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What makes a good Rulebook?

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chriswhite
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Joined: 07/10/2011

Searching the internet for help on my own rulebook, I'm appalled at how little discussion I can find (both here, and BGG) on the matter. I'd like to try to start a good discussion now. Below are my questions. Even if you can only readily give input on a few, I would greatly appreciate any help, and it would probably help other users with similar problems in the future.

Personal prefacing info --
I'm currently working on my first major design. The project is nearing completion, and I'm going to start a final round of blind play-testing soon. As mentioned above, the current dilemma is the rulebook. I've sunk about 500 hours into it (which included me struggling to learn Illustrator– a worthwhile skill in its own right). It started out as very minimalistic 8 sides, 20x26cm, and has now blossomed into a 12-side, 28x28 monstrosity. (For reference, that is the size a FFG big box rulebook, like Descent or TI3. It is exactly the same size as the 7-Wonders book). I've looked at a lot of rulebooks, and seen some good ideas, some of which I've borrowed. But I keep becoming unsure about things, like which font to use, which font-size, if rigid columns are the way to go (probably), how many examples, how much fluff to integrate into the rules text, if extra blank space is wasteful or lightening, integrating art, etc. As I look over rulebooks from other games, I'm surprised how god-awful some of them are, even for very popular games from very established companies.

The questions:

1) What are your personal favorite rulebooks? Any specific reasons why?

2) Many rulebooks suffer because they are written for experienced gamers, not for light-players learning the game. These are usually sterile, jargony, fluffless, and have walls of text. Other rulebooks suffer because they are written primarily for inexperienced gamers, which end up leaving many grey-areas in the rules because of a lack of clarity or thoroughness. There are good arguments for each side.
a) What is a good balance here?
b) What about the case of a mechanic that is simple at its core, but may require large amounts to text to thoroughly clarify interactions or timing (e.g many Magic: The Gathering mechanics, such as banding or trample are like this). Should the 'basic' rules text be located in the same place as (immediately proceeding) the thorough explanations that veteran players may need? Or should clarifications on mechanics go elsewhere?

3) Should you include examples in the case of rules that are so simple that they don't really need them? (As a general rule, example are good, but more examples can put more text on the page, which can be visually daunting. Also, space is money.) How intelligent should you assume your readers will be?

4) What do you think about a 'side-strip' occupying a side 1/4 of a page, that parallels the rules with skeleton rules, examples, pictures or definitions? (Many Rio-Grande game rules have this).
a) What is the best function of this?
b) Where should it go? Most visually obvious is the outer edge of the page, but that will mean that it will be the left-most material on left-side pages. Inside edge of the page has the same problem in reverse. Rio Grand puts it always on the right, which makes the page-spread asymmetrical.

5) Sometimes the mechanics that need to be explained first are integrated with other mechanics.
a) If while explaining one mechanic, another one needs referencing, is it acceptable to simply use the latter word/name and let the reader simply wonder what it is for a few pages? Or should an explanation be given immediately?
b) Sometimes, for the purposes of helping new players see the whole scope of the game, rulebooks make incomplete, greatly-simplified, or even misleading statements early on and clarify them later. Is this acceptable? (For example, would it be acceptable Lords of Waterdeep rules to state that "In order to gain Victory Points, players must complete Quests"––to help new players understand their initial objectives––even though there are several other normal methods by which players can gain small amounts of Victory Points ?)

6) Fonts:
a) How small a font is too small? Race For The Galaxy uses something like 6pt or 8pt Times– it's small, but perfectly legible. Bigger fonts mean more space, which means more cost.
b) In terms of looking more inviting to new players, does the extra ease of reading larger font make up for the fact that all rules-text now looks longer?
c) Serif/hooked fonts (Times New Roman, Garamond, common in literature) vs sans-serif fonts (Arial, Helvetica, common in instructions and technical writing). Both are used a lot. FFG uses almost entirely serif fonts. Small companies usually use sans-serif.
d) Should theme/fluff dictate fonts? (or any other rulebook considerations?)

