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Subject: Worst/Best written rules rss

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Gloria Padilla
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A well organized, well written rulebook makes a game better. A badly written, poorly organized rulebook is enough to make me put a game away unplayed. What are some of the best/worst rulebooks you've encountered?
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Wilbert Kiemeneij
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The worst is definitely the 2016 version of RoboRally.
The best is probably Dungeon Petz.
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Garfield Cat
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For me it starts with a good overview of the game components, including pictures of them and referencing with numbers to them. I hate it when rules are just list the game components as text. Or not even that, only on the back of the box gulp
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Gloria Padilla
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Definitely need labelled pictures of the components! Particularly if there are multiple types of cards or similar looking pieces.
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Ryan Keane
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As I’ve gotten more into wargames, I really like to have a playbook with example of play and the rules start with “Stop - read the playbook and play through using the physical game. Then use the rule book as reference.” I want this feature to spread across other game genres.

Having worked on writing and organizing rule books, I think trying to make a well-written rulebook that has the dual purpose of teaching you the game and serving as a reference is a self-defeating endeavor.
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Russell McKinney
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I can't put my finger exactly on why, but for some reason my group and I have a lot of trouble with the rules for Mysterium. We love the game, but every time we re-read the rules to refresh ourselves on it, there's a point where every one of us is going "wait, what now?"

As for one of the best rulebooks, I'd have to go with Raptor. Yeah, it's a simple game, but even simple games without many rules can have a rule book that is a mess. Raptor seems to make a point to hit every possible question you could have about the game, but in a way that is wonderfully organized.
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The rules for Ulm are a mess. Not actually badly written, but it was a very unfortunate decision to spread the rules over two separate booklets. It does not help that the game is mediocre.

I also dislike excessively chatty rules. Dungeon Lords is bad, as is Galaxy Trucker. I really like Galaxy Trucker, but the rules are an abomination. It is really not a good idea to mix rules with flavour text. Plus it is a bad idea to introduce via an introductory game, parts of which are used later for the full rules etc. The Galaxy Trucker rules do all that and more. However, they are reasonably understandable and the game is good enough that I am willing to put up with it.

Another example of a badly organized rule book is Return of the Heroes.

I also dislike the Oniverse rule books for this reason. They include different rules for different games, but the later games use parts of the rules for the earlier games. Just a huge mess. Good games though.

There are plenty of very well-written rulebooks.

Fields of Arle does an excellent job at explaining a very complex game in a very comprehensible and didactically sensible way.

I also like the clarity of the rules for Jaipur. Playable after a single read-through.
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Markus Pfefferle
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Both Mombasa and Great Western Trail from Eggertspiele have very well written rules that make quite a complex game very comprehensible.

Eggertspiele in general writes great rule books for their games.
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Gloria Padilla
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Ryan Keane wrote:
As I’ve gotten more into wargames, I really like to have a playbook with example of play and the rules start with “Stop - read the playbook and play through using the physical game. Then use the rule book as reference.” I want this feature to spread across other game genres.


I like the idea of a playthrough but only if it's included with the same rulebook. I think it's A Feast for Odin that has like 3 different books, and looking something up can involve shuffling a lot of paper around.
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Gloria Padilla
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Si Fei wrote:

Fields of Arle does an excellent job at explaining a very complex game in a very comprehensible and didactically sensible way.


I love the rules for Fields of Arle. I actually think all of Uwe Rosenberg's games have very well written rules.
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HenningK
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Best: Puerto Rico

Worst: Martians: A Story of Civilization
Dishonorable mentions go to Mice and Mystics and the old edition of Agricola.
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Kim Solberg
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Cannot think of a better rulebook than Dominant Species.
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Ryan Feathers
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gcwebber wrote:

I like the idea of a playthrough but only if it's included with the same rulebook. I think it's A Feast for Odin that has like 3 different books, and looking something up can involve shuffling a lot of paper around.


One of those is the Almanac which doesn't contain any rules--just thematic explanations of many of the components and choices in the game.

The Appendix is admittedly useful, but only as a reference. One only needs to read the rulebook to learn how to play, and the Appendix just provides details about how certain things work. (The symbols on the cards should be enough, but if you ever have a question, you can reference the Apppendix). I personally think this is a good way of presenting the information.


For what it is worth, I personally think that one of the great things about Uwe Rosenberg is his ability to write a rulebook. He just seems to know a good order of presenting ideas, provides examples along with most of the concepts, and breaks down sections into nice digestible chunks. He even did a great job with the Terra Mystica rulebook even though that isn't one of the game he designed.


As for examples of bad rule books. Well, I agree with the often brought up Robisnon Crusoe rulebook. The rulebook was really bad before it got rewritten. In contrast to the above good traits, it tended to lack examples, presented some ideas in a strange order, and often had dense sections of text that were presenting several concepts and should have instead been split up more.

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Gloria Padilla
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Ranior wrote:
[q="gcwebber"]
For what it is worth, I personally think that one of the great things about Uwe Rosenberg is his ability to write a rulebook. He just seems to know a good order of presenting ideas, provides examples along with most of the concepts, and breaks down sections into nice digestible chunks. He even did a great job with the Terra Mystica rulebook even though that isn't one of the game he designed.


I 100% agree about him. I guess what I really meant about A Feast for Odin is if I have a rules question - and we haven't played it a lot, and we don't play it often so each time is almost like the first time - I invariably pick up the wrong booklet.

Incidentally I feel this way about 7 Wonders - I am forever picking up the wrong booklet to look up a specific card. Does anyone know of a 7 Wonders consolidated card reference?
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C B
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For bad rulebooks, may I refer you to this thread?

The various Pathfinder:ACG games seem to win the worst rulebook prize.

