What makes good rules good and bad rules bad?
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There are so many lists on BAD or GOOD rules on BGG. The question is what makes a rule bad? I am convinced that there are a few key concept you have to go by to get to good rules. Please add your own experience or concepts! Who knows maybe we can even help the designers and publishers to improve their good work?!

(Note: All the exmples given here do NOT mean that a certain rulebook is a bad/good one on the whole just because it is listed here with one or two bad/good items. It is just a bad/good example of the given particular aspect.)
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1. Board Game: Advanced Squad Leader [Average Rating:7.96 Overall Rank:214] [Average Rating:7.96 Unranked]
Michael Weber
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Good - Using the same terms for the same key thing (problem of unclear concepts and definitions)

Particulary wargames or more complex games really need to stick a clear glossary of terms they use for their gaming terms. ASL goes even as far as to clearly differentiate between SMOKE (large counter) and smoke (small counter) or ADJACENT or adjacent

Note: Errors in this area happen often in translations of games when a word can be translated differently into another language. Example: The English Assyrian Wars defines a certain hex (e.g. Cyprus) as "Minor City" throughout the rules, while the German translation uses two different German words for the same English word ("Stadtstaaten" and "Kleinstädte")

SO, what designers need to do is to design a glossary early in their design stage and stick to that glossary
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2. Board Game: Star Wars: The Queen's Gambit [Average Rating:7.56 Overall Rank:577]
Michael Weber
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Good - Examples and Illustrations

There are many rules that use examples nowadays - Star Wars the Queens Gambit is full of it
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3. Board Game: Bitter Woods [Average Rating:6.91 Overall Rank:4074]
Michael Weber
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BAD - missing quick reference stuff

Quick references are pure gold for complex wargames in particular if you have a lot of rules that are valid on a certain turn only or effect only special units or wheather conditions or whatever. In Bitter Woods (2nd Edition) there many thing to be thought of in the first couple of turns - all nicely hidden away in the rules. This is a typical example of the dreaded "hang on - that unit could not have moved this turn - the was some special rules about it on turn 1 - di you remember? No? OK, let's dig through the rules.

Lukily good games with bad rules in this sector will very quickly bring up tools here on BGG hand-made by fans of the game - Thanks to the BGG-Community!
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4. Board Game: El Grande [Average Rating:7.78 Overall Rank:56]
Michael Weber
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Good - sidenotes

Many Eurogames have side notes - most often you find a small coloumn in the rules that focuses the key concepts explained in a particular part of the rules
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5. Board Game: Catan [Average Rating:7.21 Overall Rank:294] [Average Rating:7.21 Unranked]
Michael Weber
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Good - Quick start stuff

Quite a few games now offer quick start references (almost the same as the beforementioned quick referenceees, but different as you can never ever play a wargame by just reading the quick references, while you could do so with Eurogames - so a quick start reference really is a quick START reference while a quick reference is something you need all through a running game)
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6. Board Game: Assyrian Wars [Average Rating:6.33 Overall Rank:8333]
Michael Weber
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BAD - Incomplete Table of Content

Heh - it is not the 80s any longer - word processing is no longer a great miracle... Putting together a proper and complete table of contents from ALL the subheadings shouldn't be much of a problem. RIGHT, after 1.0 and 1.1, the next chapter is 1.3 and after 2.0 the next one is 2.3 - Assyrian Wars is a particularly bad example here.
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7. Board Game: Enemy at the Gates [Average Rating:7.63 Overall Rank:2995]
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BAD - Missing index

Putting together an index is also no longer a problem with modern word-processing. In particular complex wargames with non-colourful, almost-non-picture, small print 30+ pages of rules really need an index - in particular when they are badly structured! (having said that - enemy at the gates aat least has a list of terms and abbreviations
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8. Board Game: Ardennes '44 [Average Rating:7.95 Overall Rank:1527]
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Good - living rules

I think (am not sure though), it was GMT who invented the concept of living rules
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9. Board Game: Sword of Rome [Average Rating:7.31 Overall Rank:903]
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Good - Tutorials

Quite a few wargames now offer "playbooks" or "turtorials" to get a better grip of the game.
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10. Board Game: Ticket to Ride [Average Rating:7.45 Overall Rank:132] [Average Rating:7.45 Unranked]
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Good - online support