7) How important do you feel the following aesthetic elements are?
a) Rule sections are not interrupted by a page-break, such that a section is split across 2 pages.
b) Rulebook pages contain background art/texture (as opposed to a blank space behind the text.)
c) Pages have a thematic, decorative border.

8) Many rulebooks devote the entire cover page to art. Some put art only in an upper section and then have preliminary rules (set-up, fluff, components) below. Some jump straight into the rules. What is the best way to use this page?

9) The following things are very space-consuming, but can be very illuminating to new players.
How much importance to you think the following things have?
a) A narrative example of a game turn.
b) A narrative example of a whole round, including intercut illustrations of how the board looks after each turn.
c) A picture of a game in progress (complete with piles of chits, player hands, etc)
d) Glossary
e) Index
f) Strategy tips for new players
g) 'quick-start' rules that encourage people to play before they full understand the game.

10) Lastly–– Is having a good rulebook really that important? There are many, many successful games with poorly-written, visually-confusing, ugly rulebooks. Of the ~100 games I've played, I think I have only learned ~5 by reading the rulebook by myself–– the rest were taught to me by someone else. How does a good rulebook compare with other factors, like price or component quality?

11) Specifically for my rulebook-- I've put a sample page here-- which is the first page after the Game Overview and Set-Up rules. (The game has a pre-WW1 espionage theme)
https://docs.google.com/open?id=0B1NzQcBbnHN0U1IxbXRDLWN1VnM
(You will probably need to download it; the preview quality is wonky and distorted)
Here are some things that I'm doing in my rulebook that are a little different than some–– I'd love some feedback.
a) Each section heading is accompanied by a blurb of what that mechanic means in terms of theme/fluff.
b) I've tried to break the rules text down into bite-sized chunks, so that it will be easier for light gamers- usually 1-sentence paragraphs.
c) Each time a game-term (jargon word) is used in the rule text or example text, it is given a different font. The idea is to make it so that the reader can associate interconnected elements more readily, and never be confused about the meaning of terms. Unfortunately, it is sometimes visually jarring.
d) I've included a side-strip which is for brief definitions, component illustrations, and . This is intended mostly for people who have played the game once or twice, and need a quick definition or more clarification.

Any input would be enormously helpful. If I don't get much response here, I may post this on BGG.
(Also, if anyone would be interested in playtesting a medium-weight 90 minute spy-themed psychological strategy game in the next couple months, feel free to contact me!)

cheers

Robinson
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Joined: 08/27/2012
good rulebook

An interesting post with lots of different ideas to dig into, I'm just going to hit a few that struck me as I read.

1) How important is a good rulebook? Well, as you point out there are popular games that have lousy rulebooks and most people learn from another player. However, I would say that having a clear set of rules can only help you. While you may be able to start a chain of teaching at a gaming convention, if the rules are hard to follow or confusing you'll be turning off your customers. The games that are popular with bad rules are only half the story, we don't know how many cool games never really got off the ground because the rules were poorly written. If you are presenting this to a publisher, good rules will certainly make a better impression and the easier the game is to pick up and play the happier your players will be.
1a) Aesthetics - visual and textual. Summary - these are things that add to the overall value and appeal of your game, neither is likely to make or break it alone, but they can both help create a positive image/experience.
Personally, I really don't care about artwork (I had blank white walls before I got married), but many people do. I have a friend who bought new Dominion cards with fancy new pictures for the copper and gold and people like to buy things simply because they look beautiful to them (personally, I'd rather buy a new game, but that's just me). However, I think your rulebook art is less important than the artwork for your game. In terms of flavor text, I think it follows the same pattern. I find the Galaxy Trucker rulebook hilarious and have recommended that people who were taught the rules read it just for the humor value, but I wouldn't suggest buying it for just that reason.

