Monday, February 21, 2011

"Rules" of rules-writing

I've been reading the rules of some of the "strategy" and wargame category games on There are dozens of games in this category. (You may not have heard of this site, it's as close as we come to Print on Demand for board and card games.) Many of these games are designed by first-timers who have no editor or publisher to assist them.

Elementary "rules" of writing rules are often broken. For example, early in a rule set you should say how many players, how long the game takes, and (briefly) what you do to win. (Full victory conditions come later.) But most of these rule sets don't say the first two ANYWHERE, and often save "how to win" to the end. Having these three items of information early on helps the reader understand the rules. When you don't know how to win, for example, understanding what kinds of actions you might take, and why, can be difficult.

I think rules should include a section, near the end, "rules often missed or forgotten at first play". Not seen here.

I usually describe the components early on, so that as the owner has just removed things from the box, he can have some idea of their purposes. Not seen here.

Illustrations are good, but it must be said that the creators of these games are likely trying to keep costs down by fitting the rules onto fewer pages.

The rules tend to be devoid of examples, too. The best rules include a "playthrough" of a turn or two, so that the reader will know whether he is playing the game right. (True, many people will not bother to read through a playthrough, but some will.)

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