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A Wishlist for Game Rules: If Only Authors Would Consider This When Writing Rules
James Fehr
Canada
Edmonton
Alberta
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Anyone who has read even just a few sets of game rules can probably identify with the desire to sit down with the author of said rules and beg him/her to make certain things clearer in some way.

Let me say first that I think that rules for popular designer games seem to be getting better. I appreciate that standard formats and terminology amongst the games that share a common publisher often seem to be in place.

However, I am still continually surprised at the gap that often exists between a clear picture of how the game is to work in the minds of designers, and the understanding of what a game is all about in the minds of the people reading the rules for the first time. Even the most experienced rules interpreters and game players often talk about missing one important rule or other in their first play of a new game: just listen to any board gaming podcast for confirmation.

I deeply respect a good rules-author. It has to be one of the most challenging, and non-fun tasks a designer or publisher has to perform. Communication can seem so easy when done right, but it can be so much more difficult than it looks.

So here is a list of some of the things I wish rules authors would always consider and usually take the time and effort to do when writing rules, spoken as if to them. Many of these items relect statements I've heard other people say that I agree with, and until now I haven't seen these sentiments listed in one place - please post links to similar geeklists if they exist. I don't state these things to be overly negative against the games that don't follow my suggestions - like I said, this is a hard job - but the time and effort spent to get the rules just right can make such a huge difference in how much of a positive experience a reader can have with the designer's cherished game. The investment is worth it if you want us to like your games!!!

Feel free to add your own items and thoughts to this list!
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26. Board Game: Choose Your Clues [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Rob Duarte
United States
Largo
Florida
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Make sure the examples you use don't cause more confusion than clarity.

The example that comes to mind right away is in the English rules for Stone Age where it discusses the scoring for extra Civ cards. There is ambiguity in the written rules regarding whether you simply add 1 point for each extra Civ card that you have or whether you square the number of extra Civ cards you have (this is the correct method). The pictured game play example in the rules shows an instance where somebody has only one extra Civ card which really solves nothing because +1 and 1 times itself are the same. If they would have showed an example of somebody with 2 extra Civ cards it would have been clear.

So rules writers: Please consider carefully the illustrated examples you choose to include and make sure they don't inadvertently create more ambiguity rather than clear up a rule.
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27. Board Game: Right Turn, Left Turn [Average Rating:5.45 Overall Rank:9180]
Rob Duarte
United States
Largo
Florida
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For any game that is of a heavier weight consider a good example of 2-3 turns where the major mechanics are illustrated.

Labyrinth: The War on Terror, I'm looking at you. This is a great example of a game with a fantastically written description of player turns for both the 2p and solo game. It made all the difference in the world in helping me understand the game, particularly since I don't usually tackle games of that weight.
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28. Board Game: The Helping, Sharing, and Caring Game [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Rob Duarte
United States
Largo
Florida
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A well thought out and well written player aid can be of great help in weightier games, or in all games for that matter.

Once again I will give a nod of approval to Labyrinth: The War on Terror. You could practically use the player aid to learn the game.

And I'm sure we can all think of games where the player aid is more a source of confusion then of assistance.
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29. Board Game: Online [Average Rating:3.67 Unranked]
Rob Duarte
United States
Largo
Florida
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In this day and age why aren't more publishers including video tutorials on their web pages?

This is a lost opportunity in my opinion. They are cheap and easy to produce, and a link to the tutorial from the written rules will drive traffic to a publisher's web site.

Plus, so many people are more visual learners. Think about how it's easier for you to learn a game. I think for many they will say they learn a game better when someone teaches it to them as opposed to diving into a rule book.

Yes, there are lots of great ones put together by BGG'ers, but publishers should really consider putting their own together.
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30. Board Game: Jumping to Conclusions [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
United States
Portland
Oregon
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Include a quick reference sheet or column that allows for rapid refreshment of game rules when playing again after a long hiatus.

Rio Grande does this with many games. By including a column off to the side of each section it is possible to find hand limits movement restrictions etc. at a glance.
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31. Board Game: Branches and Twigs and Thorns [Average Rating:6.15 Overall Rank:7633]
Matt Kruczek
United Kingdom
Colchester
Essex
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Don't pepper your introductory overview with myriad references to later paragraphs and sections in the rule book.

And make sure the sections of the rule book appear in the order in which they are encountered in the game.


When I see rules like...

Phase 1: Auction (see section 6)
Phase 2: Role Allocation (see section 3)
Phase 3: Movement (see sections 4,9 and 2b)
Phase 4: Combat (see sections 10,1,3,2a and 1 again)


I can't help but wonder why they've ordered the sections in that way to begin with.

It also makes me want to skip ahead to the relevant sections just in case there's vital information there that I will need to understand the rest of the introduction.
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32. Board Game: Turning Point [Average Rating:6.39 Overall Rank:7065]
John Bandettini
United Kingdom
London
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Please don't bury the turn sequence in the rule book. I prefer to have it on a player aid, if not on the back of the rule book.

Especially on the first couple of plays, it's frustrating to keep looking in the rule book for the turn sequence.

Yes, I know keep it open on the right page. So you do and then someone asks to see a rule and gives you it back closed, so you have to open it again, and then again and so on.
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33. Board Game: Stronghold [Average Rating:7.36 Overall Rank:297]
Donal Behal
Ireland
Cork
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Use a proper translator for your rules

This game when it had the rules published in English for the first time it looked like if had come out of Google translate. I had to use the BGG rules and summaries in order to actually play my game properly.

Later editions of the game corrected the problem. English distribution now has the rulebook divided in to two: Attacker & Defender making finding rules a lot faster.
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34. Board Game: Online: Internet Card Game [Average Rating:4.84 Overall Rank:10420]
Ryan Hackel
United States
Falls Church
Virginia
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The printing of a game is no excuse to stop supporting its rules development. Don't be timid about putting "supplementary rules" online. FAQs should be worked into a living rulebook quickly. Example plays, tutorials, errata, and official variants should be easily found online, even if the original rulebook is not. The internet is an extension of the game box... use it!
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