Recommend
10 
 Thumb up
 Hide
86 Posts
1 , 2 , 3 , 4  Next »   | 

BoardGameGeek» Forums » Gaming Related » General Gaming

Subject: Best & Worst Rulebooks? rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: rules_discussion [+] should_be_a_geeklist [+] [View All]
John Prewitt
United States
Albany
Oregon
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
What's the best/worst rulebooks that you've read?

BEST: Nippon. Fairly heavy game and the rulebook is just fantastic. I love the color coding and everything made sense. It's small and I read it in 15 minutes and was playing in 20 with no problems. I didn't end up keeping the game but the rules stand out to me as being particularly good.

WORST: Agents of SMERSH. It's... so bad. I read it front to back and have no idea what the game is about or how to play. All I know is it's "something like Tales of the Arabian Nights" and I'm terribly confused how they managed to make such a bad rulebook. I probably won't even end up playing this because the art is the ugliest I've ever seen, along with the terrible rules. I kind of bought it on accident months ago and forgot to cancel the order.

3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Doug Poskitt
Wales
Cwmavon
West Glamorgan
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Best: Level 7 [INVASION] - the game is divided into 15 steps per round and the rules follow suit, explaining each section in the order of play sequence. There is a general introduction/setup and once that is read, the organization of the rules makes the game so easy to comprehend and play.

Worst: The Witcher Adventure Game - I read the Learn to Play book and simply had to read the Rules Reference immediately after in order to make sense of the structure of the gameplay. As someone who has spent 30 years grappling with rulebooks such as Third Reich, it came as a shock that such a much simpler game could have a rulebook as badly organised as this.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
John Prewitt
United States
Albany
Oregon
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I really detest the "Learn to Play" system. It's like, here, let us teach you the wrong way to play a game quickly, only to make learning the right way really tedious and confusing.
22 
 Thumb up
0.05
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Daniel Kearns
United States
Bloomington
Indiana
flag msg tools
Silence is golden.
badge
Your sea is so great and my boat is so small.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
79strat wrote:

WORST: Agents of SMERSH. It's... so bad. I read it front to back and have no idea what the game is about or how to play. All I know is it's "something like Tales of the Arabian Nights" and I'm terribly confused how they managed to make such a bad rulebook. I probably won't even end up playing this because the art is the ugliest I've ever seen, along with the terrible rules. I kind of bought it on accident months ago and forgot to cancel the order.


My gut instinct is always to blurt out Panic Station! when someone asks for bad rulebooks and it is oh so deserving. But then, my god, SMERSH is so unbelievably awful, in so many different, creative, comically wrong-headed ways it makes my stomach hurt just thinking about it.

I sold it because the rulebook was such an offense to me I could feel its horribleness stinking up my shelves. I seem to recall a seemingly simple core rule being repeated 3 different times with three totally different interpretations at random places in the rule book. Okay, I'm done.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Stephen Miller
United Kingdom
Newport
Gwent
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Best: Navajo Wars - Perfect blend of easy reference and easy to learn from the rules by having a separate tutorial section which has you set up the board, play through a game as it instructs you to, and reading the rules - given as numbered paragraphs - as and when they come up, like you'll likely need to reference the first couple of times you play.

Worst: ...Hm. Arkham Horror is my go to, but Z-Man Edition Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island manages to make a medium weight coop Euro much harder to learn than it has any right to be, while at least Arkham Horror is decently fiddly for reasons other than the Eldritch Abomination that is it's rule book... In the abstract I'd go with AH, compared to the actual game it's a rulebook for I'd likely lean towards RC.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Rob
United States
Stephenville
Texas
flag msg tools
mbmbmb
Good: Potion Explosion - Read the rules and confidently play the game. Yes the game is not that complicated, but still--good rulebook explains pretty much everything leaving little to wonder (okay, maybe the Primsatic Joy potion ability could use an example for good measure).

Bad: XenoShyft: Onslaught - The rules seem good until you start playing and then you realize there are lots of card abilities that should have been explained--intended effect, timing of playing, etc--pretty terrible.

EDIT: By the way, this is a fantastic conversation and I hope lots and lots of people respond with their answers. I have decided that poor rules are such a big deal to me that I will pass on buying games no matter what if I find out the rulebook is terrible and learning the game requires a lot of BGG research or house ruling. I have too many games so this is one measuring stick I feel strongly about which I can use to downsize my collection/new game purchases to only those with terrific rulebooks.
3 
 Thumb up
0.01
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Robb Melenyk
United States
Bellaire
Michigan
flag msg tools
mbmbmb
Gizensha wrote:
Best: Navajo Wars - Perfect blend of easy reference and easy to learn from the rules by having a separate tutorial section which has you set up the board, play through a game as it instructs you to, and reading the rules - given as numbered paragraphs - as and when they come up, like you'll likely need to reference the first couple of times you play.

