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Rulebook - How many pages is too much?

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questccg
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Hi all,

I had a question about what designers feel is too many pages for a Rulebook.

In my latest game (Tradewars - Homeworld), I am working on a 25 page Game Manual. The size of a page is about the size of a paperback book (the ones for under $10).

See the thing that I was *stuck* on was how to explain the game (since it seemed too large). Well I finally found a FORMAT that had a section entitled "Key Concepts & Terms" and all of a sudden the manual fell into place. Basically in that section I explain all the concepts of the game... This section occurs BEFORE the "Setup" and "Sequence of Play". So players first become familiar with the concepts in the game, then they can learn how to actually play the game.

15 pages (small pages - again) are dedicated to the various concepts of the game and then maybe 3 pages are for actual explanation of how the game is played. So the game is *average* on learning how to play but *heavy* on concepts in the game...

I was wondering if such a Game Manual sounds to be a reasonable size or not???

questccg
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Reminder

I wanted just to remind Designers that the game is a Deck-Building Game (DBG) akin to Dominion but very different in terms of game play. So there is a specific layout that has to be explained (how to place the cards, what are the different piles, where do you discard cards, where do you draw cards, etc.)

The explanation of the layout takes 2 out of 15 pages (so 13 pages of concepts)!

Note: Some of the concepts players of other games will be familiar such as "Resistance" and "Firepower", however the rules in how they are used are different.

It also explains the different types of Starships, how to *configure* them before launching them into space, two rules that must be followed, etc. Add to that the different types of cards (upgrade and others) in addition to explaining the various roles a player may choose on his turn. So it is pretty *jam-packed* with a lot of concepts (as you can see!)

PlayCrossbones
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Too many pages

From what I understand, rulebooks should be created in groups of four pages based upon printer/paper optimization.

So currently, you may need to eliminate one page... or you have room for 3 pages as you see fit.

questccg
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Special Thanks Section...

PlayCrossbones wrote:
From what I understand, rulebooks should be created in groups of four pages based upon printer/paper optimization.

So currently, you may need to eliminate one page... or you have room for 3 pages as you see fit.

Well I probably will ADD 3 pages for campaign contributions in the "Special Thanks" section... I think three (3) pages should be enough for that purpose (for all those names).

Jacksmack
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24 Pages seems like a very

24 Pages seems like a very meaty rules book. You are saying the rule book will be small, about the size of a paperback.

Is it cheaper to go this small rule book route?
Is it a constraint of the size of the box?
Could things be explained with images faster, or could a combo of images and words get the point across with less verbiage and less space?
Have you broken your rules document down and rearranged it in ways you hadn't originally tried? This might help you find redundancies or areas where you are setting up explanations for the same overarching rules multiple times.

I don't know the complexity of the game, but 24+ pages does seem like it would be daunting to read and teach. I admit I prefer lighter games though. BSG has a pretty thick rule book, and that is WITH iconography and pictures explaining some aspects of the game.

I would recommend finding a few comparable games and seeing what the average is and doing your best to come within a page or three of that average.

questccg
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Comparing is a good idea!

Jacksmack wrote:
24 Pages seems like a very meaty rules book. You are saying the rule book will be small, about the size of a paperback.

Yes the size of a paperback book.

Jacksmack wrote:
Is it cheaper to go this small rule book route?
Is it a constraint of the size of the box?

I want it to fit in the box... Plus for my production run, there will be a chipboard game pad with the manual on top of it. Fits snugly into the box so players can use the box to transport the game. The mat keeps the cards in their "slots" so that the decks don't get all mixed up. It's a very practical box (something I cannot do with the prototype).

Jacksmack wrote:
Could things be explained with images faster, or could a combo of images and words get the point across with less verbiage and less space?

I will be using images when showing off cards, use of several cards (Starship Configuration), etc.

Jacksmack wrote:
Have you broken your rules document down and rearranged it in ways you hadn't originally tried? This might help you find redundancies or areas where you are setting up explanations for the same overarching rules multiple times.

I have been checking for redundancies and there is only a couple of rules that are repeated (to drill it into the heads of players). They are short formulas (2 lines). I will be reviewing the content... One thing is that NOT ALL pages are FULL of text. Sometimes pages are only half a page of text because of sections and formatting.

So the real amount of pages is 16 (accounting for white spaces). It's more if you count the index at the end, the table of contents at the beginning, the cover page, the credits section, etc.

BUT 16 pages of REAL information/manual content...

Jacksmack wrote:
I don't know the complexity of the game, but 24+ pages does seem like it would be daunting to read and teach. I admit I prefer lighter games though.

