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Rules Spiel

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Susan Calman: D'you know, [the rules have] never been clearly explained to me...
David Mitchell: I explain it very clearly, every time! I've read it out so many times that in the coming decades, when I'm sitting in a home, all I'll be muttering is "the rules are as follows: each panellist will present a short lecture that should be entirely false..." and people won't know what I'm talking about!

So you've just debuted a brand new Game Show, and now you need to tell the audience how the game is played. If the host explains these rules exactly the same way, day after day, until it reaches the point where fans of the show can practically recite from memory what he's about to say, your explanation has just become a Rules Spiel.

A Rules Spiel can take on a number of different forms. Most often, it's done at the very start of the show to explain the game as a whole. Other times, it's used to describe a particular round, category, or stunt. In any event, one of the features of a Rules Spiel is that it uses the same verbage — or close enough to it — every day. Just because the rules get explained every day doesn't necessarily make it a Rules Spiel, if the host varies his explanations enough to not make it sound the same every time.

In many cases, the Rules Spiel is a sub-variant of Our Lawyers Advised This Trope; the legal department wrote the spiel to make sure that the rules are explained exactly the same way, every single time, covering exactly the same points in exactly the same words. The point of this exercise is to prevent a contestant from bringing legal action on the grounds that some part of the rules was not explained clearly. Of course, contestants always get a printed copy of the rules to read over and sign before appearing on any game show with any discrepancies or questions cleared up before the contestant even goes on stage, so a Rules Spiel is more for the audience's benefit than the player's.

On some shows where a series of stunts is going to be attempted at one time, this can take the form of an Obstacle Exposition.

This trope has also been used in countless video games during their attract modes; especially arcade games, and especially during The Golden Age of Video Games (and this is in addition to the instruction cards that appear in the cabinets).note  To list every one here might require a page of its own...


