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Subject: Complete game rules... What's so hard about this? Really? What? rss

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Rob
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The more games I play the more games I find that, after a single play through, have situations arise in which there is no clear rules explanation for how to handle it. Why? This is absurd.

I've even come across games that don't even require a single play through to find a point of contention--just reading the rules will lead you to a question or two. How is that? Did the designers and publishers read their rules before releasing the game?

If I can come up with a situation (usually multiple) in a single play through, a first play through even, then there is NO WAY the game was play tested even slightly and the same situations didn't come up.

My goodness, how difficult is it to make rules complete and explain everything that could happen and explain it well? It's not. It's just laziness that results in anything but a complete, concise rules manual. Apparently our hobby is FULL of lazy people. Incredible.

There is no excuse--none!--for games being published with rules that allow for anyone playing the game to not know exactly what to do in ANY given situation. It's a game, there's only so much that can happen in the confines of its design, so why are we left to guess at so much so many times?

Perhaps the game designers should allow others, who didn't create the game, to read the rules and play the game... oh wait... that's right... that's called play testing. Huh.

On the whole, I wonder how pathetic the play testing must be with board games in general to have rule books which leave so many ambiguous decide-for-yourself situations in so many games? I have been most recently offended by Fortune and Glory, the latest game I have discovered to have a disappointing rule book.

The amount of laziness that leads to this sort of mediocrity in rule books is beyond understanding. Who could be that lazy? Write a few more paragraphs! Gee Whiz! You're entire rule book is only, say 12 pages, make it 13 and save us all from needing blood pressure medication!

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Andy Guest
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Perhaps sometimes it is laziness.

But here's the thing. With something as complex as a multi-player game the chances are that every single groups first play through will come up with a situation not covered by the rules. And it won't be the same question for every group, there will be lots of different questions.

It is impossible to cover every situation. That you found an issue quickly doesn't mean it is obvious and that it would have been found by proper play testing.
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Derry Salewski
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Well, it depends on the complexity of the game, I suppose.

Some concrete examples would make discussion more interesting; bgg has far more threads by people who didn't read the rules or understand them (because THEY are lazy, or perhaps just learn differently than the writer) then it does things that need to go in an FAQ (though it has plenty of those too.)

But the answer usually is: because shit seems obvious to whoever came up with it. And games don't make enough money usually to pay someone different to spend enough time with the game to write a rulebook with no holes in it/translate it perfectly.
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J C Lawrence
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robininni wrote:
The more games I play the more games I find that, after a single play through, have situations arise in which there is no clear rules explanation for how to handle it. Why? This is absurd.


I agree. Please provide us with some error and ambiguity free rulebooks so that we may see how it should be done.
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Maarten D. de Jong
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robininni wrote:
My goodness, how difficult is it to make rules complete and explain everything that could happen and explain it well? It's not. It's just laziness that results in anything but a complete, concise rules manual. Apparently our hobby is FULL of lazy people. Incredible.

It is, in fact, much, much harder than you think; and the law of diminishing results applies quite effectively. Game publishing is never a comfortable stroll towards a shiny box: it is a process of deadlines, of play testing, of getting the artwork correct, of boxing everything up, of marketing, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. For small print runs, correcting errors in rules is very easily taken care of by FAQs and the like. It's just not an absolute top priority, and it never will be, either. It should not be one, in fact, for it means attention and resources are diverted away from other aspects of the game which are just as important.

Apart from that, different people will always point out different issues; and the amount of rules lawyerism people resort to to prove their own hypotheses about a certain rule is at times incredible. I have had feedback on rules I have slaved over for weeks which had me wishing for digital faceslaps to instill some common sense in those who asked the questions.

Quote:
Perhaps the game designers should allow others, who didn't create the game, to read the rules and play the game... oh wait... that's right... that's called play testing. Huh.

You'd be surprised at how much play testing takes place, and how much of it is blind. As in: here are the rules and the game material, happy gaming. Considering that apart from a few minor questions the vast, vast majority of games is playable out of the box, I'd say that testing is sufficient.

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The amount of laziness that leads to this sort of mediocrity in rule books is beyond understanding. Who could be that lazy? Write a few more paragraphs! Gee Whiz! You're entire rule book is only, say 12 pages, make it 13 and save us all from needing blood pressure medication!

See, here is already a detail at work you are blissfully unaware of. You can't print a document with just 13 pages. Stapled booklets always have pages in multiples of 4, because a sheet of paper will contain 4 pages. Thus if you go from 12 to 13 pages, you have just increased the amount of material to be printed by 33% (3 to 4 sheets); and you're only using a quarter of it (1 of the 4 new pages). Well done.
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Paul C
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I can't remember the last time I learned a new game without having to consult BGG and other web sources for clarifications. Often, it turns out the rules did provide the answer, but made it too hard to find. But though annoying, I accept it in moderation, because:

I doubt that the full rigours of software development testing methods are considered affordable or practical by all developers of complex games (and even games with simple rules can become complex with enough player interaction or with enough rule-bending or special rule cards being played).