Worst: ...Hm. Arkham Horror is my go to, but Z-Man Edition Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island manages to make a medium weight coop Euro much harder to learn than it has any right to be, while at least Arkham Horror is decently fiddly for reasons other than the Eldritch Abomination that is it's rule book... In the abstract I'd go with AH, compared to the actual game it's a rulebook for I'd likely lean towards RC.


I'm with ya on AH.

I have the 1st ed Portal RC. Pretty sure the rulebook was simply translated as quickly as possible to english. Just awful. Love both games though.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Doug Poskitt
Wales
Cwmavon
West Glamorgan
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
While I do not expect each and every rulebook to be picture-perfect, I do often find myself wondering who the hell it is that game companies get to write their rulebooks.

I have come across games that have sturdy boxes, durable and excellently designed mapboards/tile sets, well-thought out card designs with lovely artwork and thoughtful text/icons that really help to play the game, accompanied by a myriad of sturdy tokens that are also thoughtfully designed etc etc etc ... and while presented on glossy paper and often having great illustrations, the contents of the rulebbook are a let-down which makes it difficult to get into and actually play the game.

The rulebook is the players' pathway into the game. As such, it should have a high priority in terms of its design and content. That said, I have come across so many badly written rulebooks that I have to conclude that many game publishing companies do not seem to accord a rulkebook the importance it deserves. I mean, professionals are obviously involved in the design of a game and in its presentation and artwork, so why not a professional writer who can get across game concepts, game flow and game mechanics clearly and unambiguously as possible?
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Vigo Velito
United States
Haymarket
Virginia
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
BEST: I love CGE's rulebooks...the humor of Galaxy Trucker is very entertaining. I would have to say though the rulebook for Tash-Kalar is the stand out. The reference sheet that comes with it is great to isolate the key differences in modes. I only had to read that once to get it.

WORST: Either Agricola (Z-man Edition), I had a heck of a time reading that one...over and over again...could have been the fact that it was my first worker placement game. But, I would have to repeat what others have said Arkham Horror was/is probably the worst rulebook ever. I also do not like the learn to play rulebooks as they leave out information, so I am stuck reading the reference as if it is the rulebook...worst way to learn a game...that said though I love the rules reference after the fact to just check something real quick. Love hate I guess.

Edit: fixed link, clarified old edition of agricola is the one I am referring...I expect the new edition that came out this year to be better.
5 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Stephen Miller
United Kingdom
Newport
Gwent
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
dougposkitt wrote:
While I do not expect each and every rulebook to be picture-perfect, I do often find myself wondering who the hell it is that game companies get to write their rulebooks.


The game designer, as often as not. Which is an issue since ideally they'd be hiring in a technical writer who specializes in documentation for the general public - That's a specialized skill that while some designers have it... It's not one that should be expected of designers to have.

...Add onto that translation issues that sometimes happen...

You wouldn't ask a game designer - usually - to do the card illustrations, why as them to do the function critical part of the singularly most important component in the game?
6 
 Thumb up
0.25
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
John Prewitt
United States
Albany
Oregon
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Gizensha wrote:
Best: Navajo Wars - Perfect blend of easy reference and easy to learn from the rules by having a separate tutorial section which has you set up the board, play through a game as it instructs you to, and reading the rules - given as numbered paragraphs - as and when they come up, like you'll likely need to reference the first couple of times you play.

Worst: ...Hm. Arkham Horror is my go to, but Z-Man Edition Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island manages to make a medium weight coop Euro much harder to learn than it has any right to be, while at least Arkham Horror is decently fiddly for reasons other than the Eldritch Abomination that is it's rule book... In the abstract I'd go with AH, compared to the actual game it's a rulebook for I'd likely lean towards RC.


Arkham Horror is pretty awful. I played the game ~5 times and read the rules, front to back, probably 5 times. The information is so SCATTERED it is ridiculous. Oddly I never had a problem with RC, and played the X amount of missions through after one reading of the rules.


I also want to add that writing rules is HARD. I've made a few games and writing the rules is excruciatingly difficult. Matter of fact my one game here on BGG is in its 3rd rules re-write (in progress) because of how hard it is to express ideas that you, as the creator, are very familiar with, to the public, who has no idea what the game is about.
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Ed T
United States
Seattle
Washington
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Off the top of my head:

Best: Combat Commander: Europe. Just a magnificent rulebook in terms of rules organization, unambiguous writing, and ease of looking up stuff. Edit: Also comes with an excellent playbook with a helpful narrated learn-to-play game walkthrough.

