Varying Rule Sets

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Games where the rules governing gameplay change over time from within a closed set of rules.

Some games have rule set that change during gameplay. These Varying Rule Sets can either be used to slowly increased the complexity of a game or create variety during gameplay.


The card game Fluxx have rules one its cards that changes actions and winning conditions for all players. The cards Collectible Card Games and games like Dominion and Thunderstone do not have Varying Rule Sets since these cards (typically) only describe their own effects, and which cards are used are determined before game instances begins.

The use of Sudden Death in Ice Hockey and Soccer can be seen as a use of Varying Rule Sets in that a different winning condition is introduced when the ordinary time for a game has been passed.

Using the pattern

Designing Varying Rule Sets consist not so much on creating the rules that should vary as when rules should become active or stop being used to determine gameplay. Randomness is one approach, used for example in Fluxx. Another is to limit some rules to only applying in certain parts of a Game World, typically be making use of different Environmental Effects, different Levels, or when activated through Switches. New Abilities is yet another method, which can be explained by Character Development and be used to give Smooth Learning Curves to mitigate Complex Gameplay. The Sudden Death rule for various Sports shows how Tiebreakers can be seen as a way to provide Varying Rule Sets.

Optional Rules are one way to create Varying Rule Sets if the Optional Rules are somehow turned on and off since they can be known at the beginning of a game. Games with Evolving Rule Sets also have Varying Rule Sets since the introduction of novel rules during gameplay guarantees that the rule set will vary during gameplay.

Narrative Aspects

Many Predetermined Story Structures consists of bigger and bigger confrontations as the game is played, and Varying Rule Sets can be used to ensure Higher-Level Closures as Gameplay Progresses depending on Character Development or the unfolding of the game's narration.


Varying Rule Sets can quite naturally give rise to Varied Gameplay, but dealing with a changing rule set also makes for more Complex Gameplay. However, with games that are intended to have Complex Gameplay, Varying Rule Sets can instead have the effect of providing Smooth Learning Curves and thereby modulate the complexity.

As mentioned in relation to narrative aspects, Varying Rule Sets can make games have Higher-Level Closures as Gameplay Progresses.


Can Instantiate

Complex Gameplay, Higher-Level Closures as Gameplay Progresses, Smooth Learning Curves, Varied Gameplay

Can Modulate

Complex Gameplay, Predetermined Story Structures

Can Be Instantiated By

Character Development, Environmental Effects, Evolving Rule Sets, New Abilities, Levels, Optional Rules, Randomness, Switches, Tiebreakers

Can Be Modulated By


Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With



New pattern created in this wiki.