsman. For instance, if a player is about to move away from DT, GFI in a blizzard or hand off in the rain, before he rolls any dice, I try to remind the coach. The reason for this is that I want to win by beating the fellow, not because he forgot a weather roll 2 hours hence or forgot what a blue skill ring meant. I don’t mind people taking moves back if dice haven’t been rolled, I don’t mind them chatting or drinking, it’s a social occasion. I don’t keep time, I move his turn counter. I like to think if it ever happened someone forgot it was T16, I’d tell him to score. Just a few bits and pieces. If someone ever timed a turn I was playing, I don’t think I’d be able to speak for a week. My bubble of sportsmanship and camaraderie would be destroyed.
This hyper-sportsmanship isn’t practiced by all, and it shouldn’t be expected. As far as I can tell, the line of acceptability differs from coach to coach in terms of reminders or who moves what, where, when. The point from above that exists entirely on the ‘be cool – don’t play it’ side of the line is all forms of illegal procedure, including the 4 minute rule.
In here goes a second disclaimer. There are two types of tabletop BB. There is a pool of guys that exist in the system. For instance, in the UK, I’d say 80%+ of TT coaches play in a well known league, attend tournaments, have joined the NAF, know what Talkfantasyfootball is, etc, etc. They’re in the system, they know someone who knows someone, they’re networked to the BloodBowl hierarchy, if you will. There are countries that don’t have this network. Let’s say Finland, as an example. No tournament I know of, low population, few leagues here and there, almost all off the map in terms of the network. If not for FUMBBL or Cyanide, most wouldn’t get decent competition from numerous coaches. They’re under the radar.
So, in terms of the above then, both in this country and where I’ve played abroad, IP is seen as ‘not cool’. I have never, ever seen or heard about it being enforced, and I feel confident in saying that if someone wanted to use it, they wouldn’t exactly be the first chap in the bar on the Saturday night that you offered a pint. On top of not being ‘cool’ the network doesn’t see it as a real rule. I think it’s fair to say that in threads or discussion where someone tells you that they use the rule often, they come from that second bracket, a loose knit group of mates, off the map, not really in the over arching structure. These guys are bound to have more quirks and oddities, in the same way you’d expect a small league on FUMBBL to have little house rules. And that’s fine, but it isn’t standard. The way IP is dealt with in most tournament rules is that the line ‘IP will not be enforced unless both players agree in advance’ is inserted. And no one ever even asks, let alone agrees.
So, here on FUMBBL, we have the 4 minute rule. I think perhaps just because we can, I don’t know. But, I’ll deal with some of the arguments I see in IRC from time to time in favour.
But it’s in the rules! Yes, if you want to be a stickler about it. But it’s not really a rule anyone plays. If a football referee started sending off players for swearing in the way that is ‘in the rules’ football as we know it would implode and be dead by next Tuesday. And what about ‘rules’ anyway? How many rules does FUMBBL change, not use or bend currently to either improve the online experience or because we don’t support it? I don’t see a clamour for moving turn markers or for enforcing ‘Fan Favourite’. Rules lawyering when it suits you isn’t a fantastic strand to an argument, if you ask me.
It’s the internet, 4 minutes is enough for anyone! Yes, it is. And of course you can’t directly equate TT to online, there are differences. The game should move more swiftly. Unless you are talking (open to abuse), the phone rings (sorry, this vital win is more important than beating you properly, mwhahaha), unless, God forbid, someone is a bit slow once or twice. Remember you are supposed to allow 90 minutes for a game. That is about 3 minutes for him per go, so an extra minute and a half whilst taking a pee, having a chat or in a big turn isn’t too much of a big deal, when you look at it like that.
The 10 minute timer didn’t work! Sadly, no it didn’t. But only because it wasn’t enforced as it should have been. If it was used in the way we were sold it, it would have cut out plenty of abuse. I propose we're worse off now.
It’s no different than fouling or stalling! Give over. Those things are tactics, we’re talking here about sportsmanship and rules, and where those lines are drawn. Stalling is seen by some newer players as poor sportsmanship, but then they learn what the unwritten code is. To blur the line between what is a rule / what is acceptable behaviour and how you choose to move your pixels is just silly. They are bespoke.
I gave fair warning! Perhaps you did, but not everyone does. You don’t get that contract at the beginning of the game that says ‘Hi, I’m Dave, you’re allowed 2 warnings, then I’ll time you out. I know the bloke last week said he’d do that and then was cheeky and did it straight off, but I’m cool’. Is a note in a bio enough? During a turn? After you’ve done it? Whilst issues exist like this and I don’t know what a random coach is going to do to me, this rule is always going to be rubbish, even if you’re pro in principle, we’re going to see abuse and upset.
But, if you had your way, theoretically my opponent could take 6 minutes a turn. 8. 10. All this talk of lines, what’s acceptable? This is true. In theory. In reality, I can only think of one active coach that takes being slow too far, and I’d never play him out of choice. But if I had to, I think I’d swallow that bullet. This problem is lesser than the problems we currently have with skulduggery (or theoretical skulduggery) or philosophical issues. To my mind, at least. Lesser of two evils.
Using 4 minutes is part of strategic thinking, blah, blah! This is the argument I perhaps have most sympathy with, being a Chess player in a former life. Perhaps. I see the least to dislike about this argument. But still – I’d rather beat the very best the other guy could muster, not emerge victorious because he was rushing.
So I don’t really know how to wrap up. It’s all a bit loose fitting, but in essence, any time I see what I think of as sportsmanship being eroded, I get fed up. And whether you support the 4 minute rule in principle or not, there are abuses open to coaches that must surely live on the wrong side of the line. The 4 minute rule and IP in general is something that common sense has taught those that play the game ‘properly’ is not to be used. I propose FUMBBL is not so different that we should not follow suit. Either that or do it properly. Take the burden of choice away from coaches that seek an advantage by pulling a fast one, enforce turn over at 4 minutes with two ‘STOP BRB’ buttons for when the phone rings or the pizza arrives. Make the client go black at that point if you’re so worried about people overthinking, but sheesh, you really shouldn’t be such a grumpy sod.
What we have now doesn’t work, on any level, pro or con the principle. It doesn’t work if you’re a sport, it doesn’t do the job as intended. And that doesn’t sit easy. The choice of pressing the timeout button deciding a game on the spot is in no way something we can endure, is it?