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Subject: What would the best rulebook look like? rss

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Occu Pant
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There are several Geeklists that identify games with good rulebooks. See Worlds Best Rulebook.

But what makes them so good? For you, what would the best rulebook look like? What would it have? What would it not have?
What format would be used. What size?

Obviously, complex games (i.e. The Campaign for North Africa) may have a rulebook that is longer and more detailed than a rulebook for a simple game (i.e. the card game War or Rock-Paper-Scissors). However, surely there are still characteristics or features of rulebooks that allow even complex games to have rulebooks that are considered outstanding?

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Brad Miller
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Re: What would the perfect rulebook look like?
Organization, Clarity, Examples


See Dominant Species, Combat Commander: Europe, etc. (See a trend there?)
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Ronnie Edwards
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Re: What would the perfect rulebook look like?
The perfect rulebook would:
d10-1 Be concise
d10-2 Let the theme help explain why the game works the way it does
d10-3 Have clear examples for every tricky concept
d10-4 Give strategy tips
d10-5 Include a very brief summary of how the game will play out towards the front of the rulebook
d10-6 Include a picture of how the game will look when set up and how it may look at various points during the game
d10-7 Include a cheat sheet for each player (should include order of play and a symbol chart at the very least)
d10-8 Include a list of easily missed rules and/or a FAQ
d10-9 Include a link to a YouTube video in which the designer explains the game in a concise and clear manner
d10-1d10-0 Include a link to a wiki/FAQ for any errata that may be needed over time (makes it easy for new players to immediately find any changed rules). The wiki/FAQ would be moderated by the designer
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Re: What would the perfect rulebook look like?
Anything not printed by....

Fantasy Flight Games

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John
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Re: What would the perfect rulebook look like?

Full color with lots of pretty pictures that show examples of pieces, setup, and play.

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Ronnie Edwards
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Re: What would the perfect rulebook look like?
FreeHansje wrote:
Perfect rulebook would be: non-existing. The game in question is so clear and intuitive (for everybody) that gameplay presents itself without the need for an explanation.



aaaaaaah, that sounds really really nice.

A kin to that would be: the rulebook someone else reads, understands, and explains clearly... devil
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Chris
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Re: What would the perfect rulebook look like?
Note the difference between active voice and passive voice.
 
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Drake Coker
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Re: What would the perfect rulebook look like?
FreeHansje wrote:
Perfect rulebook would be: non-existing. The game in question is so clear and intuitive (for everybody) that gameplay presents itself without the need for an explanation.


No, no there needs to be one rule:

1. Place the game board - face up! - in the middle of the table.

Then it should be self-explanitory
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Victoria Osborne
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Re: What would the perfect rulebook look like?
if there are more than 6 pages to your rule book a table on contents and/or index.
 
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Jack Smith
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Re: What would the perfect rulebook look like?
CM Randall wrote:
Anything not printed by....

Fantasy Flight Games



Their rule books would be a case study on how not to write them so they have some use.

Anyway rule books need to be clear, concise, unambiguous and laid out logically without bloat and repetition with a clear index and rules for one activity in a single place. Terms need to be clearly defined and adhered to. Every sentence should be required rather than padding to reinforce a rule already stated. FFG fails on every definition of that.

I do not care about pictures as that depends on the game but usually they should be included as well with clear examples. Many wargame rules include designer notes, basic strategy advice and examples of play. Some other game styles could benefit from this as well.

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Mark Bigney
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Re: What would the perfect rulebook look like?
Windopaene wrote:
Organization, Clarity, Examples


See Dominant Species, Combat Commander: Europe, etc. (See a trend there?)


Couldn't agree more about CC:E. Not so sure about DS, but hey.
 
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Brandon Tibbetts
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Re: What would the perfect rulebook look like?
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Travis O'Connor
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Re: What would the perfect rulebook look like?
Belfort

Perfect blend of humor and clarity.
 