It does seem a lot - because of all of the game concepts. BUT I can EXPLAIN the game in roughly 3 pages. But when you teach something to a player it takes less time than having to explain it on paper (because of visual cues). For example, the Game Mat. I can in two seconds show a player how to use the mat. Explaining it on paper in the manual takes about 2 pages (because there is a Treasury, Life Points and Achievements - more precisely 3 different tracks)...

Jacksmack wrote:
I would recommend finding a few comparable games and seeing what the average is and doing your best to come within a page or three of that average.

"Eminent Domain" has 16 pages of instructions. 'Dominion" has 8 FULL size pages, so we can double that to 16 pages (again similar with Eminent Domain).

Kroz1776
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Sounds good to me! (^O^) /)

I think 24 is ok. Smallworld has a lot of pages and smallworld Underground I believe has even more. In those games, a lot of that is taken up by examples, concept and such. I'm assuming this is the bulk of your rules book. If so, I'd say you're in the right range for pages.

questccg
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I think it will be good...

Kroz1776 wrote:
I think 24 is ok... In those games, a lot of that is taken up by examples, concept and such. I'm assuming this is the bulk of your rules book. If so, I'd say you're in the right range for pages.

Ya a bunch of concepts first (in the Key Concepts & Terms section). Things like *Space Lane*, *Starship Configuration*, *QuickSilver*, *Homeworld*, *Resistance*, *Firepower*, *Upgrade Cards*, *Other Cards*, *Roles*, etc. Something like 11 pages.

The sections on "playing the game" are something like 3 pages only. I also have combat (Space Battles) examples which are 1 page...

There will be some additional pages for Supporters of the game (in the Special Thanks section). I think that might take 3 pages - I don't want people to need to use a magnifying glass to read their names...

lewpuls
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Words, not pages

Speak in terms of number of words, not pages. So much depends on font size and page size. (Any word processor will count words for you.) Yes, illustrations will add to the length, but someone has to read the words, and nowadays not many people are willing to read a lot of words. You know, "tl;dr".

A thousand words is very short, 4-5000 more typical. IIRC, FFG Britannia rules and accompanying materials are 17K, which is quite long (something like 20 pages printed). It's actually quite easy to play, but there are a lot of exceptions in a thousand years of history. . .

Also it depends on the target market. For mass-market, "two pages" of rules is a maximum, according to Richard Borg. You might remember all the old games where the rules were printed on the inside of the box cover. That's not many words!

Kroz1776
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Box lid rules rule!

lewpuls wrote:
Also it depends on the target market. For mass-market, "two pages" of rules is a maximum, according to Richard Borg. You might remember all the old games where the rules were printed on the inside of the box cover. That's not many words!

Personally I wish this practice was still around. It was so much simpler to pick up the lid and read. :P

questccg
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Under 5,000

lewpuls wrote:
...A thousand words is very short, 4-5000 more typical...

My rulebook is 4,349 words (with a partial Index). So I would say the rulebook is about 4,300 words. I guess from your post, this would be a *typical* amount!

Kroz1776
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Over 9,000!

Just so long as it's not over 9000! ;)

BENagy
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I would give it to someone

I would give it to someone else (someone who you would consider a potential buyer of your game), and without explaining anything, give them the book and ask them to read it and tell you what they think, if they could understand it, etc.

If not: It could be that you should have someone who is skilled at rulebook writing write the book. Just like how you discovered this technique of "Key Terms", others perhaps know of other techniques as well that they can use. Or perhaps they have a different background, more experience, etc, in writing rules. A new perspective on how to lay out your ideas, ad what is actually important could help. I've noticed that a lot of game designers have too much of an "engineer mind", meaning they describe things the way they designed them, and plan rules for every possible contingency, rather than able to create wide-reaching rules that explain the game properly. I used to have that problem... just things to think about!

questccg
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I have another designer looking at it

Well what I am *doing* is having another designer READ/COMMENT on the rulebook. He was helping me with the format (which I was having great difficulty with - until I found a manual with a "Key Concepts & Terms" section). He started off the manual with about 3 pages using the rules I wrote up in an e-mail that was 4 pages long.

I am still awaiting news - he has read the document (and even found an error!) I have since made modifications and corrections to the rulebook.

My GOAL is to have the game *Blind* tested. How that is going to work is I will see who is interested in a *blind* test and then *snail mail* them a PROTOTYPE copy of the game for 2 players (Dual - 1 vs. 1). They can play the game (obviously read the rulebook first) and then *snail mail* me back the prototype with their comments (by e-mail or with the prototype)...

Update: I have gotten some questions/comments, mostly positive, a couple of uncertainties. But the rulebook seems to be coming along (99% done).