But even if the developer did follow a rigorous approach, I get the impression (from the results) that, even when the game is tested by people who've never seen it before, they might already be too familiar with the types of mechanisms used, so sometimes make their own assumptions rather than always check the rules. And if they stick around through enough iterations of the product, they, like the developers, might become too close to the product to notice ambiguities in the rules.
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clearclaw wrote:
robininni wrote:
The more games I play the more games I find that, after a single play through, have situations arise in which there is no clear rules explanation for how to handle it. Why? This is absurd.


I agree. Please provide us with some error and ambiguity free rulebooks so that we may see how it should be done.

Of course it's not a binary black-or-white thing. (Although there do exist ambiguity free rules, mostly for minimalist abstract strategy games, not for games with 12 pages of rules.)

Rules like Combat Commander: Europe are close to being free of errors and ambiguity. The vast majority of rule questions which come up in the forum can be answered with direct rules quotes, and for whatever reason, the poster just brain-farted or wasn't reading carefully or whatever. The small number of uncovered rule situations I've seen in CC involve obscure situations that don't happen in most sessions anyway (e.g. what happens if all the smoke counters run out).

That is different from the kind of thing the OP is talking about, where there really are significant holes in the rules, and the uncovered situation arises often in real play (in egregious examples, they inevitably appear in every play session). I suspect most of us have had the misfortune of playing games with bad rules like that.
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Derry Salewski
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And look at magic the gathering. How many hundreds of pages is that rulebook?

It's totally possible to make a perfect, complete, amazing, all-knowing rulebook for even a game that's twenty years old with billions of possible interactions.

Your game just has to make you millions of dollars every year!
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Rob
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Many of you are far to quick to give developers a pass on poor rule books. I see now why they continue to turn them out.
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Rob
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clearclaw wrote:
robininni wrote:
The more games I play the more games I find that, after a single play through, have situations arise in which there is no clear rules explanation for how to handle it. Why? This is absurd.


I agree. Please provide us with some error and ambiguity free rulebooks so that we may see how it should be done.


Puerto Rico
Agricola
Race for the Galaxy
Dominant Species
Castles of Burgundy

These are a few more complicated games that come to mind and then there's games like Jaipur, Ticket to Ride, or Jamaica, but I'm sure you'd take issue with the simplicity of those games.

EDIT: A few others:

Camel Up
Pandemic
Brass
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Derry Salewski
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robininni wrote:
Many of you are far to quick to give developers a pass on poor rule books. I see now why they continue to turn them out.


No I'm not. I don't really own any? I've been able to teach every game I own from the rulebook. And any questions that arise are generally answered on bgg.

Again, do you have some examples in mind of great, profit turning games with bad rulebooks? (cause if a game is mediocre I don't know why the rulebook is being singled out, especially if it doesn't improve the game.)
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Derry Salewski
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robininni wrote:


These are a few more complicated games that come to mind and then there's games like Jaipur, Ticket to Ride, or Jamaica, but I'm sure you'd take issue with the simplicity of those games.


I found jaipur to be slightly ambiguous-- you can find my rules thread about it
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Rob
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scifiantihero wrote:
robininni wrote:
Many of you are far to quick to give developers a pass on poor rule books. I see now why they continue to turn them out.


No I'm not. I don't really own any? I've been able to teach every game I own from the rulebook. And any questions that arise are generally answered on bgg.

Again, do you have some examples in mind of great, profit turning games with bad rulebooks? (cause if a game is mediocre I don't know why the rulebook is being singled out, especially if it doesn't improve the game.)


Runebound 2nd Ed.
Fortune and Glory
Zombicide
Robinson Crusoe
Dawn of the Zeds 2nd Ed.
Friday
Nations
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J C Lawrence
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robininni wrote:
clearclaw wrote:
Please provide us with some error and ambiguity free rulebooks so that we may see how it should be done.


Puerto Rico
Agricola
Race for the Galaxy
Dominant Species
Castles of Burgundy


Of that set I'm familiar with the first, third and fourth -- all three of which had significant rules gaps for many readers as evidenced in the rules threads here on BGG.
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Derry Salewski
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I've only read half of nations. I felt like it was doing a good job teaching me the game! But I haven't gotten to play yet . . . what size sleeves are those?
 
