Ansible Pilot

Ansible troubleshooting - Error: name[play]

How to Solve the Ansible Error name[play]

November 6, 2023
Access the Complete Video Course and Learn Quick Ansible by 200+ Practical Lessons


In the world of Ansible, where automation and orchestration reign supreme, playbooks serve as the backbone of defining and executing tasks. Playbooks provide a structured way to describe configurations, deployments, and automation processes. They are your go-to tool for defining what needs to happen on remote servers, which is why it’s crucial to ensure that playbooks are well-structured, readable, and adhere to best practices.

However, even the most experienced Ansible users can make common mistakes in their playbooks, leading to potential errors and difficulties when troubleshooting. One of these common issues is related to the naming of plays within playbooks.

The Role of Names in Playbooks

In Ansible playbooks, names play a critical role. They serve as identifiers for executed operations on the console, in log files, and on web interfaces. When you glance at a name within a playbook, you should instantly understand what task or play is doing. A well-named task or play provides clarity and enhances the playbook’s maintainability.

The name Rule

To ensure the quality and readability of Ansible playbooks, the Ansible community has developed a set of rules, often enforced by linters, to identify issues related to naming conventions. These rules, under the ‘name’ category, help maintain a standardized and consistent naming structure within your playbooks.

Here are some specific aspects addressed by the ‘name’ rule:

  1. name[casing]: This rule requires all names to start with an uppercase letter for languages that support it. While it may seem like a small detail, consistent casing in names improves readability and professionalism.

  2. name[missing]: To maintain clarity in your playbooks, this rule insists that all tasks should be named. Unnamed tasks make troubleshooting more challenging.

  3. name[play]: One important sub-rule within the ’name’ category focuses on naming plays. It recommends that all plays in your playbook should be named. Providing descriptive names for plays helps you understand the purpose and context of each play.

  4. name[prefix]: This sub-rule applies primarily to included task files that are not named ‘main.yml.’ It suggests adding the stem of the file as a prefix to the task name. For example, if you have a task named ‘Restart server’ inside a file named ‘tasks/deploy.yml,’ this sub-rule suggests renaming it to ‘deploy | Restart server’. This makes it easier to identify which task comes from which file.

  5. name[template]: This sub-rule discourages the use of Jinja templates in the middle of ’name.’ It recommends placing templates at the end of the ’name’ string. This practice simplifies the identification of tasks in the source code when they fail.

The Importance of Naming Plays

Naming plays might seem like an additional step, but it significantly improves the readability and maintainability of your playbooks. A descriptive play name provides immediate context, allowing you to understand the playbook’s purpose and the role of each play without diving into the details.

Problematic Code

Let’s look at an example to understand the impact of not naming plays:

- hosts: all
    - name: Create placefolder file
      ansible.builtin.command: touch /tmp/.placeholder

Here, the play lacks a name, making it challenging to discern its purpose. Without a clear play name, troubleshooting or reviewing the playbook becomes needlessly complicated.

Ansible Lint Output

WARNING  <unknown>:1 SyntaxWarning invalid decimal literal
WARNING  Listing 2 violation(s) that are fatal
name[play]: All plays should be named.

no-changed-when: Commands should not change things if nothing needs doing.
name-play.yml:4 Task/Handler: Create placefolder file

Read documentation for instructions on how to ignore specific rule violations.

                  Rule Violation Summary                  
 count tag             profile rule associated tags       
     1 name[play]      basic   idiom                      
     1 no-changed-when shared  command-shell, idempotency 

Failed: 2 failure(s), 0 warning(s) on 1 files. Last profile that met the validation criteria was 'min'.

The Best Resources For Ansible


Video Course

Printed Book


Correct Code

- name: Play for creating placeholder
  hosts: all
    - name: Create placeholder file
      ansible.builtin.command: touch /tmp/.placeholder

In the corrected code, we’ve added a meaningful name for the play. It now offers a clear context, making it easy to understand its purpose.


In conclusion, adhering to the ‘name[play]’ rule by providing descriptive play names in your Ansible playbooks enhances readability, simplifies troubleshooting, and promotes best practices. Consistent naming conventions help you and your team maintain your playbooks more efficiently, which ultimately contributes to the success of your automation tasks. Remember, a playbook’s name is not just a label; it’s a powerful tool for understanding and organizing your automation processes.

Enforcing these naming conventions can be simplified through the use of Ansible linters. Moreover, some linting tools provide automatic fixes for ‘name[casing]’ issues. This means that you can improve your playbooks’ naming conventions with minimal effort.

Subscribe to the YouTube channel, Medium, and Website, X (formerly Twitter) to not miss the next episode of the Ansible Pilot.


Learn the Ansible automation technology with some real-life examples in my

My book Ansible By Examples: 200+ Automation Examples For Linux and Windows System Administrator and DevOps

BUY the Complete PDF BOOK to easily Copy and Paste the 250+ Ansible code

Want to keep this project going? Please donate

Access the Complete Video Course and Learn Quick Ansible by 200+ Practical Lessons
Follow me

Subscribe not to miss any new releases