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Usually I wouldn’t be writing about another designer’s game in my blog unless I had at least play tested it. Yet I have found what I believe to be the most overwritten set of rules in creation.

Here is the pertinent information

I work on the premise that brevity is the key to a good set of rules with minimal flavor elements being added to support the theme. Using cooking as an analogy this dish is lost under a mound of salt and spice. Something I can’t consume.

It’s hard to tell if Mr. Fredrickson is truly sincere in his belief that people will read his rule book or if this is just a stunt to draw attention. Only he knows for sure.


The Total Package Works

I'm a minimalist when creating a rule book, and ninety-one pages seems ridiculous. However, for this game, and for the overall package he is trying to present, it is perfect. I love it.

He has obviously put a lot of work into creating the board, pieces, website, and the instruction manual. It all works together. If another game developer created a similar rule book, but didn't have all of the other elegant elements, it wouldn't work. This definitely works.

Abstract Strategy Games


When you say elegant I guess it depends on what definition you are using. Describing it as stylish or even graceful may be appropriate. I can’t comment on that as I didn’t bother to read far enough to find the actual rules. It does not fit the other common usage of elegant which is something that has a beautiful simplicity; there is nothing simple or beautiful in this sense about 91-page book that you must wade through to find the 1 page worth of rules.

Imagine the game being 40 foot across with playing pieces that weigh 50 Lbs each. I can lift 50 Lbs yet I wouldn’t do so to play this or any other game no matter how pretty the set was. Some game designers are artists in their own right yet if we expect people to play our games we must make them playable and the rules digestible.

Yes, Elegant.

Usually, the written rules in an abstract strategy game are meant to initially teach the game and possibly used as a reference. Qyshinsu's booklet is obviously meant to be apart of the overall experience.

"Qyshinsu is the second chapter of a sacred journey told through the eyes of a fictional traveler named 'Hakummar'. He travels to a far away land in search of the legendary Master Qy. Along his way, he encounters a mysterious herbalist named Li. She assists him on his sojourn as he discovers the secrets that lie within the ancient practice known as Qyshinsu."

It is appropriate for the instructions to sit next to the board on the coffee table, not hidden and used only to teach. Using it as apart of the experience is creative and unique. I'll also stick with elegant (attractive, polished, stylish, tasteful, etc.).

Abstract Strategy Games


For me this rule document is aesthetically pleasing, from a visual and literary point of view. For some players/people detailed store-like verbiage it often desired. Outside of RPG style games you do not often see this influence, but it might appeal to a certain audience. For some it might even help set the feeling or reinforce the theme of the game. Another thing to point out is that this might be a great way to influence or even bridge those that are literary minds into the gaming world.

Obviously one potential downside, is an audience that just wishes to play a game. Obviously reading 90+ pages to learn a game is not often desired, so for the audience that wishes to just pick up a game and play it, this might not be the right fit. And at the same time it might be useful to have a *short* version of the rules if the desire is to have a broader audience for that actual game content.

Mr. Frederickson has been a

Mr. Frederickson has been a member here before, and so may certainly wish to comment himself should he return.

In the meantime, I'd like to note that, based on previous comments, his focus is on the creation of art, not just games. Poetry and prose are not, generally, about brevity, conciseness, or even necessarily clarity. I believe that potential buyers of his games are people buying an artistic experience. I think there's definitely lots of room in the wild world of games for all kinds of things, artistic endeavors among them.

They're art objects that are also games. An accompanying 90-page book of prose that includes the rules seems just fine to me.

I think, perhaps, the

I think, perhaps, the objection to the term elegant was that, in game design circles, it's often used to mean something along the lines of 'maximum complexity of play-space with the simplest rule set' [Which makes Go a very good example of this usage]. Which seems very different to what it means outside of game design (Although, see below)

However, not having glanced at the rules, I will state that a long rule book isn't necessarily an inelegant [Game design usage] game, provided the rules can be distilled into an instructional form from the book. Which based on this thread isn't simply stating the rules, but instead doing so in an artistic way (elegance in the 'sophisticated' sense you seem to be using the term, although outside of the game design specific meaning I've never really gotten a handle on what, specifically, elegance refers to. Outside of game design, it always seems a wishy-washy adjective such as 'nice', when it isn't used to attack people for being 'common'). I would also say that it would be a bad idea to not distil the rules into an instructational and/or reference, form.