2) I tend to think quick start information is handy because most* people do not want to read for an hour before playing a new game. A quick start set of rules and explanations backed by a good detailed explanation later on is a nice, but not necessary feature that helps get people drawn in and invested in your game. Rivals of Catan, a 2player card game has a base deck and suggests a short game using that to play your first game so you don't get overwhelmed with all of the possibly combinations right off the bat.

3) If you refer to an interacting mechanic that you haven't explained yet, instead of getting sidetracked, just insert a reference to the page or section so that the reader knows they interact and can skip forward if they really want to. Presumably you are introducing the first mechanic before it because it makes more sense that way and most people will just follow along with your logic, but the reference will help satisfy the more curious gamer and help when people are reading through the second time to catch how things interact.

4) You could also do a basic rulebook and then have a player almanac as two separate items (or sections) to separate the basic questions vs the in depth explanations. Based on your description of the length, I'd want an almanac, but that's a lot of work, so it depends on how much you want to help out your players . . . more is usually better, but the return on time invested might not be worth it unless there is some automated way of generating it.

Good luck with the final stages of your game!

Holly Verssen
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Rulebooks

I think rulebooks are one of the most important components to your game. If you have spent the time to create an amazing game, but the rulebook is too boring to get through, or the rules are not explained as well as possible, then your amazing game will not be played.

Rulebooks are also one of the least expensive parts to make. Rulebooks are generally printed as 11x17 inch folded pages to create 4 page sets. Each time you want to increase your rulebook by another 4 pages, it adds less than .25 cents to your game's cost depending on print size - I'm guessing a standard print size for small companies being between 1 and 2 thousand printed games.

The more you can give your players, the better. The gamer will scan or skip fluff if they aren't interested, but some people love to read the historical backgrounds of battles, or back stories for heroes. It costs very little to include. The same goes for art. People prefer to look at pretty things. Think back to high school. The pages everyone liked in their textbooks were the ones with the most pictures.

Font size is also important. I usually use Times at about 10.5. Studies have shown that people can read faster and more easily with serifed fonts. It's just easier on the eyes.

You can also use fonts to create a mood. Army Stencil looks great in a modern day military-type game. If I were making a caveman themed game I would probably go with a Lithos. Odd fonts are great for titles and headers, but text is best left to the easy to read fonts.

Order of information is one of the hardest parts in creating a rulebook. I've seen it done successfully in several different ways:
Components first, then how to use them, then an example of play.
Order of need - explain the game as a sequence of play, and introduce components as you need them.
How to play, then a component description in the back like an glossary.

I have learned that people like to see Victory Conditions at the beginning, so they can see the point of the game as they are learning how to play it.

Whenever I work on a rulebook, I am always thinking: "What will a game reviewer say about this."
Because, if it is great, or terrible, the reviewer WILL say something about it.

Redonesgofaster
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Joined: 11/14/2012
Rules!

I love this post, it has way more than I can respond to at the moment.

I will say what is probably the obvious, but a glossary and table of contents for a lengthy rulebook is a must in my mind. Games that can implement keywords should almost certainly do it on any difficulty scale, it makes reference much easier and players can typically memorize the rules better in digestible clumps as with keywords.

Taking into account different learning styles is pretty key also, pictures and words that "say" the same thing will be helpful, even appealing to the kinesthetic in us all by integrating set-up (the touching and maneuvering of the board/pieces) in with the rules whenever possible.

If something doesn't appeal to a player they skim to the thing that does.

As for playtesting, my very small company is excited about playtesting and reviewing indie games. I will message you.

Traz
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tender bottom

I posted my adventures writing a rulebook - that cost me a sale of one of my best games because I didn't send in a proper rulebook. You want some discussion? Pop over to BGG here:

http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/432798/writing-a-rulebook-kicked-my-ass

This discussion actually started here, though I can't find it.

Hope that helps.

truekid games
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chriswhite wrote:1) What are

chriswhite wrote:
1) What are your personal favorite rulebooks? Any specific reasons why?

