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Rule Layout: side column summary

6 replies [Last post]
larienna's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008

The game "Rum and pirate" from Rio de grande has a side column in the rule book that sumarize the content of the rules. This way, when you have not played for a long time, you just look at the sumary when teaching the rules. It's much easier, you do not have to dig into the rules and you reduce the chance of forgetting details while teaching the rules.

When I talked about it to my friend, he strongly suggested that it was a bad idea. It would be confusing to have 2 set of rules.

What do you think about it?

Joined: 04/06/2009
I think it's good to have

I think it's good to have some sort of "at a glance" rules. I don't know about putting them in a sidebar, though.

One common trick is to have reference cards included in the game, which players can keep beside them when playing, to summarize such things as turn order, scoring, or the cost and effect of certain actions or game elements.

I think the best thing, though, is just to employ good information design in the rules themselves. If each section of the rules is summarized by its first sentence, and you put those sentences in bold, it will both facilitate comprehension for a first-time reader, make it easy to look up the details about a specific rule, and make for easy skimming by someone needing to refresh their memory of the rules as a whole.

Alternately or additionally, providing a synopsis of the gameplay at the very beginning has similar value. One thing I find when explaining games to people is that sometimes the interplay between rule A and rule B is so tight that, whichever you start with, it's hard to understand it because you haven't heard the other yet. By giving the overview first, you make it easier for players to feel like "it's okay that Rule A doesn't make complete sense yet, because I know Rule B is coming up, and that'll make everything clear."

sedjtroll's picture
Joined: 07/21/2008

That's called a sidebar and is often used to summarize the important bits of that part of the rules.

For example, if the rules dictate a complicated setup, the sidebar might summarize how much money and how many cards each player gets. This way, once you get familiar with the game and know how to set it up without looking at the instructions, you might just need to check how much money each player starts with, and the sidebar makes that easy to find rather than having to read through a page of text.

I think this is a good feature, as it makes rules referencing easier. It's important to have it be accurate, because you don't want it to contradict the actual rules. Your friend's concern about having 2 sets of rules I don't agree with, because the sidebar is just a summary of the actual rules, and it's usually graphically presented as such.

Hedge-o-Matic's picture
Joined: 07/30/2008
I first saw this layout in

I first saw this layout in the late 80's, in some forgotten superhero role-playing game. At first I though this was a great innovation, but, as it turned out, the summary rarely proved useful. the main effect was to make the rulebook about 25% longer to fit in a mostly-empty column. We never trusted the summary enough to use it as-is. Rules simple enough to summarize effectively were usually too simple to forget.

I prefer the rules-summary card or cardstock sheet, personally. Far more effective, and easier to pass around during play. The summary column in the rulebook required keeping the rulebook in circulation, which was a drag. It's better to have a summary sheet that includes page references back to the rulebook.

Rick-Holzgrafe's picture
Joined: 07/22/2008
Put examples in the sidebar

Perhaps a better use for the sidebar is to place examples of play next to the rules description. A small illustration showing that you can place a tile here but not here can make the rules more immediately understandable. The flow of reading the rules is not interrupted by having examples and illustrations in the middle of the text, which is useful for people who are skimming the rules for a quick refresher. It can also help players find a relevant rule quickly because they can just look for the picture, and find the rules text right next to it.

It isn't always appropriate. If the illustrations are too wide for a side column, or the examples are too numerous or complex, then a separate "examples" section of the rules is better.

larienna's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008
I have started to work on the

I have started to work on the layout. Right now, the side column has been useful for paragraph summaries, components illustration and sometimes concept illustration. Examples are placed in box inside the text with an illustration and some side text.

I agree that sometimes there can be holes in the summary (side bar). Still, I thought that could be a right place to add flavor artwork to reinforce the theme.

Still, I always thought of making teacher's aid for my game to make teaching faster. Using a summary column somewhat creates a teacher's aid.

I have seen that most "rio de grande games" use this technique. I have found side bars in the following games of mine: Puerto Rico, Rum and pirates and Louis XIV.

ReneWiersma's picture
Joined: 08/08/2008
I think you should do

I think you should do anything possible to make the rules as clear as possible. In some cases a sidebar rules summary can be a great help. When I tried it myself, however, with the Gheos rulebook I found that it didn't really add much, and it took up a lot of space, so I decided against it.

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