  • Big Break (1991): The tireless John Virgo gives one for the first round, "Red Hot": "...Pot as many balls as you can."
  • Done on The Chase, with the host explaining how to play the cash builder, main chase/table and the final chase. It's been condensed a bit in later series, given how long the show's now been running.
  • Concentration: Hugh Downs' spiel was very basic—The object of the game is to solve the puzzle...the title of something, a well-known phrase or something you know.
    • The first months of the show had a more detailed spiel for new viewers: Behind each number is an item. There are fifteen pairs of items; some are prizes and some are not. Each time a player matches an item, it reveals parts of a puzzle—the title of something, a well-known phrase or something you know. Whoever solves the puzzle first wins the game and wins the prizes credited to him [or her].
  • Deal or No Deal:
    • (UK): "I need you please to confirm that you chose box number X at random before the show began. It is sealed by our independent adjudicator, who seals all 22 boxes and is the only one who knows where the money is."
    • (US): "Up there, we have 26 lovely ladies holding 26 cases, each holding a amount randomly assigned by a third party. We don't know what's in what case, but we do know one case is holding... One. Million. Dollars. All the way down to one penny."
  • Double Dare (1986-93): "I'm going to ask you a question, and if you don't know the answer or think the other team hasn't got a clue, you can Dare them to answer it for double the dollars. But be careful, because they can always Double Dare you back for four times the amount, and then you either have to answer the question or take the Physical Challenge."
    • Also: "In Round 2, all the dollar values are doubled, and when you hear this sound - " <BUZZ BUZZ> " - That means the game is over."
  • Family Feud:
    • Faceoffs: "One hundred people surveyed, top X answers on the board. Try to give me the most popular answer. Here's the question..."
    • Ray Combs would add at the start: "First family to 300 points gets to play Fast Money for a chance at $10,000..."
    • Fast Money, before the first player's turn: "I'll ask you five questions. Try to give me the most popular answer you can think of. If you can't think of something, say 'Pass' and we'll come back to it if there's time. If you and your partner get 200 points, you know what you win?"
    • Fast Money, before the second player's turn: "I'll ask you the same five questions I asked your partner. You cannot duplicate an answer. If you do, you'll hear this sound -<BUZZ BUZZ> - and I'll ask you to try again. Let's reveal your partner's answers. Twenty(-five) seconds on the clock …"
  • Fort Boyard (UK C5 Version) has two:
    • In the first phase of the game: "Fort Boyard's gold is guarded by tigers. To win some the team must first unlock the treasure room door. This requires four keys. These are obtained by succeeding Boyard's challenges or answering correctly the riddles set by the Professor he keeps locked in the watchtower. But getting the keys is only the beginning..."
    • And in the second: "The treasure room door is now unlocked, but it won't open until the gong sounds. By then, you need to know the password. Each time you successfully complete one of my ordeals, you get a clue. The password is the one word that can be used either before or after each of the clues to create a new word or familiar expression. When you enter the treasure room, the password must be spelt out correctly to release the gold, but you will only have a maximum of two minutes before the door closes again, and the tigers are released."
  • Finders Keepers: "In our Hidden Pictures round, the first team to correctly match the clue with what's hidden gets $25. You also earn the right to search a room, where finding the hidden object wins you $50. But if you don't find the object, the money goes to the other team. The team with the most money at the end of the game wins and gets to go on a wild Room-to-Room Romp for some great prizes."
  • A non-game-show example in the film of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, delivered by the commentator for the school's first game of Quidditch: "The Bludgers are up… followed by the Golden Snitch. Remember, the Snitch is worth 150 points. The Seeker who catches the Snitch ends the game." This veers into As You Know territory given that Quidditch is the wizarding world's most popular (and only) sport — but perhaps he's doing it for the benefit of Muggle-born first-years like Hermione.
  • The Hollywood Squares: "Object for the player is to get three stars in a row, either across, up-and-down or diagonally; it is up to them to figure out if a star is giving a correct answer or making one up; that's how they get the squares."
  • HQ: Varies from day to day and host to host, but usually goes something like "Twelve questions. Tap the correct answer before time runs out. Make it through all 12 questions to win the cash," followed by the amount of the day's jackpot.
  • Impractical Jokers: Most of the popular challenges, especially "Refuse You Lose":
    Joker A: Today we'll be working as X.
    Joker B: While working as X, we'll have to do and say whatever the other guys tell us.
    Joker C: And if you refuse, you lose!
    Joker D: [Insert joke here] (Once they literally said "Insert joke here.")
  • The 1990 revival of The Joker's Wild: "The Joker's Wild is a game of definitions. I'll give the contestants a word, a phrase, a person, or a place, and they'll tell me what it means." ... "And remember, if our judges determine that any part of your answer is incorrect, I'll have to call it/you wrong."
  • Jokers Wild (the ITV Panel Game): "I take cards with subjects from these boxes, and one of our comedian attempts to tell a joke on that subject. If anyone on the other team thinks he knows that joke, he can interrupt and try to complete it. We'll play the game — you'll see how it goes."
  • Just a Minute: Thankfully short, but still the same every week. "Our teams have to speak on a subject for one minute, without hesitation, repetition or deviation." Optionally, Nicholas will include "They can repeat the subject on the card".