Galaxy's Edge springs to mind. I felt like I had a firm grasp of everything that was going on after one read, and it was not a chore to read it.
Quote:
2) Many rulebooks suffer because they are written for experienced gamers, not for light-players learning the game. These are usually sterile, jargony, fluffless, and have walls of text. Other rulebooks suffer because they are written primarily for inexperienced gamers, which end up leaving many grey-areas in the rules because of a lack of clarity or thoroughness. There are good arguments for each side.
a) What is a good balance here?
b) What about the case of a mechanic that is simple at its core, but may require large amounts to text to thoroughly clarify interactions or timing (e.g many Magic: The Gathering mechanics, such as banding or trample are like this). Should the 'basic' rules text be located in the same place as (immediately proceeding) the thorough explanations that veteran players may need? Or should clarifications on mechanics go elsewhere?

The balance should lean towards whatever your target audience is. If it's a family game, it needs to be expressed simply, with little or no jargon. If it's a gamer's game, the jargon will help them grok it faster.

Start with the simple explanation ("Trample damage deals damage to the blocking creatures first, then any extra damage is dealt to the defending player"), Then give the thorough explanation. If you're going to have "quick start" rules, these would be in separate places. If you're not, these would usually be together, one after the other.

Quote:
3) Should you include examples in the case of rules that are so simple that they don't really need them? (As a general rule, example are good, but more examples can put more text on the page, which can be visually daunting. Also, space is money.) How intelligent should you assume your readers will be?
This would be something best answered by the playtests. When you do observed blind playtests, pay attention to the small hang-ups. Did they have to consult with others at the table to make sure they were understanding what was written? Did they stumble and "um... i think..." over particular parts? If you can't solve this with re-wording the basic rules, then you probably need an example.

Quote:
4) What do you think about a 'side-strip' occupying a side 1/4 of a page, that parallels the rules with skeleton rules, examples, pictures or definitions? (Many Rio-Grande game rules have this).
a) What is the best function of this?
b) Where should it go? Most visually obvious is the outer edge of the page, but that will mean that it will be the left-most material on left-side pages. Inside edge of the page has the same problem in reverse. Rio Grand puts it always on the right, which makes the page-spread asymmetrical.
I like this for longer rules, so that when I have to skim for the right info, i can skim the sidebar. In shorter rules, sidebars are usually better for gameplay hints and fluff, so that they're not slowing down the initial run-through of the rules (i.e. maximize the advantage of having a potentially short rule set).

Right hand side, usually. Important info starts on the left/top, summary/other things on the right. Look at your standard webpage, then google heat maps for eye movements of people when they're browsing. Similar concept. The lack of symmetry won't be noticed when actually reading, and having a consistent place for your eyes to go is more important (usually).

Quote:
5) Sometimes the mechanics that need to be explained first are integrated with other mechanics.
a) If while explaining one mechanic, another one needs referencing, is it acceptable to simply use the latter word/name and let the reader simply wonder what it is for a few pages? Or should an explanation be given immediately?
b) Sometimes, for the purposes of helping new players see the whole scope of the game, rulebooks make incomplete, greatly-simplified, or even misleading statements early on and clarify them later. Is this acceptable? (For example, would it be acceptable Lords of Waterdeep rules to state that "In order to gain Victory Points, players must complete Quests"––to help new players understand their initial objectives––even though there are several other normal methods by which players can gain small amounts of Victory Points ?)
Very often, you can re-arrange the order of explanation so that mechanical terminology won't overlap unfavorably. For example (sort of), Dungeon Lords essentially opens up by explaining combat, THEN starts in on order of play. If you absolutely can't find a way to arrange this, try to make the mechanic terminology be words that make sense contextually, or that can be explained briefly. For example: "...then draw 2 cards and keep 1 from the deck (following the same rules as 'Accessing The Database', below)" would give people the basics, maintain the flow of the explanation, but lets them know that there may be more to the action than simply "draw 2, keep 1".

