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House rules for playing Slash

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At WisCon 2014, Vylar Kaftan introduced a bunch of us to a very entertaining fast-paced casual game called Slash: it's an Apples-to-Apples–style game with hundreds of cards showing characters from pop culture, and the goal is to come up with a One True Pairing for each character played.

(And it's now, as of June 2015, back in stock! You can order it by following the above link.)

A bunch of us played for quite a while at the Gathering. I enjoyed it a lot; it is, in fact, the only Apples-to-Apples–style game that I've liked much.

And then later I bought my own set, and I read the Official Rules, and I watched a video that the makers of the game had put up showing a sample play session.

And I was kinda put off by the video. It feels to me like one of the creators of the game is behaving in an aggressive and overbearing way, repeatedly pushing others to go along with his preferences, etc.; and that style of play seemed to me to be semi-encouraged by the official rules.

And it occurred to me that the casual relaxed style that Vylar had taught us may not have been exactly what the game designers had in mind.

But that's fine; everyone can have their own styles of play. Maybe especially with this kind of game; I've seen several radically incompatible play styles for Apples to Apples, for example. It's great when people play games in a style that works for them.

And the play style that works best for me for Slash is Vylar's (or at least my memory of it; I'm not sure whether it's precisely the way Vylar taught it). I've subsequently played in that style with at least two other groups, and it went over well and was fun and lightweight and didn't take a lot of thought or energy.

So I wanted to write up this play style as a set of house rules for the game, in case others might find it useful. It's not a huge departure from the official rules; it's essentially the official “Casual Fling” rules without the challenges or scoring. But I still thought it was worth writing up.

Here's how it goes:

  1. Find a space to play in. A table in an area where other like-minded people are likely to be passing by is an excellent choice.
  2. Gather some players. Probably four to eight people playing at any given time is a good number.
  3. Take all of the huge number of cards, more or less shuffle them, and put them on the table in several stacks of cards.
  4. Everyone who's playing: Draw ten cards from the stacks and look at them.
  5. The person whose turn it is: Pick one of your ten cards, play it face-up on the table, and ask for pairings for that character. You might say, for example, “I've always wondered who would be a good date for Doctor Doom.” Then set your own hand of cards aside for the moment.
  6. Everyone else: Look at your cards. Find someone who would make a good match (romantic, sexual, or otherwise) for the character under consideration. Take that card and hand it, face down, to the person whose turn it is. If you don't have many players, consider having everyone offer two cards as pairings instead of one.
  7. Person whose turn it is: When everyone's handed you all the cards they're going to hand you, look through them, and arrange them very approximately in order of your least to most favorite choices. Use whatever criteria you like. If you're unfamiliar with one or more of the offered characters, you can put them first.
  8. Lay down the offered cards, one at a time. For each one, say a sentence or so about why you think they are or aren't a suitable match. You can tell little stories about the characters' interactions if you wish. (Alternatively, you can put all the offered cards face up in front of you, and examine them, and talk through your thought process. The lay-them-down-one-at-a-time part isn't a requirement, just one approach that seems to work well.)
  9. If anyone else wants to offer suggestions or alternative reasoning, they can toss things in, but don't argue seriously about it; keep things lightweight and fast-moving, and let the person whose turn it is have their turn.
  10. End with the one that you like the best. Sometimes it'll be a tie, and you'll end up with a threesome. (Or more.)
  11. Give the card-to-be-matched and the best match to the person who provided the best match. If your group is keeping score, then that person scores the points shown on the cards, but really, why keep score?
  12. The non-best matches get discarded. You can either keep a separate discard pile, or shuffled played cards back into decks. Or keep a separate discard pile and then reshuffle it when you start to run low on unplayed cards. Or keep a separate discard pile and decide to stop playing when you start to run low on unplayed cards.
  13. Everyone: Look at your hand, and discard any cards showing characters you're unfamiliar with or just don't want to play. Then draw to replenish your hand up to ten cards. If you want to, you can keep discarding and drawing until you no longer have any cards you don't like.
  14. Play passes to the left.
  15. Players can join or leave the game at any time.

So what's the difference between this version and the official version? Basically this style just streamlines and relaxes things. For example: Keeping score in this game doesn't, for me, increase the Maximum Fun Quotient. The rules about challenging other people's choices and trying to convince people that your choice is right look to me like they would actively detract from the things I enjoy about the game. And the rule about keeping a card that you recognize even a little, even if you don't want to play that card, seems pointless to me.

The official variant in which you tell stories (like “tell me about how they first met”) sounds to me like it could be fun, but also sounds like it takes more creativity and brainpower than the lightweight play style I'm describing.

Again, there's nothing wrong with playing by the official rules, nor with other play styles you may want to adopt. But the above-described approach is one style that, in my experience so far, works very well.

(I wrote this in February 2015, but waffled about whether it was worth posting. But now that the game is available again, decided I might as well post it.)

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