BENagy
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Sounds good. Another thing to

Sounds good. Another thing to think about is having as much of the rules as possible on the cards themselves. Again, I'm shooting blindly into the dark here, because I don't know the current status of the game. But an example to this would be Magic, obviously, where their "Learn to Play" fits on a single insert sheet, despite it being the most complex game in history. Or at least up there. They can do that because the rules are mostly on the cards. For example, observe these cards:

Bird Monster
1/1
Flying (This creature can only be blocked by creatures with flying or reach.)

Zombie Monster
1/1
When Zombie Monster dies, return target monster from your discard pile to your hand.

Basic examples. The "power and toughness" are on the card, as are the costs for playing the card, and any special abilities. Even if you don't know what the "Flying" ability does, it explains it in parentheses. So yes, they have a rules document for tournaments and such that has 1000s of pages with the rules for every card, but all the player needs to read to get 99% of the picture (which is more than enough to play) is the 1-page insert, and the rules that are on the cards. I'm not suggesting you try to boil down the rules that much. And you may have longer/more complex rules. But my suggestion would be to put as much of the rules that apply to 20% or less of the cards in your game, on the cards themselves, focusing instead on giving the "broad strokes" as it were.

Hope that helps!

questccg
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Simple cards...

BENagy wrote:
...Another thing to think about is having as much of the rules as possible on the cards themselves...

Well see that's the thing, my cards HAVE stats on them - BUT it's not indicated what they are. There are a few stats to get familiar with first:

So "Capacity" (or Energy Rating) is a value in a HEX button.
"Resistance" (or Crew Rating) is a value in a SQUARE button.
"Firepower" (or Weapon Rating) is a value in a ROUND button.

And then there is a RULE: Capacity <= Resistance + Firepower.

Once you know this, it is of course easy to know which cards can be used and how (because combinations are LIMITED by the formula).

The thing is, although my game is a *Space* game, I inspired myself from Magic: the Gathering concepts of "Creatures" (not the whole game). BUT the thing is my "Creatures" are "Starships" which ARE CONFIGURABLE. Whoa, what a concept! So instead of having a "Starship" which is 3/2, you need to configure the ship with a *Crew* card (that could be 2) and a *Weapon* (that could be 3) card to DYNAMICALLY determine the values for "Resistance/Firepower" = 2/3 (opposite of MtG)...

This is just ONE aspect of the game, there are others... Another is that the game is a Deck-Building Game (DBG) like "Dominion". Now when you think "DBG + MtG??? Is that possible?" It will be... My game will be proof! :)

Like I said there is much more under the hood than just that... For example unlike "Eminent Domain" where ROLE means you select which card to pick, my game uses REAL roles which alter what a player can do on his turn... I am *tinkering* with using a NEW role called the "Diplomat" (more specifically a better use for the Chancellor role)... To be continued... ;)

When I originally had the idea of the game - another designer said to me: "There's TOO MUCH in this game." He was kinda right - since I had EVEN MORE than what I have now. But I trimmed most of the excess and now have a game that is about "Space Skirmishes" (or Space Battles). It plays very differently than the other DBGs out there (in the market)...

And the *Space Battles* themselves are UNIQUE. There is strategy - but also more luck which I think makes the game more interesting. But that's me - I like there to be an *extra* factor rather than just drawing the right cards. Even traditional deck-building, so a player can build a stronger deck... The question is, how will a player react when all players start with the SAME deck... Based on the cards they can buy, what strategy will they formulate to beat their opponents. Will it all be a question of SPEED or is it *wearing down* opponents or are you a master diplomat/trader???

Note: The game has been in design since May 2013 (almost 6 months). It is in it's 3rd *major* re-design (but still keeping the core concepts: DBG/Starship Configuration/Roles). It is the 8th Edition of the game (because of card changes).

questccg
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Average size

Kroz1776 wrote:
Just so long as it's not over 9000! ;)

Well I just about *brushed up* the rulebook and the total amount of words used is 4,600. It is 30 pages with the Cover, Table of Content and Index. This also accounts for the extra 2 pages left for supporters' names.

I will review it tomorrow... I've had enough rule proofing today. The good news is that I think the rulebook is within the norm (in the range of 4,000-5,000 words).

Alluvian
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I don't think that sounds

I don't think that sounds that bad at all. The two games I am working on right now have 1500 words for the simpler game, and about 3000 for the other game that was simple in my head until I started writing down the rules and realized how many edge and corner cases I had to deal with.

I still consider that 3000 word doc pretty small. 50% more than that I would not think of as bloated by any means.