Yes, you absolutely can (and usually should) oversimplify the initial goal statement. "In fair Verona where we lay our scene...", not "in the sub-county of Verona, governed by duke something, population of 12,597, average taxes of 3.2%, unemployment rate of 18%, poverty level 25 gold crowns per season, council member names are...". Enough information to get you moving into the turn structure. More thorough victory conditions can be handled later.

Quote:
6) Fonts:
a) How small a font is too small? Race For The Galaxy uses something like 6pt or 8pt Times– it's small, but perfectly legible. Bigger fonts mean more space, which means more cost.
b) In terms of looking more inviting to new players, does the extra ease of reading larger font make up for the fact that all rules-text now looks longer?
c) Serif/hooked fonts (Times New Roman, Garamond, common in literature) vs sans-serif fonts (Arial, Helvetica, common in instructions and technical writing). Both are used a lot. FFG uses almost entirely serif fonts. Small companies usually use sans-serif.
d) Should theme/fluff dictate fonts? (or any other rulebook considerations?)
The answers the previous poster gave were very good.

Quote:
7) How important do you feel the following aesthetic elements are?
a) Rule sections are not interrupted by a page-break, such that a section is split across 2 pages.
b) Rulebook pages contain background art/texture (as opposed to a blank space behind the text.)
c) Pages have a thematic, decorative border.
a) nice if easy to accomplish, but not necessary, generally.
b) Plain white background looks cheap in MOST rulebooks, even on shiny paper. I would consider very basic and unobtrusive texture or art standard.
c) Nice if you've got the space and/or art budget for it.

I will add that quick lines of fluff or small pictures are best used when they add to the thematic mnemonics associated with particular rules. Don't put the picture of the gunner next to the rules for melee, put him next to the rules for shooting. If a mechanic represents haggling with NPC's/the game system, but doesn't state that explicitly, a quick blurb or a picture of someone haggling with a merchant is both functional AND thematic.

Quote:
8) Many rulebooks devote the entire cover page to art. Some put art only in an upper section and then have preliminary rules (set-up, fluff, components) below. Some jump straight into the rules. What is the best way to use this page?
Depends on the target audience. Puerto Rico players? Just a tiny bit of fluff/history, get to the rules ASAP; The box cover and description on the back handles most of the theme for you. Twilight Imperium 3? ART! FLUFF! THEME! MORE! Family games? somewhere in between.

Quote:
9) The following things are very space-consuming, but can be very illuminating to new players.
How much importance to you think the following things have?
a) A narrative example of a game turn.
b) A narrative example of a whole round, including intercut illustrations of how the board looks after each turn.
c) A picture of a game in progress (complete with piles of chits, player hands, etc)
d) Glossary
e) Index
f) Strategy tips for new players
g) 'quick-start' rules that encourage people to play before they full understand the game.
I think this is mostly answered above- examples when needed based on playtest results. Glossary/Index for longer rules (as prior poster mentioned). Strategy tips are best used to make sure a key concept is not overlooked, because often only the player who reads the rules will see them.

I think one of the best things I can say about illustration examples- do your best to make sure people can play the game with TEXT ONLY (that's what blind testing is great for). Then, once you feel the rulebook can convey everything is necessary, you can add illustrative pictures to make it EASIER. But don't remove the text, expecting the players to use the explanatory pictures, because people will gloss over things you wouldn't expect them to. Giant picture, "IMPORTANT!" in big bold red text with arrows pointing at it, and they'll still flip back and forth through the rules, looking for something they'll later claim "just wasn't there".

Quote:
10) Lastly–– Is having a good rulebook really that important? There are many, many successful games with poorly-written, visually-confusing, ugly rulebooks. Of the ~100 games I've played, I think I have only learned ~5 by reading the rulebook by myself–– the rest were taught to me by someone else. How does a good rulebook compare with other factors, like price or component quality?
Will it be the singular thing that MAKES your game a hit? probably not by itself. It is one of many many factors that can contribute to a good experience, and people actively wanting to share that experience. However if the rulebook is BAD enough, it CAN be the thing that prevents your game from being a hit. I recommend not aiming at the middle ground. In any undertaking, the last step is as important as the first.