    • Sometime parodied, for example: without hesitation, repetition, deviation, anthrax or repetition.
  • Legends of the Hidden Temple was one giant Rules Spiel, given that all of Olmec's explanations were pre-recorded and Kirk Fogg read everything off cue cards.
    • "They're going to have to face some tough physical and mental challenges to find that [artifact], but first they have to cross the moat, and Olmec's gonna tell them how."
    • "Olmec's going to ask you some questions about the legend you just heard. If you think you know the answer, stomp down on the ancient marking in front of you. If you're right, you'll move down a step, but if you're wrong, the other teams will get a chance to answer. The first two teams to reach the bottom will be one step closer to the temple."
    • "In the Temple Games, teams compete to earn Pendants of Life. The winning team will use those Pendants to help them search for the [artifact]. There are three Temple Games; Olmec's gonna tell us about Temple Game #1."
    • And of course, Olmec's entire tour through the temple, changing up his script only in cases where an extra half-pendant was hidden in the room, and in Season 2 where they'd remind the team where the artifact was.
  • First three seasons of Chuck Woolery's Lingo:
    • Main Game: "Here's how we play Lingo: The team in control gets up to five chances to guess a mystery word. We start with the first letter of the word. Players take turns making guesses and our board will indicate whether a letter is correct and it's in the right place. A correct answer is worth 25 points. But at if any time you give us a word that doesn't fit, isn't a real word, or you take too long, control passes to the next team and they have a chance to win those points. Now, the team with the correct guess gets to draw two Lingo balls with corresponding numbers to their own Lingo board. All you have to do is try to do is complete a row of numbers, either five across, up and down, or diagonally. Each Lingo is worth 50 points and a free letter during Bonus Lingo."
    • Bonus Lingo: "I'm gonna give you two minutes to guess as many five-letter words as you can. You're gonna have up to five guesses for each word; for every one you get right, you're gonna get a Lingo ball which you'll use to try to complete your Bonus Lingo card to win that (prize).
  • Match Game:
    • 1962-69: "The players will write down responses to questions of which there can be a number of answers, in an attempt to match each other. First team to 100 points wins the game and goes on to the Audience Match."
    • The 1973 revival: "You two contestants will be answering questions in an attempt to match as many of our celebrities as you can. You'll have two chances; the one who matches the most celebrities after the second round wins the game, gets $100, and goes on to the Super-Match where you can win over $5,000."
  • Merv Griffin's Crosswords: "First player to buzz-in with the correct answer, and the correct spelling, earns cash. You get it wrong, we're gonna subtract that amount from your score and your opponent may get a shot at it." [later episodes added "And remember, some answers may contain two or three words."]
  • Scrabble (during the Scrabble Sprint round): "[The first Sprint player] is going to establish a time; the winner of the next crossword is going to try to beat that time. Don't forget to hit your plunger, that's what stops the clock. No Stoppers in any of these words; all the letters are good."
  • Taskmaster: Since each task has its own rules, they begin with the contestants reading the rules aloud from a card. If one of them later claims that the rules were never explained to them, there is always a clip of them reading the relevant instructions.
  • The Price Is Right: While the rules to each of the pricing games were pretty much ad-libbed, the three permanent features of the show are described the same way on a daily basis:
    • Item Up for Bids (first one only): "That [prize] will go to the one of you who bids closest to the actual retail price without going over." Or, alternatively: "Please bid only in dollars, because we round off the price of each prize to the nearest dollar."
    • Showcase Showdown: "The contestant who comes nearest to $1.00 without going over will be in the showcase. If you get $1.00 in one spin or in a combination of two spins, you will win $1,000 plus a bonus spin."
    • Showcases: "Each of you will have a Showcase of beautiful prizes to bid on. The one of you who bids closer to the actual retail price of your own Showcase without going over will win it. If you are the winner, and you are less than $100/$250 or less away from the actual retail price of your own Showcase, we will give you both Showcases."
      • However, since Drew Carey's arrival and a need for more commercial time, Drew has often ad-libbed or completely left out the "formal" rule spiels for the Showcase Showdown and Showcase rounds, assuming viewers are familiar enough with the show's format to know what is going on. He does have a shorter rules spiel though: Pay close attention to the first Showcase; it could go to either one of you."
    • Bill Cullen repeated the rules for his version on each nighttime show: We put the merchandise up for bids, and you bid on it. Go as high as you like, stop whenever you like; it goes to the one who bids highest to the actual retail price without going over, and the big winner comes back next week to take on three new challengers.
    • The home sweepstakes on Cullen's show had a standard spiel when the third version of it became the standard: Write your name and a residence address on a postcard only along with your estimate on [the prizes] and mail it to [theme name of] Sweepstakes, The Price Is Right, post office box xxx, New York City, N.Y., 100xx. Entries must be in our hands no later than midnight on [date specified]. Cards are selected at random, and on the telecast of [date specified], five lucky people will have their cards drawn and the winner will be the first card drawn with the exact price. If none of the five cards has the exact price, then the first card drawn whose estimate is closest without going over the actual retail price will be the winner. Anyone associated with The Price Is Right note  and anyone who has been a contestant before are not eligible. Mail handling for the sweepstakes is under the supervision of an independent organization and the decision of the judges is final.
