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Rulebook reference

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lucasAB's picture
Joined: 07/26/2008

I'm writing the final rulebook for a game our company is producing this year, and was wondering if any of you know of some great rulebooks that have been written recently. Or should I put it this way, what are some games that have spectacular rulebooks that have been written well, are designed well, and layed-out in a way that is easy for any person to read. I can't think of any, so I hope some of you can.

So, could I get some help from you guys regarding which are some good rulebooks to study for the purpose of writing my own? Thanks!


Joined: 08/04/2008
Rules and style

Depending how complex the rules different approaches seem to always shine more over others. Avoid any fantasy flight rule book as a template for it. Since they usually never work too well and are just a mess of rules that are hard to review back to find specific rules when you need them.
Dead of Night took a neat approach making the rulebook like a zombie survival guide.
Talasman 4th edition used a numbering system to reference rules which sounds like a good idea but was very hard to follow and even harder to find specific rules though most we looked for didn't exist in the rule book.
The best way I've found to write rules is
1 - Overview
2 - Set up
3 - Game play steps (short descriptions of each)
4 - Game play steps broken out into longer descriptions of each with all special cases etc.
5 - Various rules that take up too much room in Game play steps (good place for combat and things like that)
6 - Whatever else you need here
7 - some form of conclusion or variations.

lucasAB's picture
Joined: 07/26/2008
My current outline

Here is my current outline as of 08/14/08:

1 - Overview (the 16th century, premise, goal)
2 - Components/the cards (what the character cards are, what combat cards do)
3 - Set up (pick characters, shuffle decks, place decks to the side, determine starting player)
4 - Game play steps (the actions, example of combat, end/beginning of turn)
5 - Special cards (how to use combo cards, specialties, and specials)
6 - End game/conclusion (how to determine the end game, tips and advice)
7 - How to use the website (links to our interactive site with tips on usage)

By the way, this is for a 16th century swashbuckling/swordfighting card game.
What do you all think? Is this to complicated?


nomadsgames's picture
Joined: 07/27/2008
Rules Outline


Heres my 2 cents.

The rule outline I used for my game Pastiche.

1. Overview
2. Game Setup
3. Game Rules
4. Starting the Game
5. Turn sequence
6. End of Game
7. Game Options

I believe having the Game Setup up before reading the game rules section 3, 4, 5, and 6, will futher the players understanding of the game rules.


lucasAB's picture
Joined: 07/26/2008

What would you consider the game overview? The premise? The goal? The basics? What do most designers include in the "overview" section?

Thank you for your replies!

JumpingJupiter's picture
Joined: 08/24/2008

Pictures of examples are helpful I find.

clearclaw's picture
Joined: 07/21/2008
Rules template

I use the following basic schema:

  1. Introduction (includes description of play decisions)
  2. Glossary (optional)
  3. Contents/Manifest
  4. Game setup
  5. Rules
    1. Game Start
    2. Turn Structure
    3. Turn phases
    4. Supporting data
    5. Game end
      1. Scoring
  6. Background (optional)
  7. Acknowledgments

When writing rules I stick to the abstract case and especially avoid the second person. I also refuse to write examples until the game is complete and the rules are heading for the final-print version. Using examples before then provides too slippery a slope for rules data to creep into example content. If a rules question comes up during playtesting I fix the original rules -- they need to be clear and complete so that there are no questions! Once they're good enough then I'll think about adding examples.

Example rules using this model:

clearclaw's picture
Joined: 07/21/2008
lucasAB wrote:What would you

lucasAB wrote:
What would you consider the game overview? The premise? The goal? The basics? What do most designers include in the "overview" section?

In the overview (which I call the Introduction) I put a very brief descriptive background of the game (a few sentences, perhaps a paragraph) and then move straight into a discussion of the shape and character of play, the decisions players will make and the mechanical challenges they'll face. The goal of the introduction is to prepare the player for play, to get them into the right context and expectations to be able to quickly comprehend the rules and play a successful game.

Joined: 08/10/2011
FFG Rulebook

I disagree on the comment about FFG rulebooks. It really depends on which game's rulebook you are using as a template. For example, the rulebook for Citadels is a great template:

Rob Stone
Southern Ground

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