A good rulebook takes time, but not necessarily additional money outlay. On that basis alone, people should work harder on them than they do. For smaller companies or newer designers especially, they often don't have a "process" to make sure the rulebook is up to snuff, so the rate of bad is significantly increased. Desire to make a good rulebook is more a matter of work ethic, an "I want to make sure MY product is GREAT!", which should be the mentality associated with the whole process. But patience in the process is also hard to come by for lots of people, particularly if they think the game mechanics are finished.

Holly Verssen
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a great job for playtesters

Make sure to hand your rulebook over to a playtester who has never played the game and ask them to tell YOU how to play. This will quickly show you your trouble spots.

Also, after the rulebook is done-complete-finished-perfect, send it out to anyone who will read it. Get their edits, suggestions, questions, and comments.

Add their names to the credits under "Rulebook editing". It's a friendly gesture of thanks to them for spending the time to read your rules.

You don't have to follow all their advice, but it is a wonderful help to know the problems in your book. Believe them when they say, "I don't get it". Even if it makes perfect sense to you, add an example, or clerify it in some way.

BenMora
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Rule book I like

Just to answer one of your questions: I really like the Axis & Allies rule book(s)

lewpuls
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I talked about this topic

I talked about this topic some in my book "Game Design".

If someone can get bored reading a rulebook, no matter how "boring" it may be - it's a set of rules, after all - then he or she isn't a candidate for learning a game by reading the rules, period.

The first question of rule-writing is whether to write Sequence of Play or Reference style. The former are for games where people might try to learn the rules while playing the game (an idea that gives me the heebie-jeebies, but I'm old-fashioned). The latter are for people who read the rules, possibly more than once, then play the game. Wargames often have Reference style. It's much easier to look something up in reference style rules.

I think every game should have a "playthrough" of one or more turns in the rules.

As far as I'm concerned, games should have discs in them with informal videos describing how to play the game and showing a playthrough.

ender7
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Discs! That's old school. Why

Discs! That's old school. Why not just a QR code to a YouTube video, of if you really want to go nuts, a how-to-play mini-site?

The reference vs sequence of play dichotomy is interesting. I can't stand reference rulebooks, but I do want the sequence rulebooks to be more reference-friendly, whether through an index, or good summaries and clear marking of exceptions or unusual rules. I wish someone would write sequence-style rulebooks for games like Hannibal or Twilight Struggle.

lewpuls
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ender7 wrote:Discs! That's

ender7 wrote:
Discs! That's old school. Why not just a QR code to a YouTube video, of if you really want to go nuts, a how-to-play mini-site?

A great many people, believe it or not, have difficulty getting much of anything done over the Internet. But almost anyone can put a disc in a computer or player. In one Internet test Jakob Nielsen found that "only 76% of users who expressed a desire to run a Google search were successful. In other words, 1/4 of users who wanted to use Google couldn't do so. (Instead, they either completely failed to get to any search engine or ended up running their query on a different search engine — usually whatever type-in field happened to be at hand.) " (http://www.useit.com/alertbox/designer-user-differences.html ).

QR Codes? You really limit your clientele then. Get a grip on reality. Even I don't use QR codes, though I was in charge of PC and Network support at a major army medical center in the 90s, and taught computer networking full time in the 2000s. I have no need of QR codes.

lewpuls
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ender7 wrote:The reference vs

ender7 wrote:
The reference vs sequence of play dichotomy is interesting. I can't stand reference rulebooks, but I do want the sequence rulebooks to be more reference-friendly, whether through an index, or good summaries and clear marking of exceptions or unusual rules. I wish someone would write sequence-style rulebooks for games like Hannibal or Twilight Struggle.

An index helps SoP a lot, as a reference tool. I write SoP now because it's expected, but I include at the front a detailed table of contents, which helps a lot.

chriswhite
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Thanks for the replies so

Thanks for the replies so far. Generally, very helpful.

