Thoughts of a small publisher - Value Add Games

We are a small publishing company from Slovenia. We primarily focus on family and smaller board games in which we are always trying to add some additional value. We also make custom board games for corporate clients, which make great business gifts. We have our own team of game designers, graphic designers and illustrators. This allows us to have complete control of the game design process from the start to the very finish. With this blog, we plan to share our experiences we have picked up in board game and graphic designing, illustrating and publishing. We hope that both newcomers and experts in the industry will find this blog informative and interesting.
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Playtesting and making sure the rules work

Value Add Games
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Playtesting is an important part of developing a game. When we think of playtesting, usually finding the bugs in the game itself pops to our mind, but we have to playtest the rules and game components thoroughly as well. We talked about prototypes and to some extent about playtesting of game components in one of our previous posts. In this post we will focus on our experience of playtesting the rules and how we tackle that part of a game design.

Let us know in the comments what your experiences playtesting the rules are. We are always looking forward to questions and new tips and tricks - so share them with us and others if you have some!


In an ideal world you would have the gameplay completely finished and designed when starting to write the rules, but the reality is that this is an ongoing process, which is going on at the same time as designing / illustrating the game. There are multiple stages to playtesting the rules and we find each of them important on its own.

Stage 1 - Rules in a written form

First we usually have rules written as a plain text - those are just written rules with some sketches and ideas of images included. It is good to test the rules at that stage to see if everything is written out. On the other hand it is hard to get good feedback since images (which are not included yet at that stage) are really important to understand the game.

We usually give this kind of rules to seasoned gamers who already playtested the game and who are used to quick-reading the rules. We have also found it beneficial to have computer programmers as rules playtesters since rules are in a way a program on how to execute a game and programmers are used to looking at abstract representations of things. Programmers can spot “bugs” in rules very quickly. These kinds of testers can quickly spot if something is missing or wrong, even in a draft.

From gallery of ValueAddGames

One of the first versions of rules for WolfWalkers - The Board Game in plain text form.

Stage 2 - Prototype of the rules

When we have a bit more developed version of the game, we prepare a prototype version of the rulebook - the rules do not have full graphic design yet, but we know among other things what size it will be, how many pages it will have, the general layout and what images will be included. The images used are temporary and represent the prototype of the game.

We collaborate with graphic designers for ideas but do not do the full graphic design yet. We do not want to put a lot of work into graphic design just to figure out that, for example, a text is not at the right position, or that images are missing etc. Like with prototypes - one more easily removes, changes or adds something if it is not fully designed yet.

At this stage we give the rules to players who haven’t played the game before, to see if anything is missing and if the images, references etc. are clear. They have to read the rules by themselves and play the game in front of us. Sometimes we ask them to explain the rules to us as well, to see if they understand everything correctly.

From gallery of ValueAddGames

Example of prototype version of the rules for one of our games WolfWalkers - The Board Game.

Stage 3 - Rules with graphic design

When we are confident that the rules are well written and nothing is missing, the rules are proofread. We double-check each proofreading correction, since some grammatical changes can change the meaning of the instructions. Proofreader and game designer have to work hand in hand to make sure everything is clear. When proofreading is done, the graphic designer makes the full design - there are multiple iterations to figure out what works and looks best.

Usually one may feel confident that everything is ok now. But there is an important final stage - test the final form of rules. You have to figure out if the text is readable, if images are ok, if the right things stand out graphically. Maybe the positioning of some texts changed, something had to be smaller because there was not enough space for print, etc. Sometimes things can even get lost in “translation” from the prototype version of rules to the graphic design. Been there, done that (you will find more about it in the next post)

Stage 4 - The final version of rules

Since there might have been some changes to the rules - small or even big ones - the text is proofread again and the final check is done. After many iterations the rules are done and the game is ready to be printed and played!

From gallery of ValueAddGames

Final version of rules for WolfWalkers - The Board Game.


After creating an entire game and making sure that it works, playtesting the rules may sometimes seem a less important thing to do. But the rules are actually as important as the game itself, since if the rules are not clear, the game cannot be played properly and a lot of hard work can go to nothing. Even with extensive playtesting, some things can turn out to be unclear after the game is released, but luckily you can post a FAQ with clarification online and make a correction in the next print.

Stay tuned - in the next post we will look at an example of one of the things that almost went wrong when preparing the rules for one of our games, and how playtesting helped us discover it in time to correct it.


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