...But I'm somewhat of the belief that they should be distilled into a reference form at the back of customary sized rules - Examples are great for learning a game, but can make clarifying if it's 2 or 3 points per glockynne more cumbersome than strictly neccesary due to having to scan a section containing examples of how to score glockynnes during scoring phases. (i.e. I like rules to contain examples, but I don't like having to sift through those examples to find a specific piece of data when I'm looking for a quick reference). This reference version of the rules might want to cross-reference the pages with the details and the examples relevent, of course.

Elegance, Eloquence, Enthralled

Having committed to downloading a 4.5 MB PDF, I decided to see what all the fuss was about.

I smirked through the first few pages, a knee-jerk reaction to Dralius' implication that this rulebook was unnecessarily long.

By the time I reached page XLIV, I was enthralled. I had to tear myself away long enough to post this comment.

As Zzzzz noted, one doesn't see this sort of thing outside of the RPG genre. In fact, the only other places I can recall seeing this level of immersion is the back story of some of the old PC games, like Alpha Centauri.

The story, the ambiance and the beautiful game pieces all add up to an experience that is not unlike reading a few chapter's of an Umberto Eco novel.

I actually found myself wanting to play this game!
I'm going to go back and finish reading the longest rulebook in creation :)



P.S. I found the game! Somebody made a version for Zillions of Games. I fear I may not get any sleep tonight :)

Giving it a try

Im currently playing Qyshinsu at to see if the game play is elegant or at least interesting. Of course i am using the abbreviated rules.

I find it interesting that so many people see the fantasy world around this game so appealing that they enjoy reading the story for itself, which is just the opposite of my reaction.

It may be that jaded having played hundreds of different games in my life and having read the rules to many more that I have never played. Or it may be that the thing I find most interesting about games is the mechanisms that allow the players to interact with the game and each other. This is not to say I don’t like my games to have narrative. I happen to enjoy playing games with themes that have sailing ship in them.

Abstract games are an empty canvas lending themselves to any number of possible back stories. As far fetched as it seems my proposed alternate theme for Qyshinsu is that it was created by an artist at the beginning of the 21st century.

Definitely an “I wish I had thought of that” moment.

When I think of something elegant, the first thing that comes to mind is an “elegant equation.” Elegance is something simple, perfectly simple.

The idea behind Fredrickson's game presentation is a good one. Fredrickson sets the game in its own world. Many authors have games within their works and worlds. He spins the idea a bit. It’s interesting that the author defines the games as “chapters” along the journey.

Creating an interesting and thought provoking back story at once lifts his game from the anonymity in which many abstracts are doomed to languish and constructs a thematic facade to heighten the gaming experience. In addition he creates an atmosphere and context for the game. And further yet, if one is seduced by the illusion and theatrics, the author may gain a devoted following to the game, propelling its success. The imagination is very powerful and very impressionable. (Anyone read about bigfoot in that last few weeks?!?)

From a pure marketing standpoint the abstract game coupled with the alluring back story is a stroke of genius. (Definitely an “I wish I had thought of that” moment.) Imagine now taking the game to the next step and constructing a non-abstract board game based on the back story. Now you’ve created a nice closely linked board game brand.

What Fredrickson is doing might be similar to storytelling that could have taken place when chess was gaining popularity. Imagine a father teaching chess to his son, but they have entered a realm where they are now a “king” and a “prince”. The father, “the king”, styles the game about a great battle between their kingdom and their enemies to the south. Now the young “prince” will pour over the game day and night to master its strategies and as a bonus, learn the logic, the decisiveness, and the forethought needed to “rule a kingdom”. The infusion of a legend lets the game take on its own life.

Whether the game is “elegant”, I do not yet know. But it surely seems to be approaching a sort of celebrity from this thread!