Question:

While finishing up a section of writing and graphic work on a certain rule topic, you find yourself with a bit of space left on the page.

a) Leave it blank – Gives the text room to breath and makes the book seem less overwhelming.

b) Art – Art, especially art relevant to the section topic, helps readers connect with the theme, and reinforces mechanics with visual images.

c) Show Topic Components – Include some pictures of the tokens or cards relevant to the topic (components shown or discussed in previous sections) so players can more easily visualize the interactions described in the rules.

d) More examples – You can never have too many! (or can you...?)

e) Write some fluff! – Explain the section mechanics thematically, or provide 'notable anecdotes' of things that have happened in the world of the game. Makes for better second-reading!

f) Clarify rules – Use the space to add some lines to clarify potential misunderstandings, or anticipated errors that new players might make because of common presumptions.

g) Strategy tips – Put a little box in with some very basic ideas for new players about how they should approach the topic/mechanic from a strategic level.

h) Review/Summary – Write a sentence or two recalling earlier rule topics, to better help readers understand how this topic/mechanic fits into the game as a whole, or summarizing 'everything you've read so far'.

Whaddya say?

Holly Verssen
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components

If you are talking about it, there should be a picture of it.
There should be pictures throughout your rulebook. In fact, you really shouldn't go more than a couple of paragraphs without a picture - either a picture of the component you are discussing, or a picture of several components working together. People appreciate being able to reference them while they read.

Second choice: More examples. State a rule, then use the rule in an example.

larienna
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As you can see, there are

As you can see, there are different philosophy regarding rule books and some people comes in with interesting or bad concepts regarding writing rules. To make a story short, I follow this structure:

Summary of the game: 1 or 2 paragraph sumarising the theme and mechanics of the game.

Description of the components: Consider that the the player might not have the game in hand. Only describe and identify the components in this step do not talk about rules because at this point the player knows nothing of how your game works.

Rules: Explain the rules in the execution sequence. Most people search in the rule book chronologically to what they are doing. Fantasy flight has the tendency to have the rules and the other rules section forcing you to search for your information back and forth in the rules. This is bad. There could be exception where splitting the rules are OK, like basic vs advanced rules for example or Optional/Tournament rules.

Illustrations and side boxes makes your game easier to understand. This is generally used through the rules.

Reference: List and explain in details many reference information like card or token special abilities, reference table. The last page must be a quick reference or a table of content to find your information rapidly.

This is the general structure I am following. I think it is important to have a solid rule book in all games. Then if you want to use a tutorial approach, make a second book after your rules are finished.

chriswhite
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Holly Verssen wrote:If you

Holly Verssen wrote:
If you are talking about it, there should be a picture of it.

C'mon... this is certainly not true. The section on The Robber in the Settlers of Catan rulebook makes reference to dice, resource cards, number tokens, terrain hexes, player hands, settlements, and cities. None of these things is pictured, nor needs to be. No soundbites allowed!

Holly Verssen wrote:

There should be pictures throughout your rulebook. In fact, you really shouldn't go more than a couple of paragraphs without a picture - either a picture of the component you are discussing, or a picture of several components working together. People appreciate being able to reference them while they read.

Yes, yes, yes... Of course there are pictures throughout the rulebook. Everything necessary to explain the game, (including examples, illustrations, and diagrams) is there. I'm not talking about what to with the space on the page, I'm talking about what to do with the EXTRA space on the page!

Holly Verssen wrote:

Second choice: More examples. State a rule, then use the rule in an example.

Huzzah! More examples it is!

lewpuls
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Joined: 04/04/2009
One of the great annoyances,

One of the great annoyances, in a rulebook, when I start to read it, is having to hunt in the back of the rules to find out the objective (that is, usually, how to win). After the introduction (what is this game) you should briefly describe the objective. Then talk about components and follow Sequence of Play. And at the end you'll have the more detailed How to Win (or whatever the objective is).

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