Worst: Space Hulk: Death Angel. Hard to learn the game from and hard to look up things after you've learned the game.
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
John Prewitt
United States
Albany
Oregon
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
supermaxv wrote:
Off the top of my head:

Best: Combat Commander: Europe. Just a magnificent rulebook in terms of rules organization, unambiguous writing, and ease of looking up stuff.

Worst: Space Hulk: Death Angel. Hard to learn the game from and hard to look up things after you've learned the game.


Very funny because I'd swap these two. I couldn't play CC:E because of how bad I thought the rules were, granted it was my first foray into wargaming. I've gathered that this games rules are great if you "know" the game, but bad if you're "learning" the system. I sold it after one play because I couldn't figure it out from the rules. SHDA on the other hand I had no problem with.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Robert Meisch
msg tools
mbmbmb
Best: Keyflower was easy to follow rulebook. Murano was a good one.

Worst: Fury of Dracula! Had for over a year now. Read the rule book 3 times and can't figure out how to play. I'm gonna resort to a how to play video and hope for the best.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Joe Salamone
United States
Billerica
Massachusetts
flag msg tools
badge
Aggravating people worldwide since 1964
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Best: Russian Railroads, clear, concise, and logically laid out.

Worst: Not sure, but possibly Gloria Mundi.

A lot of people hated the rulebook for Road to Enlightenment. I thought it was okay if you read it slowly and carefully and had the game set up in front of you while you were reading. A lot of people said it was unplayable using the original rulebook, but I disagree. Not the best rulebook, but definitely usable.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Dianne N.
United States
Seattle
Washington
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmb
Best: Lords of Waterdeep - first game I found everything I needed somewhere in the rule book without having to look anything up online. Runners up for entertainment value are books for games by Chvatil, though the games themselves are convoluted and confusing at times.

Worst: The Lord of the Ice Garden - I got the 2nd edition with the updated rulebook and it still had wrong pictures explaining the text (which made a huge difference in understanding player order), has a multi-page rules errata and FAQ that I had to download and print out, and after reading through it several times I'm still confused about how to play the game and what the symbols mean. For instanace it gave an example saying you can never update your minons with the same update, but the very next photo was a picture of a player board with the same update to minions. Turns out from doing some online sleuthing this one character has fixed updates that are the same and he's the only exception to the rule - but the rulebook didn't mention that at all. Horrible choice for a photo at that particular point. Interesting game though, I'm not giving up on it!
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Stephen Miller
United Kingdom
Newport
Gwent
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
79strat wrote:
I also want to add that writing rules is HARD.


Hence my frustration at the industry for not having hiring in a specialist to do it as standard, as it is for other specializations like graphic design and art.

*shrugs*

A specialty of technical writing (not an easy field to begin with) that needs to be understandable to the general public (added difficulty there), and serve as both teaching tool and reference aide at once (additional added difficulty). And done for the most part by people who specialize in other areas, and often translated on top of that, or written in a second language, due to the international nature of the industry.

The trouble is, I suppose, that it's not as sexy to get a good rulebook and as such not as easy and obvious a selling point as cool minis or gorgeous flat art, or even solid graphic design...
8 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Steve
United States
California
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmb
I'd like to call out Hansa Teutonica (again) as a great game with an atrocious rulebook.

La Granja has badly organized rules. Parts of setup aren't in the setup section and the player aids are only decipherable to those who don't need them anymore.

All the Level 99 rulebooks are bad. They get so far up their own fantasy terminology you have to go searching in other sections to translate everything into actual English.

On the good side:

Coal Baron: An underrated game with an easy rulebook.

Glory to Rome: I have a black box. Apart from all the negatives around it the rulebook was a breeze.

7 Wonders Duel has a very good one.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Matt Price
United States
San Francisco
California
flag msg tools
Member of the San Francisco Game Group since 2005
badge
This is a customized Bane Tower from the game Man o' War
Avatar
mb
Not one mention of Magic Realm as a terrible rulebook? That's an all-time great, especially first edition. It is altogether impossible to play that game unless some grizzled old wizard appears (perhaps at a Con you're attending?) and sits down to bequeath upon you the great, otherwise-unknowable mysteries hidden within that unreadable tome.

More recently Myth has a spectacularly bad rulebook. It's not altogether impossible to play the game - it's literally impossible. Among the many inexplicable gaffes is a complete absence of a section that instructs you on how to set up and start. I heard they re-wrote it, but I was so insulted by the first edition, I can't bring myself to come back to it.