Online support can be very helpful - in some cases you even get online tutorials on how to play/learn the game
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11. Board Game: Zargo's Lords [Average Rating:6.68 Overall Rank:5550]
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BAD - missing/or "strange" structure

Hate to find pieces of information all over the rules BUT in the section you would expect it to find? Don't play any of the International Team series games.
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12. Board Game: Austerlitz 1805: Napoleon's Greatest Victory [Average Rating:5.90 Overall Rank:10329]
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BAD - contradictions/missing elements

Those three-hex-counters are very nice to look at, but the rules about them are full of missing pieces of information
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13. Board Game: Plunder [Average Rating:6.17 Overall Rank:4146]
Luke Morris
England
Faversham
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BAD - Vague-ness and the need to come up with house rules.

Don't get me wrong, house rules can be good, and Plunder is a game I love...BUT every now and again you want answers to questions that aren't appproached in the rules.

Can I play ANY card on my opponent?
If I play a map piece on them, can they lay it?
Can I go into port full of Plunder and get a letter of marque BEFORE I trade?

All questions sorted through house rules but it would have been nice to not HAVE to.
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14. Board Game: King of the Elves [Average Rating:6.23 Overall Rank:2749]
Hammock Backpacker
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Columbus
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Bad

Don't use terms in the rules before explaining what that means. In King of the Elves you learn all about preparing for journeying. You get explanations about all sorts a vehicles for journeying and how to prepare to journey, etc.

What in the heck is journeying and why do I even want to do it? It isn't until you get to the end of the rules that your understand the physical manifestation of journeying and why that's important. Good game...baaaad rules.

Power Grid suffers from this as well with the use of the term 'Step'. Is that 'Step' and as in 'Step' or as in 'Phase'?
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15. Board Game: Power Grid [Average Rating:7.90 Overall Rank:33]
Tim Synge
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Phases? Steps? Turns? Rounds?

I don't know ...
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16. Board Game: Evo [Average Rating:6.88 Overall Rank:802]
Mister Lookback
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BAD – unclear references and lack of image examples

Evo is a really fun game and one that I really enjoy… after wadding through the rules a couple of times. The rules are not written as clearly as it could have been and the rule book makes references to the pieces and boards of the game but don’t illustrate which is which. Instead of clarifying visual aid, they opted to print cute little cartoon dinos on the pages.
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17. Board Game: Return of the Heroes [Average Rating:6.50 Overall Rank:1756] [Average Rating:6.50 Unranked]
Kevin Gonzalez
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Athens
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BAD: Rules written in narrative form.

Now Return of the Heroes is a game I really enjoy but the rules are just terrible. They are written as though the "Heroes" in the game are having a conversation with each other and are not at all accessible if you want to look something up. A chore to wade through.
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18. Board Game: World in Flames [Average Rating:7.52 Overall Rank:986] [Average Rating:7.52 Unranked]
Michael Weber
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BAD - Overdeveloping optional rules

WIF is a particularly bad example here - I just don't feel like agreeing and haggling before the game on the tons of optionals offered. I heard that the final edition of WiF is yet again to be replaced by another game and that you need to get the latest RAW (term I stumbled first upon by playing WiF - means RULES AS WRITTEN). So before you start to play WiF you have to

a) Agree on the numerous modules you want to include POLiF, SiF, MiF, PiF, AsiF,......
b) Agree on the rules to be used (RAW number?) and be prepared to include changes that will come up during the year it takes to play the game
c) Agree on any Optional rules
d) Agree on any extra optionla rules that came along with the annuals and companion CD
...
man, that's really bad...


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19. Board Game: Up Front [Average Rating:7.85 Overall Rank:396]
Richard Irving
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Harrisburg
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Programmed Instruction: Bad

Programmed Instruction is to format a rule book so that only a few pages need be learned to play Scenario A, a few more for scenario B, etc.

Nice idea, except it encourages poor formatting--parts of the rules for items introduced in later scenarios have to be in the beginning: Terrain rules have to mention effects on vehicles, for example.

It is bad for reference becasue the rules are in the order they are introduced rather than in a logical format.

Bad for learning and bad for reference.

The new edition (still waiting MMP!) is supposed to have both a tutorial for teaching the game and separate complete reference.
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