Dralius wrote:As far fetched

Dralius wrote:
As far fetched as it seems my proposed alternate theme for Qyshinsu is that it was created by an artist at the beginning of the 21st century.

This seems similar, to me, to suggesting that book authors here at the beginning of the 21st century should be writing about today, and that a fanciful story about some past time or fantasy world is less ideal, artistically.

Having some fun.

I was not actually suggesting that the theme needs be changed; it was intended as an ironic joke.

Personally I prefer fanciful, humorous and unrealistic themes over historical accuracy.


I suspect his target market may be fans of adventure games. Which, imo, would make the packaging appropriate. But the game is one of strategy.

I think the designer is going for an elitist vibe. It works for that. Is that a good approach? I don't know. I'm just looking at it strictly from a graphic designer and branding point of view.

If it comes with a cd soundtrack and some books. Now that would be intriguing.

Well, if the instructions are

Well, if the instructions are a 91 page tome, I'd imagine it would come with at least one book. Hard or soft cover, I wonder.

EDIT - having just gotten round to reading the rules, I have to say - the game is mechanically elegant,

...I'm also thinking that 'hardcover' is almost a requirement of a printing of them. Very well written and nicely flowing, with a good deal of the 91 pages being taken by examples and a play sample.

Abstract Distraction

I was happy to learn that a version of the game was rendered in Zillions.
It is most helpful to have my personal "Li" guiding my hand.

Right now, I'm just enjoying the mechanics. It'll take me awhile to figure out a strategy.



Mm. Based on my playing it in

Mm. Based on my playing it in Zillions it seems to work well, very nice mechanics.

(And as I thought, the Zillions engine's mobility focus works reasonable for it)

There's a nice interview with

There's a nice interview with Klaus and Guido Teuber. It's not new: from March 2007, but still good content if you didn't catch it. You can find it over at Pulp Gamer Inside Track.

I post this link here because in the interview, Klaus talks about how important a story is to his design process.

By the by, the Inside Track series is pretty good. A bit RPG leaning, but still some really informative interviews.

Qyshinsu: a look within

Wow. I'm fascinated by this thread in that the discussion is a mirror for an internal "thread" that I've been engaged in for the last 15 years. Let me first say that I appreciate those involved in this conversation taking the time and energy to explore my games. I consider my "craft" of creating my games my life's work so it is fulfilling to see some folks giving some thought and attention to it.

So, why a 91 page so-called "rule-book"? Well, it wasn't my attention to have any kind of lengthy or "verbose" text to simply teach someone how to play Qyshinsu. My intentions behind having a narrative form is that there are nuances to engaging the depths of the play that are best conveyed in a conversational tone in my estimation. That is why the narrative is written in first-person.

As a Ludician (translates as "one who is skilled in the art of game"), my interest in not merely instructing someone how to play my games, but to guide and assist someone in their own path towards "Mastery" with & through my games. This entails attention to aspects of the playing experience that require subtlety and suggestiveness. For example, some people get hung up in the concepts of "offense" & "defense" when it comes to Qyshinsu. I can say very clearly for someone to just let go of this for it will get in the way. Or I can approach this in a narrative form in which the narrator, "Hakummar", is contemplating what means to flow or "follow the windsong", etc. By way of metaphor, I can hint at the potential of understanding a deeper level of play without getting in the way of someone else's own journey towards it.

I'm a minimalist at heart, especially when it comes to designing my games. I have a natural aversion towards the "decorative" for "decorative" sake. And yet, my goal with my games is not for any "marketing purposes", but longevity. And I realize that this requires a holistic approach to the experience of my games. I want reading the guidelines to be an experience in and of itself. A way to approach the play in perhaps a more thoughtful way.

As a gamer myself, I too like clear and simple guidelines - straight to the point. And I'm considering offering an adjacent version of the guidelines that is a summary of the rules for a quick grasp - which I now offer on my website:

I have some more ideas regarding this....but that is another conversation :)

I hope this helps in giving folks a sense of where I'm coming from.

thanks again,


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blog | by Dr. Radut