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Oliver Twitt
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Re: What would the perfect rulebook look like?
Redward wrote:
The perfect rulebook would:
d10-1 Be concise
d10-2 Let the theme help explain why the game works the way it does
d10-3 Have clear examples for every tricky concept
d10-4 Give strategy tips
d10-5 Include a very brief summary of how the game will play out towards the front of the rulebook
d10-6 Include a picture of how the game will look when set up and how it may look at various points during the game
d10-7 Include a cheat sheet for each player (should include order of play and a symbol chart at the very least)
d10-8 Include a list of easily missed rules and/or a FAQ
d10-9 Include a link to a YouTube video in which the designer explains the game in a concise and clear manner
d10-1d10-0 Include a link to a wiki/FAQ for any errata that may be needed over time (makes it easy for new players to immediately find any changed rules). The wiki/FAQ would be moderated by the designer


Agree with 1-3.

4, 7, and 8 should be kept in a separate book. I don't like a bloated rulebook. Starfarers of Catan had an excellent rulebook which was basically a large sheet of paper folded in half. Then there was an explanation book that was like 30 pages sorted by topic if you ever had a question about the (honestly self explainatory) mechanics.

9 is a nice idea but 10 should be mandatory by now. Paizo does a great job with Pathfinder's SRD. Whenever there's errata they simply paste it on the side and the editor adds a ton of notes when issues arise. With the top publishers having dozens to hundreds of games, there's no excuse why there isn't a one-stop wiki to get every bit of information in one convenient spot. It almost feels like board game publishers/devs are firmly stuck in the 90s. I turn to BGG whenever I have an issue, not the publisher. That shouldn't be right.
 
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Ronnie Edwards
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Re: What would the perfect rulebook look like?
jaybeethree wrote:
Redward wrote:
...
d10-4 Give strategy tips
d10-7 Include a cheat sheet for each player (should include order of play and a symbol chart at the very least)
d10-8 Include a list of easily missed rules and/or a FAQ
d10-9 Include a link to a YouTube video in which the designer explains the game in a concise and clear manner
d10-1d10-0 Include a link to a wiki/FAQ for any errata that may be needed over time (makes it easy for new players to immediately find any changed rules). The wiki/FAQ would be moderated by the designer


...4, 7, and 8 should be kept in a separate book. I don't like a bloated rulebook. Starfarers of Catan had an excellent rulebook which was basically a large sheet of paper folded in half. Then there was an explanation book that was like 30 pages sorted by topic if you ever had a question about the (honestly self explainatory) mechanics.

9 is a nice idea but 10 should be mandatory by now. Paizo does a great job with Pathfinder's SRD. Whenever there's errata they simply paste it on the side and the editor adds a ton of notes when issues arise. With the top publishers having dozens to hundreds of games, there's no excuse why there isn't a one-stop wiki to get every bit of information in one convenient spot. It almost feels like board game publishers/devs are firmly stuck in the 90s. I turn to BGG whenever I have an issue, not the publisher. That shouldn't be right.


Good point about 4,7,8 and you are totally right about publishers. We should be able to count on them for a wiki/FAQ. At leats in a perfect world...
 
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Re: What would the perfect rulebook look like?
CM Randall wrote:
Anything not printed by....

Fantasy Flight Games


OR the game Neuland. Worst rules EVER...
 
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Occu Pant
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Thanks to all that have provided serious responses.

Also, thanks to all that have provided ridiculous answers as some of them are definitely funny and should put a smile on everybody's face.
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Dave F.
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If a rulebook needs to cover a few pages, humor is a key part. Make it so the rulebook is actually a fun extension of the game and not a necessary evil that needs to be drilled down to its core.

I like Space Alert's rulebook for this reason.

Also, make sure that anything that needs to be looked up over and over is either on the same page in easy to understand tables or on a quicksheet for each player (yes, Fantasy Flight Games I'm talking to you).

I like a breadth-first approach better than a depth-first one. Explaining the governing rules makes it easier to understand why there may be some caveats and if the governing principles are sound, it's easy to distill the rules from them.

