Worst Rulebooks Ever
Jason Sherlock
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After spending 3-4 days trying to figure out how to play Ghost Stories, I have decided that it has one of the worst rulebooks that I ever had to deal with. However, it is still not the worst that I have encountered. I am interested in finding out which rulebooks have puzzled, frustrated and just generally annoyed the BGG community.
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1. Board Game: Ghost Stories [Average Rating:7.38 Overall Rank:191]
Jason Sherlock
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This is the one that inspired me to write this list. It has sparked many debates over the rules and has many special cases that the rules just do not cover. The fact that it was translated into English from French may be one of the reasons that the rules are not so clear. Ideas such as reducing a number to one being different than reducing a number by one were lost in the translation.
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2. Board Game: Funny Friends [Average Rating:6.47 Overall Rank:1631]
Jason Sherlock
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Here is the game with the worst rules that I have run into. This is a game with fiddly mechanics and even fiddlier rules that I think are the victim of bad translation. It took a lot of trips to the rules forum to figure out how to deal with a lot of the rules situations.
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3. Board Game: Gloria Mundi [Average Rating:6.11 Overall Rank:3207]
Jason Sherlock
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I don't think that translation can be blamed here. As far as I know Mike Selinker is a native English Speaker. I have met James Ernest (who is a really nice guy and a great game designer) and I know his English is good. Somehow this rulebook reads like something that was translated into one language and then back into English.
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4. Board Game: Marvel Heroes [Average Rating:6.40 Overall Rank:1799]
Jason Sherlock
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I think that the intention with this game was to throw all kinds of nifty mechanics into a game that should have been relatively straight forward. Then the challenge became trying to explain everything in a somewhat short rulebook. The result is that lots of little rules are very easy to misinterpret or completely miss.
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5. Board Game: Squad Leader [Average Rating:7.48 Overall Rank:473]
Jason Sherlock
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This was a great game for its time. There was a lot to it and the programmed instruction method for the rules allowed you to learn the game in easily digestible pieces. However, after three expansions, trying to find where a rule for anything was amongst four rulebooks was a complete nightmare. I think that we spent more time trying to find rules than we did actually playing.
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6. Board Game: History of the Roman Empire [Average Rating:6.39 Overall Rank:5347]
Jason Sherlock
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I was a long time player of the old Avalon Hill version of History of the World. You would think that knowing how to play that game would make it a fairly easy task to understand the instructions for History of the Roman Empire. Guess not.
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7. Board Game: Redemption [Average Rating:5.82 Overall Rank:10828]
Jason Sherlock
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Redemption gets an honorable mention from me. Its first iteration had a rulebook that told you to draw an initial hand of cards but neglected to mention how you ever got any more. Somehow it got past the proofreaders that the entire draw phase had been omitted.

