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Rules vs. Card Instructions Dilemna

6 replies [Last post]
Joined: 07/31/2008

I need a little advice here. I have been playtesting my game "Gotta Get Home!" for little over a year now and am on the fifth version of this. Mostly friends have been playing this with me, with a few strangers here and there. This was played the other night with me being a spectator, watching to see what mistakes were made. Unfortunately I had to keep stepping in to remind people of what the rules were. Three of the six players simply were either forgetting or just not paying attention. At the end of the game, everyone said they liked it, but all seemed to agree I needed to make the instructions on my cards more precise, even though I felt each card was specific as to what they had to do.

I feel if they paid attention to the written rules, they would not have had a problem following the cards. I am now trying to make my cards more specific but am having great difficulty doing so without making them too wordy. I also don’t want to sound repetitive in the rules/cards. Do others feel it is overkill adding specific instructions on cards as well as having the same thing in a list of rules?

The cards in question are called Road Assistance, which can either help or hinder players trying to get around the game board. They must draw one at the start of their turn. The stated rules seemed to confuse them. They didn’t seem to know what to do with some of the cards. I am basically asking for help in how to briefly word this on the cards that do not say “must use immediately”. I have attached a sample of the rules in question with some sample cards so you may understand the situation better. Hope this is enough info to go by. Thanks in advance for any assistance you can give me. David

Joined: 08/06/2008
Well, the rules seem a little

Well, the rules seem a little rough. I realize they may only be partial rules though.

You start with "draw and follow instructions" which sure sounds to me like you're supposed to flip the top one and read it aloud.

Then you say "unless otherwise specified, you may hold one card in your hand". Well now I'm darn confused. Am I supposed to follow the directions or not?!?

I think it would be better to describe the deck composition a bit first:

"Begin your turn by drawing a Road Assistance card. Some Road Assistance cards must be played immediately and some can be saved to be played on another turn. The ones that must be played immediately clearly state this in their text. The rest can be saved for a later time, but you cannot save more than one per turn."

Of course, what happens if you already have one in your hand? Do you go ahead and draw then discard one?

Oh goodness, now I read a little further and see more confusion. The section:

"In addition to specific cards listed below, you will find cards that will help get passengers home on their own, or slow you and your opponents down. Each card has specific instructions. "

Doesn't actually tell me anything. What information were you trying to give?

"Each card has specific instructions that must be followed on every turn while in your possession. Each driver holds only one at a time. In succession, if any driver receives a second, their first card must be passed to the next driver."

Huh? So now the card sticks around like a permanent and affects my turn until I draw a new one? And I think I know what you mean by succession, but that's darn wordy. Why not just discard one if they already have one?

Oh oh, "Directions" are actually "Road Assistance" cards. That wasn't clear at all.

And now the Traffic Violations. I give them to other people? When? Whenever I want to? Can I just hold it until I see someone pull into the lead? Do they literally have to "Drive Badly" or is that just cute flavor text?

So they can have Traffic Violation cards and Direction cards face up in front of a player and more cards in their hand? Yea, I can see this getting really confusing as to what you're supposed to do with the cards. You'd need to define their play area and what cards can reside there. You'd need to define if they have a hand area and when cards can linger there. If they already have a card in their hand area, then what happens when they draw a new one?

For the actual cards:

A tree has fallen: Sooo... do they reroll once they've rolled 7?

Tunnel Short Cut - Remove upon use from where? Does it stay in my hand? If so, wouldn't I be discarding it?

Cause a Traffic Jam - I can play this whenever? After someone has tried to move where I want to block them?

Exempt from Violations - Is this a directions card? Am I literally holding it in my hand? Why does it say holding?

"Go to the hospital in order to roll & move" - Does this mean move your car to the hospital and then roll & move? Or does this mean I can't roll to move until I magically get to the hospital?

I think the players are often getting confused from the lack of clear language. You need to define some clear play areas and order of resolution for your cards. If you don't understand the Stack from Magic the Gathering, that would be a good place to start learning about action card conflicts. They are messy and you need to have as many situations under control as possible.