Lots of great rulebooks out there. There is no "best", but I'm a big fan of the newer FFG rulebooks. The ones that are typically two books. For whatever reason, they really click with me.
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
John Prewitt
United States
Albany
Oregon
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
mattprice wrote:
Not one mention of Magic Realm as a terrible rulebook? That's an all-time great, especially first edition. It is altogether impossible to play that game unless some grizzled old wizard appears (perhaps at a Con you're attending?) and sits down to bequeath upon you the great, otherwise-unknowable mysteries hidden within that unreadable tome.

More recently Myth has a spectacularly bad rulebook. It's not altogether impossible to play the game - it's literally impossible. Among the many inexplicable gaffes is a complete absence of a section that instructs you on how to set up and start. I heard they re-wrote it, but I was so insulted by the first edition, I can't bring myself to come back to it.

Lots of great rulebooks out there. There is no "best", but I'm a big fan of the newer FFG rulebooks. The ones that are typically two books. For whatever reason, they really click with me.


Oh god. I actually spent a few months learning Magic Realm this year and found it to be completely not worth it. What a disaster of a rules system/game. I tried, I really did, and even after I could play a full game by myself, I was thinking... why....? I really dislike the new FFG rules though, but don't like many FFG rule books regardless. I have to give a shout-out to the KINGDOM DEATH rulebook however, which is fantastic. Teaches you how to play without screwing up or emitting anything, and gets you *actually* playing within 10 mins of opening the box, and teaches you as you go. Fantastic rule book.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Daniel Blumentritt
United States
Austin
Texas
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Quote:
My gut instinct is always to blurt out Panic Station! when someone asks for bad rulebooks and it is oh so deserving.


Definitely so.

Quote:
Worst: Fury of Dracula! Had for over a year now. Read the rule book 3 times and can't figure out how to play. I'm gonna resort to a how to play video and hope for the best.


Which version?
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Markoronio IX
United Kingdom
Bristol
flag msg tools
I find it much harder to think of good rulebooks than bad ones. Not because I particularly believe rulebooks to be more often badly written, but because the bad ones make more of an impression in my memory... The other difficult question for me is 'Is this a good rulebook, or just a simple enough game that it's near impossible to make the rules confusing?'

I will agree with people mentioning Arkham Horror. Feels like there's basically no logic to how it's laid out and random things you need to know are scattered around everywhere. As for other bad ones...

Spectral Rails - For this one it's written very ponderously. Everything seemed to be written in a way that could very easily have been simplified.

Pocket Dungeon Quest - Walls of text without a lot of thought to what order rules should be learned in. I ended up laying the game out to demonstrate things so I would understand what was happening.

The Rivals for Catan - I never understood where I needed to look in the rulebook for anything and every time I tried to teach it I found I couldn't remember it properly. It never clicked, largely because the rulebook didn't teach in a way that worked for me.

As for good games... Probably either Ghost Stories or Castle Panic but they're both helped by being fairly straightforward games. For slightly more complicated games I think I remember Alchemists was fairly good.

What I find particularly annoys me in a rulebook is where something that you need to look up fairly often has been put somewhere that seems nonsensical. I remember something like that with Mage Knight where I would often want to look up something to do with either the start or the end of round and it only existed in the quick start rules with no nice bullet point equivalent in the reference rules. Particularly a shame when otherwise the rulebook(s) for that game are excellent

For me the other factor muddying up my answers to this is that I learn a lot of games from watching playthroughs because normally I don't buy games without either playing them myself or seeing how they're played. So I'm often reading the rulebooks with prior knowledge, which doesn't give a fair representation of how good they are at teaching from scratch.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Randall COBB
United States
Colorado
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb

Yep, good rule books are very hard for me to remember. I'm thinking Blood Rage was pretty good. On the bad side, my go to is Secrets of the Lost Tomb. So many cool things about the game are not even mentioned in the first edition rule book! shake
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
suPUR DUEper
United States
Villa Hills
Kentucky
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
supermaxv wrote:
Off the top of my head:

Best: Combat Commander: Europe. Just a magnificent rulebook in terms of rules organization, unambiguous writing, and ease of looking up stuff. Edit: Also comes with an excellent playbook with a helpful narrated learn-to-play game walkthrough.

Worst: Space Hulk: Death Angel. Hard to learn the game from and hard to look up things after you've learned the game.


I agree CC:E is really good. Chad Jensen also did a superb job with Dominant Species.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Greg Schmittgens
United States
Wichita
Kansas
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
To throw out some fodder for discussion:

Best (to play): Advanced Squad Leader. It doesn't matter what situation arises - it's covered. It may take a while to find (ASL is often a multiplayer game in our group), but it's there.

Worst (to learn): Advanced Squad Leader. Even if you start with the more manageable Starter Kit, it's a huge leap. In many cases, insurmountable without a guide leading you by the hand.
6 
 Thumb up
0.25
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
1 , 2 , 3 , 4  Next »   | 
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.