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8. Board Game: Time Control [Average Rating:2.23 Overall Rank:15142]
Drew Holmes
United States
Fort Collins
Colorado
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Would have made more sense if the rules were in hieroglyphics. By far the worst rules I have ever tried to wade my way through (and I've worked through the rules to Hidden Conflict). I bought this piece of kindling at the thrift store. I wish I had kept my $1.95 instead.
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9. Board Game: Up Front [Average Rating:7.83 Overall Rank:374]
Brian Morris
United States
Raytown
Missouri
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The poster child in the wargaming world for badly written rulebooks. My favorite example of this was when I was first learning to play the game. I had a question about a rule so I looked in the index, found where the rule was listed and went to that page. Did I find the rule? Nope. Instead it gave me the rule numbers for 3 other places in the rulebook to look. There's a great game in here but bring a shovel to dig through the mire. Better yet, just get someone who knows the game to teach you. shake
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10. Board Game: Magic Realm [Average Rating:7.16 Overall Rank:930]
kSwingrÜber
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Ridgefield
Washington
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Too obvious?
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11. Board Game: Return of the Heroes [Average Rating:6.50 Overall Rank:1676] [Average Rating:6.50 Unranked]
Curt Carpenter
United States
Kirkland
Washington
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The grand prize winner. The rule book is written like a novel. You know that part of the rules at the beginning of most rule books that sets the stage and gives the flavor for the game? You know, the part that most people skim or skip. The entire rulebook for RotH is that. If your goal is enjoy the process of reading rules, you might enjoy it. But if the goal is to learn the rules as quickly as possible, especially if you've already played before and need to look something up, it's a disaster.
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12. Board Game: Mage Master [Average Rating:4.70 Overall Rank:14356]
Gilad Yarnitzky
Israel
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Very unclear rules that damage a game that can be a good replacement for Talisman and alike. Especially if you play with the optional rules that make the game length reasonable
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13. Board Game: Triumph of Chaos [Average Rating:7.54 Overall Rank:2294]
"L'état, c'est moi."
Canada
Vancouver
BC
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Beautiful game. Excellent game engine (based on Paths of Glory). Convoluted rules that require lots of cross-referencing.
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14. Board Game: Heart of Africa [Average Rating:5.51 Overall Rank:12666]
El Mejor Juego de la Vida
Chile
Santiago
Region Metropolitana
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No way to understand this rules.
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15. GeekList: WORST RULES EVER
(The Artist formerly known as) Arnest R
Germany
Munich
Bavaria
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(The Artist formerly known as) Arnest R
Germany
Munich
Bavaria
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devil
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17. Board Game: Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization [Average Rating:8.03 Overall Rank:26]
Eric Clark
United States
Holyoke
Massachusetts
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I didn't appreciate having to flip back and forth among three distinct and separate sections (tutorial, advanced, full) in order to establish step-by-step instructions for playing the game.
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18. Board Game: Arkham Horror [Average Rating:7.32 Overall Rank:237] [Average Rating:7.32 Unranked]
Mark Wilson
United States
Sioux City
Iowa
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The rules feel like they are written out of order in places and when you try to find a specific rule, good luck. Have to have player aids from this site. Once you do that, awesome game. Until that point, grab yer ankles.
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19. Board Game: Drang Nach Osten! [Average Rating:6.82 Overall Rank:7823]
D T P
United States
Pikeville
North Carolina
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Not only are the rules very difficult to decipher, but the set up is even more confusing. And being the monster game it is this meant setting it up could take days!
Fortunately much of this was corrected in the next generation, Fire in the East.
And no matter how bad DNO was it didn't stop us from playing it over and over.
Europa rules! The ultimate wargaming experience.
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20. Board Game: Europa Universalis [Average Rating:6.66 Overall Rank:4073]
Matthew Barratt
United Kingdom
Royal Leamington Spa
Warwickshire
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Translated from the French by someone who was in love with the words 'rubrik' and 'malus'.
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21. Board Game: Brass: Lancashire [Average Rating:8.01 Overall Rank:34]
Laszlo Molnar
Hungary
Budapest
Hungary
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Read the rules. Read them again. And again. And then ask somebody who has already played the game and they will explain it to you.
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22. Board Game: Agricola [Average Rating:8.03 Overall Rank:17]
suPUR DUEper
United States
Villa Hills
Kentucky
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Probably doesn't deserve a spot on the worst rulebook ever but.... it's the worst one I have read in a long time.

Rules are a bit convoluted
Many examples don't synch up with the text
Many of the boards are the same yet different
The examples of play on the boards aren't smooth
The font of the appendix is like 4.

Looking back, they don't seem too horrible but the first couple times through required some heavy lifting.
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23. Board Game: Paths of Glory [Average Rating:8.00 Overall Rank:100]
0,07 Geek Gold
Italy
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PoT, without any doubt!
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24. Board Game: Dying Lights [Average Rating:5.06 Overall Rank:13701]
Stefano Castelli
Italy
Rome
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Dying Lights has been literally killed by its own rulebook.
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25. Board Game: Cosmic Eidex [Average Rating:6.89 Overall Rank:2557]
Kevin Cachia
United States
Springfield
Pennsylvania
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The rules are completely incomprehensible...they're all...like...in freaking GERMAN!!! What kind of crazy is that???

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