My suggestion?

Get rid of a player hand. Instead work it such as:

Reveal the top card from the deck.
If it says "immediate use", resolve it and discard it.
If it says "Directions", add it to your play area and discard any existing directions card
If it is a "traffic violation", add it to any other player's play area
If it is any other "action card" you may store one in your play area and then activate it at a later time. once activated, discard it. If you draw a second "action card" before using the first one, choose one to keep and one to discard

That at least gives the players some structure to their turn and play area.

Anyway, hope that helped out some.

Joined: 07/31/2008
Thanks for tips

You've given me quite a bit to think about and made me realize a few things about the wording of my rules. I was trying to keep my rules as simple and basic as possible and I guess I made them a little too basic. I have already begun rewriting the rules.

To answer some of your questions, the lines in the "violations" are meant to be cute/funny and, yes, they may be kept until someone is ready to give to an opponent.

It is implied cards that read "go to" mean that a person can move their car to the hospital before their "roll & move" action. I've never had anyone question this but do see where someone might not understand what they are to do.

Thanks for the tips in resolving some of my problems. Unfortunately writing is not one of my strong suits, but it does get easier each time I work on the rules. I still need to decide how much information to write on the cards themselves as opposed to within the rules, but I will definitely be adding much more info. David

pierrelombardi's picture
Joined: 04/28/2009
hehe i had similar

hehe i had similar problems.....

like some cards said you could do some effects, but i noticed my friends would play them at any time,

so i rewrote the cards, at the beginning i would write "used at the beginning of your turn" or "When you roll" to tell them when to use it. it made more sense the second time we played.

Joined: 02/06/2009
First of all, I feel your

First of all, I feel your pain. In the process of working on my cardgame, I've come up with some torcherous sentances. But you just have to keep working on them. I can give you some advice from my experiance.

First of all, clearly seperate your crunch from your fluff. Typically, I'd put something like, "A bite is a devistating close attack" in italics. Then in bold below it, I'd put the actuall rule. "On a roll of 2 or higher, take three Lackeys from your rival." At a glance, your player should know what the critical info is.

Second, I recommend putting the sentance into as many gramatical forms as possible. Than it's easy to choose the clearest. For example:
Roll a die; if it's two or more, take three Lackeys from your rival.
Your rival gives you three Lackeys, if you roll a two or more.
When the attacker rolls a die of two or higher, the defender gives him three Lackeys.
You can earn three lackeys from your rival, if you roll a two or higher.
Your target on a d6 is 2+; Result- take three lackeys from your rival

If you can, get a friend to help you in this process.

Also, record yourself during the next play test. Often the explination you give the player at the table will be exactly what you need on the card.

SiddGames's picture
Joined: 08/02/2008
Good Suggestions

Definitely make it clear what is game text and what is fluff text on the cards. CCGs have done this forever using a convention like that mentioned (italics for fluff). Also, if some cards are one-shot and some are more permanent, I'd make it more prominent. For example, the Tunnel Short Cut currently reads:

Tunnel Short Cut Use a tunnel to cross over a vacant destination. No need to count spaces as you go through. Not required to place at entrances. Remove upon use.

I would perhaps rewrite more like this, to make the disposition of the card more clear:

Tunnel Short Cut DISCARD this card from your hand to skip over a vacant destination space; you do not need to count the spaces you travel through and may place at entrances normally. I know a short-cut... there, turn left at the tunnel!

Michael C
Joined: 02/20/2009
I too feel your pain

I have a similar dilemma with several of my games - especially Bread & Circuses, a card-based game whose teething pains you can read about elsewhere on this site.

What works best for me is to make the rules about HOW you use the cards - when you draw them, when you can play them, what they are supposed to achieve in terms of the game.

The cards are about WHAT you can do in the game, with a brief description of their affect on the card.

I also took a leaf out of 'Settlers of Catan's' book and included an almanac of Card Clarifications on a quick ref sheet. This means that if a player doesn't understand the card, he can look it up in the almanac, where the more complicated mechanisms/affects are explained in more detail.

Best of luck,

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