The number of words in my experience is not what makes a rulebook hard to read, it is often the writing style and how good the author is at simplifying the concepts. Also, the closer the rules match the theme, the easier I find the rulebook. Really tightly themed games I often find myself flying over a manual thinking "Duh, of course that is what you do when that happens". I love those games. On the flip side, a game that relies too much on symbols can make simple concepts much harder than they should be. *glares at his copy of Sake and Samurai*

JollyJoel
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Recommendation

May I recommend you use a specific program for your layout of your Rulebook. I'm using Adobe InDesign because my rule book requires pictures to explain some things and it gives a very professional look to pages.

Here's a presentation of the program.
http://tv.adobe.com/watch/learn-indesign-cs5/getting-started-what-is-ind...

questccg
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I used MS Word

JollyJoel wrote:
May I recommend you use a specific program for your layout of your Rulebook. I'm using Adobe InDesign because my rule book requires pictures to explain some things and it gives a very professional look to pages.

I used Microsoft Word. I have a custom page size of 5" x 8". I will visit a local printer to have him print out a digital prototype copy of the document (saddle stitched and full 4/4 colour). I too will be using images but I'll use Photoshop to make the card figures/samples/examples and then embed them into my MS Word document.

I am using an older version of Adobe, version CS which has Illustrator and Photoshop. I don't have InDesign...

JollyJoel
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:-)

Giggity...

anonymousmagic
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questccg wrote:It does seem a

questccg wrote:
It does seem a lot - because of all of the game concepts. BUT I can EXPLAIN the game in roughly 3 pages. But when you teach something to a player it takes less time than having to explain it on paper (because of visual cues). For example, the Game Mat. I can in two seconds show a player how to use the mat. Explaining it on paper in the manual takes about 2 pages (because there is a Treasury, Life Points and Achievements - more precisely 3 different tracks)...
This seemed like an important section of text.

1) Writers tend to be too wordy and explain everything in excessive detail when in fact their readers are perfectly capable of drawing their own conclusions from just a bit of input. Do you really need to explain ALL the concepts if you can explain the game in roughly 3 pages? Your goal is to make the game playable, not to explain every intricate detail of the design process.

2) Your discussion of the game mat is what made me suspect point 1 above. If you can explain something in the proverbial 2 seconds while speaking, there's no reason it should take 2 pages of text on paper. Suppose you need 5 sentences to describe each track. That would be 5x3=15 sentences total. If a sentence crosses multiple lines it would be more. Let's take a ballpark of 24 lines (1 piece of A4 paper, perhaps one page on your small paperback in smaller font). I think it's doable in 1 page or less.

Game designers and game players think alike. Have you put the rule book in front of a writer? They'll see almost instantly where it could improve if wordiness is in fact a problem contributing to the large page count.

questccg
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Visual cues vs. words

anonymousmagic wrote:
2) Your discussion of the game mat is what made me suspect point 1 above. If you can explain something in the proverbial 2 seconds while speaking, there's no reason it should take 2 pages of text on paper. Suppose you need 5 sentences to describe each track. That would be 5x3=15 sentences total. If a sentence crosses multiple lines it would be more. Let's take a ballpark of 24 lines (1 piece of A4 paper, perhaps one page on your small paperback in smaller font). I think it's doable in 1 page or less.

Well with *visual cues* it's easy to show the game mat and put the wooden tokens on the mat and then just show how to use the different tracks to keep various stats.

But writing this IS NOT OBVIOUS. Picture in the manual would be overkill (since you just can't paste a bunch of pictures and hope people *correctly* understand the pictures).

anonymousmagic wrote:
Game designers and game players think alike. Have you put the rule book in front of a writer? They'll see almost instantly where it could improve if wordiness is in fact a problem contributing to the large page count.

My large page count has to do with the SIZE of the pages: 5in x 8in. It's the same size as the game's mat. Smaller pages = more pages. Plus it makes for a nice booklet. I have had another designer look at it... He said the rulebook was well written. He understood the game.

I will hopefully do some blind playtesting in the New Year (January/February). We'll see then if the rulebook needs more clarifications.

lewpuls
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Bad advice

"1) Writers tend to be too wordy and explain everything in excessive detail when in fact their readers are perfectly capable of drawing their own conclusions from just a bit of input."

That's some bad advice, if you're designing a wargame, and precision is important. If you're designing a game where people won't be very competitive (no "rules lawyers"), where it's OK if they don't play it quite right, then this is not such bad advice.

Game designers and game players think alike? Heavens NO! Sure some game players will, but most won't. And what will be obvious to a game designer, will often not be obvious to game players. The two use quite different modes of thought.

anonymousmagic
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lewpuls, what I'm trying to

lewpuls, what I'm trying to say is that you don't necessarily have to use more words to be precise. You just have to use the right words.

As for game designers and players thinking alike: I was trying to get across that game players know the lingo. You need to write for complete newbies too when you write your rulebook.

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