  • Trashed parodied this, as the announcer would read the rules to the Bonus Round at an incomprehensibly fast speed while the complete legal version scrolled up the screen at an even faster rate.
  • The Unbelievable Truth: "The rules are as follows: Each panelist should present a short lecture that should be entirely false, save for five hidden truths which their opponents will try to identify. Points will be awarded for truths that go unnoticed, while panelists can win points if they spot a truth, or lose points if they mistake a lie for a truth."
    • Spoofed (as seen up top as the page quote) when Susan Calman claimed, after having appeared on the show many times, that no-one had ever explained this to her, causing David Mitchell to respond he's said it so much he figures it'll be all he can say when he's old and senile. Susan then claims she's just tuned out whenever David speaks.
      David Mitchell: The robots that clean up my wee won't have a clue what I'm saying!
  • Averted very often on University Challenge, (especially in later stages of the tournament, or celebrity specials) where host Jeremy Paxman will say something like "you can probably all recite the rules better than I can, so let's just get on with it".
  • Wacaday had a rather unusual version for its game segment: "Mallett's Mallet is a word association game, where you musn't pause, hesitate, repeat a word, or say a word I don't like... otherwise you get a bash on the head like this...or like this...the one with the most bruises loses.... look at each other and go Bleugh! Look at everyone at home and go Bleugh! Everyone at home look at them and go Bleugh!"
  • The Weakest Link: "Now, the rules: In each round, the aim is to answer enough questions correctly to reach your (insert money amount here) target within the time limit. (There are X of you, so) the fastest way to reach that target is with a chain of X correct answers. Get your question wrong and you break the chain, and lose all the money in that chain. But if you say the word 'Bank' before your question is asked, the money will be safe; however, you start a new chain from scratch/brand new chain. Remember, at the end of the round, only money that has been banked will be taken forward/carried over to the next round."
    • "The first question is for (insert money amount here). Start the clock."
  • You Don't Say!: "Object is to get your partner to say a name by giving the clues in the form of a statement leaving off the last word which can sound like, but not be spelled like, any part of the name. That's the word you don't say".
  • Wheel of Fortune:
    • "Look out for the Bankrupt space, because if you hit it, you lose all your cash, but not your merchandise, because once you buy a prize, it's yours to keep."
    • When time is running out: "I'm going to give the wheel a final spin, and ask you for a letter. If it's in the puzzle, you'll have five/three seconds to solve it. Vowels worth nothing, consonants worth..."
    • For several seasons on the syndicated show after shopping was removed: "One thousand dollars is the top dollar value for our first round, and we are playing for cash."
  • Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?: "You're sitting in our hot seat, just 15 questions away from one million dollars. The rules are quite simple: the more questions you get right, the more money you win. Once you reach the $1,000 or the $32,000 level, you are guaranteed to leave with at least that much money." Reege would then go into explaining the lifelines. By the time the show went into its full-time run in 2000, this was just condensed to "You know the rules, you know the Lifelines, let's play."
  • Whose Line Is It Anyway?: Every game featured in the show had its own rules which the host would explain before the performers began the scene.
  • Would I Lie to You?:
    • Introducing Home Truths: "Our panellists each read out a statement from the card in front of them. To make things harder, they've never seen the card before, so they've got no idea what they'll be faced with. It's up to the opposing team to sort the truth from the lies."
    • Introducing the This Is My round: "We bring on a mystery guest who has a close connection to one of our panellists. This week, each of David's/Lee's team will claim it's them that has the genuine connection to the guest, and it's up to Lee's/David's team to spot who's telling the truth."
  • You Don't Know Jack did this for special types of categories, especially the final question, the "Jack Attack":
    Host: When you see two words that match, hit your buzzer. $2,000 if you're right, but you lose $2,000 if you're wrong. And don't forget...
    Voice: Remember the clue...
    Host: Not every match is going to be exact. It's got to be a match that fits this clue...
    • You could hit the buzzer or spacebar to cut past it, in which the host will make a snide comment before giving the clue.
    • If you waited after inputting your names and picking the length of your game, a short rules spiel would begin after the buzzer keys were stated. A typical one is...
      "Now pay attention, and don't screw this up. If you think you know the answer, buzz in, then hit 1, 2, 3, or 4 that matches what you think the answer is. Got it?"
  • Parody: Monty Python's Flying Circus has "It's a Living", whose spiel was so long there was no time for the game. Similarly done on their album Monty Python's Previous Record on the cut "Radio Quiz Game".
  • Parodied on I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue, where every round of One Song to the Tune of Another is preceded by a completely different complex explanation of the rules by analogy, which quickly descends into Metaphorgotten. (The actual rules of One Song to the Tune of Another can be summed up in a single round title.)