Lines of Questioning: Halloween Variant

There’s a lot of costuming that goes into being a lawyer. Attorneys have differing opinions on what to wear in the courtroom; some want an extremely conservative, formal look that can’t offend anyone, while others aim toward a striking appearance that makes one the center of attention. Much effort is put into defendants’ clothing, especially in criminal trials, and most especially when the defendant is being held without bail and doesn’t have access to his or her full wardrobe. Everyone in the courtroom is on display to a greater or lesser extent, and dresses accordingly.

Since it’s Halloween, how about a Lines of Questioning variant that deals with the rare–but memorable–occasions when courtroom costuming goes wrong?

Unprofessional Attire

Whenever a tile is played in the line of questioning that is not adjacent to the last tile in the witness’ line of answers, flip a coin. If the coin comes up heads, the just-placed tile becomes the last tile in the line of questioning as normal. If it comes up tails, flip the just-placed tile face-down; the space it was played in is open for both types of tile, and the line of questioning does not advance. (Use the last face-up tile in the line of questioning as the last tile in that line.)

On a busy trial day it can be hard to take as much care with one’s clothing as one should. Hurrying lawyers have been known to let their ties fall into the sink, or to drop their lunch in their laps. To make matters worse, courtrooms are often old and somewhat battered, with bits and ends that can snag and tear. I remember one attorney ripping his suit jacket on a nail head protruding from the courtroom doorway moments before opening arguments.

Not only are these situations embarrassing, they can cause a tactical problem. The jury is might well be distracted as they try to figure out what left a stain that sickly shade of green. It can be hard to keep them focused, and if the jury isn’t listening then the critical facts the lawyer is bringing out are apt to go unheard.

This variant seeks to capture that dynamic by making it harder to advance the line of questioning. As long as things are interesting and seem to be rolling along, represented by the lawyer and witness playing tiles close together, the jury stays engaged and everything is fine. If matters bog down, however, the jury’s attention wanders and the attorney starts having to go over the same points to make sure the jury heard them.

From a game design perspective, I like that this variant introduces uncertainty into whether the line of questioning will progress. Normally the question is where and how the line advances; a failure to move forward at all is a new and different problem, one that I think will change how the line of questioning is built. Is it now best to keep it in the middle, so as to avoid having the line “stall out” along the edge? Perhaps it would be better to just let the line of answers take the lead, using the line of questioning to shore up the corners as it can? It’s a fresh problem, and the novelty brings some additional interest to the decisions.

As always, I’m curious to hear your experiences with this variant. If you get a chance to try it, let me know. I’ll be testing it as well, and will get back to you with the results.

Happy Halloween!

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