Pictures should be used often to support the rules and make quick lookups easier. No more "where was that part with that rule about that thing?" Browsing images is way easier than browsing text.
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Darin Young
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I agree with previous comments concerning clarity, etc. However, the one thing I really miss in current rulebooks is a sample game turn or two. Yes, I can take the time to scour the 'net to try and find a video where someone walks me through the game, but I'd much rather have it as part of the rules that I bought in the first place. I've had a number of games over the years that I couldn't bother figuring out because either the rules weren't clearly written or there was no sample play of the game or both. I typically sell the darned things off. The latest game in that boat is Mousquetaires du Roy which I still haven't figured out (and I really want to like this game--it's the Three Musketeers). Yes, there are videos, but frankly I'm not interested in watching a video to try and figure out a game. Most of those make my eyes glaze over because the reviewer/videographer takes waaaay too long to get to the meat of the thing. Having a clearly written sample of the first couple of turns goes a long way in my mind toward making a better rulebook.
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Jack Smith
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Highland Raider wrote:
I agree with previous comments concerning clarity, etc. However, the one thing I really miss in current rulebooks is a sample game turn or two. Yes, I can take the time to scour the 'net to try and find a video where someone walks me through the game, but I'd much rather have it as part of the rules that I bought in the first place. I've had a number of games over the years that I couldn't bother figuring out because either the rules weren't clearly written or there was no sample play of the game or both. I typically sell the darned things off. The latest game in that boat is Mousquetaires du Roy which I still haven't figured out (and I really want to like this game--it's the Three Musketeers). Yes, there are videos, but frankly I'm not interested in watching a video to try and figure out a game. Most of those make my eyes glaze over because the reviewer/videographer takes waaaay too long to get to the meat of the thing. Having a clearly written sample of the first couple of turns goes a long way in my mind toward making a better rulebook.


Wargame rulebooks usually come with an example of play as standard. I agree they are very important to understand the flow of the game and to grasp some of the trickier rules and concepts. Some companies like FFG would do well to get a big red pen and cross out all the bloat (up to 70% of the words in some of their rule books I have suffered through) They could then fit in something actually useful such as a walk through of a turn or two along with designer notes.

I do think what all rules writers should also do is say to themselves 'Is this absolutely necessary and does it add anything to what has already been said?' If no then delete. The OCS wargame rules follow this concept and their rules are clean, concise and easy to reference even though they are a lot more complex than most games.
 
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Samo Gosaric
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Davio wrote:
Also, make sure that anything that needs to be looked up over and over is either on the same page in easy to understand tables or on a quicksheet for each player (yes, Fantasy Flight Games I'm talking to you).

I like a breadth-first approach better than a depth-first one. Explaining the governing rules makes it easier to understand why there may be some caveats and if the governing principles are sound, it's easy to distill the rules from them.

Pictures should be used often to support the rules and make quick lookups easier. No more "where was that part with that rule about that thing?" Browsing images is way easier than browsing text.


Rulebooks should address two or three different needs:

1. learning a game from scratch . I agree with breadth first, depth second and some visuals to get you an idea about what the rules are saying in relation to actual board and bits.

2. refreshing memory on a game you already played. I'm not sure a lot of rules are made for this, but bgg player aids are. This is particularly problematic with games that have turn phases that trigger under specific conditions (Power Grid original rules are terrible in this regard, there exist rewritten rules that make this easier).

3. looking up specific terms and situations that occur during the game. Index is great, having a special section of the rulebook just for this is even better, much better.

Humour fits only in section 1.
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Page 1., First Topic...

How to convince your wife/husband this was money well spent.
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Enrico Viglino
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As small as possible - until it hits about 8 pages;
at that point spend the extra effort on cross referencing
and an index.
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Kevin Eagles
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An easy to read font, with black text and a white background. Having it in .pdf format on the publishers website would be great as well. Lastly, format it in such a way that it won't make my Kindle cry, or this old man strain his eyes trying to read...
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Kevin Eagles
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ejtracer wrote:
Page 1., First Topic...

How to convince your wife/husband this was money well spent.


The cover of the rulebook should look like a diamond catalog, and have the title "So you love your wife so much your willing to spend several thousand dollars on her"

The reverse should look like a Harley catalog and have the title "So you love your husband so much your willing to spend several thousand dollars on a brand new custom Hog"
 
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