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I think you will find that writing good rules is much harder than you would think. I think the biggest issue with most rules is that often you have rules being translated into different languages and as a result the quality if the rules really comes down to the ability of the person doing the translating to convey the rules in a given language. One major issue I can see arising from here is that is a publisher simply sends rules out to be translated to a translating service they might not understand the nuances of some of the terms used within the hobby which result in misinterpretations. It would be interesting to say take a German game that you feel has crap rules and get a German person to comment on how good or bad the German rules are. One of the other main issues I think that happens with writing rules is that the people involved are too close to the game. What I mean by this is that because they have been so focused on designing and developing the game that there might be some rules or things in the game that they just miss as they take it for granted and as a result miss it.

Personally I have been an advocate for more designers and publishers to take a page from the war gamers handbook for explaining rules. In this day and age the majority of us have access to a tablet or smartphone. Designers and publisher could very easily put QR codes in the margins of rules that people can use to go to links of videos that show how certain rules work. I have seen this popping up in some of the more complex war games out there to help show conflict resolution. To me this just seems like a no brainer. QR scanners are free apps. Yes it would mean that someone would need to make the videos, but that really isn't that hard to do these days. You can have 10 people read the same rule and get 10 different interpretations of that rule, so having a video that is linked within the rule book just seems like a natural progression.
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Writing rules is harder than people think. It is difficult to foresee every possibility that might arise, difficult to decide in advance how every dispute might be adjudicated, and even more difficult to foresee all the possible ways that people might interpret what you say after you establish the rule. My whole profession is based on this difficulty.

Pete (cuts designers some slack)
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plezercruz wrote:
Writing rules is harder than people think. It is difficult to foresee every possibility that might arise, difficult to decide in advance how every dispute might be adjudicated, and even more difficult to foresee all the possible ways that people might interpret what you say after you establish the rule. My whole profession is based on this difficulty.

Pete (gets ninja'd by posts three times as long as his!)
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robininni wrote:
how difficult is it to make rules complete and explain everything that could happen and explain it well?

Extremely difficult.
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robininni wrote:
Many of you are far to quick to give developers a pass on poor rule books. I see now why they continue to turn them out.


I think attacking game makers and now BGG users is really bad form. please try and listen to the general reasons given for what you are discussing.

I don't know what hermetically sealed universe you live in, but there have been a range of suggestions and comments.

You need to get specific on rules that didn't work and take them to the game forums. My bet is you have one prime example possibly a very good one, then every time you don't understand rules in the next game or there is a vague point you plonk it in the same complaint.

And again....what do you think the profit margins are in game making? They're not great.


So is the solution to add a third to the RRP and hire more proofers?


Be nice.
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Friday's rules are awful.

Nations is okay but isn't great. The guy's head all over the place for the reminders is creepy.
 
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robininni wrote:
clearclaw wrote:
robininni wrote:
The more games I play the more games I find that, after a single play through, have situations arise in which there is no clear rules explanation for how to handle it. Why? This is absurd.


I agree. Please provide us with some error and ambiguity free rulebooks so that we may see how it should be done.


Puerto Rico
Agricola
Race for the Galaxy
Dominant Species
Castles of Burgundy

These are a few more complicated games that come to mind and then there's games like Jaipur, Ticket to Ride, or Jamaica, but I'm sure you'd take issue with the simplicity of those games.

EDIT: A few others:

Camel Up
Pandemic
Brass



I agree a couple of these aren't written well but others I just don't, and I'm muddle headed.
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writing clean concise rule books to cover all complex situations. However when you publish a game like I got recently 'Developerz'. It came with a double sided printed rule sheet and does not even get the victory condition consistent in the rules, Also the number of players between the advertising, the box and the rule sheet! That is both an indication of sloppy proof reading or lack of play testing using the rule book. Or basically just not caring.

Edited because I must learn to type one of these days.
 
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Raiderjakk wrote:
Friday's rules are awful.

Nations is okay but isn't great. The guy's head all over the place for the reminders is creepy.


Is Friday really one that is so bad? It's always tough to say when you have a different language version, but in german I found the rules to be pretty straightforward, it's tough to imagine it's so much worse in translation?

Most confusing rules so far was Robinson Cruesoe and that was even the german new version that was already supposed to be better. I still don't know if it's the nature of the game or the rulebook itself, but that was really one I thought was pretty complicated.

Concerning the overall question, I can actually see that it can be really difficult to write rules. When you know something very well, it's often pretty tough to put your mindset back to the state of someone that has never heard of it and is completly new to the thing, which is not easy to do. That's why I think it's hugely important to give rulebooks also to people that are maybe not familiar with the game at all and see what they make of it.
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Jack Neal
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ovis wrote:
Is Friday really one that is so bad? It's always tough to say when you have a different language version, but in german I found the rules to be pretty straightforward, it's tough to imagine it's so much worse in translation?


Point taken, but I don't know German. A translation of a translation just never works. : )

 
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