As far as best... You know how the saying goes, for every good report you can find 100 bad ones. I know I don't make mental notes of good rulebooks.

Edit: I just thought of a good one - The Castles of Burgundy. I've heard that the rulebooks in Alea games are good in general.
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CARL SKUTSCH
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The worst, for me, is horrible rules for great games.

Vlaada Chvatil is a freaking genius but his rules, not so much. Galaxy Trucker, as was already mentioned, is a mess rules wise. Ok for learning the game (and funny) but horrible for rules reference. Mage Knight is a mess, with rules in 3 different places, with no consistency. Just awful. (Great game though.)

Innovation. OMG. I bought that thing cuz it looked cool and then its itty bitty rulebook hurt my brain too much. Meld? Tuck? Splay? Wha? I put it on my shelf and left it there for 2 years before deciding to take it on a trip to New Orleans and making myself learn and play it. And love it. Man, how to play is easy peasy, the rules, just bad conceptually. Now it's one of my top games.

Anything by Phil Eklund. Renaissance's excessively opaque and complicated rules are still making me break out in hives. Really smart guy, interesting games, rules, meh.

All those games, of course, are excellent games, that play very well. The rules themselves are not bad, it's how they are written.

Then there are the bad games with bad rules. The one that still makes me grind my teeth is Columbia Games' Victory in Europe. I Kickstartered that, basically cuz it looked pretty and they used to make solid block wargames. The rules for this puppy were bizarre. The sentences and paragraphs all made sense but overall too many things just didn't work or were not fully explained. I am used to turgid wargame rules that still get the job done. Here, the game itself was clearly insufficiently playtested and the rules were a rough draft at best. Luckily I was able to sell/trade that puppy to some other victim. (Who I specifically warned about the rules, but he didn't seem to care.)

EDIT: Oh, and I love Agricola but the version I have has AWFUL rules, just awful. I understand the more recent versions have better rules. I should hope so.
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HenningK
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ampoliros wrote:
Edit: I just thought of a good one - The Castles of Burgundy. I've heard that the rulebooks in Alea games are good in general.


Definitely this! I named Puerto Rico, but all Alea games are really excellent in this regard.
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I really like the game, but the rulebook for Ghost Stories is just horrendous.

On the flipside, considering how complicated the game is the rulebook for Virgin Queen is exceptionally well written.
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Bob Horton
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May I put forward 504 as having simultaneously the best and worst rulebook in the world?
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Patrick McNamara
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Catanid wrote:
Cannot think of a better rulebook than Dominant Species.



+1 for Dominant Species. A fairly complex game that is broken down quite well in the rules.

I also really like the rules for all of the Splotter games that I own. (Food Chain Magnate, Indonesia, Roads & Boats, The Great Zimbabwe). Again, all fairly complex games but the rules break the complexity down into something much more manageable.

For bad rules, I would have to go with anything from CGE, such as Galaxy Trucker or Dungeon Lords. The joking manner in which the rules are presented just makes trying to pull the actual rules out a real pain. My $0.02.
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Adam Nikolaus
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The worst is Ravingspire hands down. The game is unplayable with the rulebook as written. There are several definitions and whole mechanisms that are left out. You NEED to watch their how to play videos to get this information as it isn't presented anywhere else. That being said don't play this game as it is pretty much garbage. It's well manufactured and looks pretty but still trash as far as game play goes.
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Ryan Keane
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gcwebber wrote:
Ryan Keane wrote:
As I’ve gotten more into wargames, I really like to have a playbook with example of play and the rules start with “Stop - read the playbook and play through using the physical game. Then use the rule book as reference.” I want this feature to spread across other game genres.


I like the idea of a playthrough but only if it's included with the same rulebook. I think it's A Feast for Odin that has like 3 different books, and looking something up can involve shuffling a lot of paper around.


I prefer 2 separate books. If properly done, you only need to read the playbook once to learn the game, and then you will never look at it again while playing the game, so there should be no shuffling between them. Game setup should be in the front of the rulebook but is ok to duplicate at the start of playbook, while FAQ, card text details and explanation, etc. should be in the back of the rule book; unfortunately these are sometimes only in the playbook, which is a bad design decision IMO.

Player aids should normally only contain duplicate information that is also in the rulebook, but organized in a way that is more user-friendly during play; or the rules should be very explicit that key information has not been included in the book and must be referenced on player aid X. Setup being only on a player aid sheet tends to really annoy me.

The other recent trend that annoys me is when a game has 2 or more editions or variants and the designer tried to combine them haphazardly in one rule book. And then they added expansions and stretch goals that come in the box, but the rules for those parts are in separate sheets or aids. Vinhos Deluxe Edition with KS expansions, while a great game, was the most recent example I recall of really effing up organizing all the different rule sets.
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Radu Stanculescu
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Best: Most probably due to the experience with Terra Mystica, Gaia Project has quite a good rule book. Admittedly once I explained it and played it once I didn't need to get back to it as I've played TM a lot.

Worst: Might & Magic Heroes was a game I looked forward to because of I love Heroes of Might and Magic III. The game's not great either, but the rule book is horrible. A lot of icons spread around, but no reference page at the end of the rules.
 
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Gloria Padilla
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ampoliros wrote:
For bad rulebooks, may I refer you to this thread?


Great thread, thanks! I haven't played (or heard of) most of the games they mention; I guess I've been fortunate!

I do agree with Mice & Mystics and the Space Hulk card game though. I recall googling for both of those games. I liked Mice & Mystics well enough that we stuck with it, I think we abandoned Space Hulk.

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CARL SKUTSCH
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Best rules? As folks have said, it's harder to remember good rules. They just float on by, doing their job.

Spirit Island's rules were pretty good. I remember starting to play after one read-thru and having few problems.

The Gallerist is pretty darn complicated but the rules are well written and laid out.
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