Thoughts by Bez

I am a full-time designer/artist/self-publisher and I am available for freelance work. I go to cons as a trader and help run the all-day Friday playtest sessions in London. I left my last 'real' job in 2014. I was getting benefits for a few years. I'm currently writing sporadically, but getting back into the habit of daily posts. If you have any questions/topics you'd like me to address, send me a geekmail and I'll probably address the topic within a week.

Archive for rules writing

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Reasons to not blind-test early.

Bez Shahriari
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Writing rules takes time and effort. This investment might make it less likely that I am willing to change the rules after 10 minutes. That would be a problem.

Initially, you're going to learn the most. Part-way through a game, you might well realise that some things should be changed. To maximise your efficiency, I think it's useful to make a change, add in something, or even throw out or completely change half the game, as soon as you realise it is working against your intended experience.

More importantly (arguably), having someone read the rules and teach a group takes time and effort for your playtesters.

Given that I am not so lucky as to have folk clamouring to playtest whatever I design (and probably won't ever be), it's important that I value the time and opportunities I get to playtest my things. I would rather teach my game, then have extra time to play a 2nd time, or maybe even make mid-game changes.

I think that it's more important to first ascertain if a game has any value. Does it provoke laughter, introspection, or whatever you're trying to provoke? Does it accidentally provoke another interesting and worthwhile thing you can pursue instead?

I think that writing rules is super-helpful and rules should absolutely be tested (at least once if pitching, far more if self-publishing). But that is just not a priority to me early in the game design process. (Or, indeed, anywhere in the game design process - I'd only start when I get to what I consider 'development'.)
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Thu Mar 5, 2020 2:09 am
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AQs - What is your process for writing a rulebook?

Bez Shahriari
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This question was asked of folk in general, and other have also answered here.

This is my process:

First, I decide on the rules.

I am almost always irritated if someone comes to Playtest UK for the first time and has us blind-test a game. Until you've actually settled on the rules, having someone blind-test your rules is a waste of everyone's time.

If you have a game that you may potentially forget your own rules for, then writing some notes for your own benefit works well. David Brain does this. I don't always but it means that I have left games alone for months and then sometimes struggled to remember what the rules were. Unless writing in full sentences feels easier to you, I'd personally suggest writing short notes as 'best practice' both for a set of notes when teaching and as a momento for some months away from the game.

Write a first draft.


After having taught your game various times, I should know the most important points. Write them down, as paragraph headings. Decide on the approximate order of text. Start writing. I'd try to do it in one sitting, but sometimes take microbreaks when doing any given task.

Leave it. Then edit/rewrite.

Check the rules a few days/a week afterwards. Maybe get a few other creators to look at it Lucas Gerlach runs an editing/proof-reading exchange program.

Test it. Iterate.

For me, it's about what opportunities pop up.

Each time I blind test, take note of all the issues. As soon as there's a major point of confusion and everyone is deviating from the rules, stop the test and start testing a different thing. Eventually, you'll make it through your rules with experienced gamers.

Then I start blind-testing with folk who are less experienced at learning rules.

I might totally rewrite the rules if I think of a better way to format it.

professional proof-readers/publication

In the end, I send it to Christoph Zinsli (who I support via Patreon) and Rachael Mortimer (who I pay money per project). Then I add the diagrams (which are just descriptions of diagrams until then).

Really, I would have been better off doing the illustrations earlier, but this is what I currently do (not what I advise).

For my next things, I'll try to develop a better workflow for getting quick diagrams into the document and starting that earlier.
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Sun Jun 24, 2018 2:27 pm
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MtG changing 'his or her' to 'they' (part 2)

Bez Shahriari
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On Wednesday, I found out that MtG is changing its usage of pronouns.

I posted here on BGG, and also in a UK-based FB chat group, where a fair number of folk commented.

Today, I learned/confirmed that this change has not come from Wizards but actually from a relatively recent change in the Chicago Style Guide, which is the style guide that Wizards chose many years ago.

Whilst it would have been more exciting for this to have been a decision from within the boardgame industry, this has even wider ramifications.

But here are two reasons why MtG (specifically) adopting this is still a massive thing:

Proving precision of writing.

When tournaments have prizes of $100k, cards need to be absolutely clear - without ANY possible wilful misinterpretation. At the same time, MtG is focusing on acquisition of new players so any likely accidental misinterpretations need to be avoided at all costs.

This is one common argument - that the singular 'they' can lead to ambiguity. MtG will provide a great counter-argument.

Exposure

MtG is a game that has continued to grow in its sales over the past few years. It is the biggest grossing tabletop game and whilst a lot of those cards are being sold to the same players, there are many who might dabble and play a few games a year.

As time goes on, more and more people will be exposed to this language.

===========

Of course, since it's the style guide that has changed - rather than MtG choosing to deviate - there will be more and more written language using the singular 'they' and so maybe in 10 years' time, it will feel natural and obvious to the vast majority. Maybe people who don't think about the words that they use will start using gender-neutral language by default.

As time goes one, I hope that the language will effect subconscious change and help effect some greater balance and lack of prejudice.
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Sun Mar 18, 2018 11:38 am
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