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Subject: A few notes about writing rules in general... rss

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Frank Griese
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Here are a few inspirational notes for writing a decent Rule set.

Usually, modern boardgame rules are written in a chronological order from the player's perspective. The first time player opens the box, browses through the game components, sets up the game, starts a game turn (in which he may be faced with different choices, during different game phases) and, eventually, the game will end, scores will be calculated to find out who won.

If you look at a rulebook from a boardgame published by one of the major publishers, you will inevitably find the following structure:

[Game Title]
[Author]
[Artist]
[Number of players]
[Approximate duration of play]

INTRODUCTION

GAME COMPONENTS

GAME SETUP

GAMEPLAY
- Turn order
- A game turn (phases, choices)

GAME END

END SCORING/WINNER

I believe it is good practice, and makes things easier for a first time player who doesn't know how the game is played (unlike you), to detail each step of a game turn, enumerate the possible choices then detail each choice in the rules.

Try to ask yourself the questions from a first time player's perspective. What do I need to know, and at what moment in the game, to be able to play.

Hope this helps.
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Scott Muldoon (silentdibs)
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An excellent outline, but I also think that organizing the rules in the order they should be taught is valid. For instance, once all the components are out, I usually start with "How To Win". I recap the victory conditions at the end, but I find that players will have in mind the overall structure of the game if you start with outlining the goal.
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Joshua Love
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That's a very nice outline, and I thank you for posting it, especially when I am currently revising the "rule books" for both of my games. While this game (system Vector) has a fairly straight forward and relatively simple rules, my other game (Armed Legion) is massive and has a lot of components and phases. While your outline covers some of the basic systems of a board game, do you have any suggestions for large amounts of phases, optional phases and the many actions in those phases?
When I put it all down, it feels very jumbled and confusing, no matter how I try to put it together...

I have tried to write it in the order that I explain it to my friends, but it still feels pretty jumbled. I can communicate the rules well I think, but keeping it organized is where I fall very short.
Again, thanks for your suggestion, it is helpful.
 
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Frank Griese
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Scott DiBerardino wrote:
I also think that organizing the rules in the order they should be taught is valid. For instance, once all the components are out, I usually start with "How To Win". I recap the victory conditions at the end, but I find that players will have in mind the overall structure of the game if you start with outlining the goal.


I do agree with you on this one. I didn't go into all the details, but yes, you should mention in essence what the game's main goal is (most points, most majorities, no cards left, etc.) before explaining the game flow. Then, at the end of the rules, you go into the details of the winning conditions.

Joshua Love wrote:
Quote:
do you have any suggestions for large amounts of phases, optional phases and the many actions in those phases?


In a step by step approach, you would build up like this:

1. Enumerate the pases
2. Detail each phase and enumerate the possible actions.
3. Detail eahc action.

Example
A game turn is split into three phases:
1. The economic phase: the player can buy/sell goods from others
2. The battle phase (optional): the player may attack another player
3. The grow phase: the player places some of his markers on empty spaces on the board

1. The economic phase
During the economic phase, a player may chose two from the following three actions:
a. Buy an item
b. Sell an item
c. Take 10 credit from the bank

a. Buy an item
The player must first agree on a buy price with another player...


I hope this helps. Alternatively, you can always ask for help here on BGG. I think many users will be willing to help you structure the rulebook.
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Joshua Love
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You know, I never really considered the idea of numbering... Makes me feel a bit silly. I will have to try rewriting it in a more numeral order form, see if that clears things up a bit. I also like you idea of having the (Optional) note as well.
If I continue to have a hard time with it, I'll have to take your other suggestion and see if I can get some help organizing the rules in the forums.

Thanks again for your help!
 
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Frank Griese
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The main thing to remember when writing rulebooks or user guides is:

"Explain it to the reader as if he was a 5 year old". That sometimes helps me keep things simple.
 
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Joshua Love
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That's actually of the opposite end of what I've been doing... Although maybe we're talking about something different, but I try not to ramble about components and the like in order to keep it short and to the point. Assuming everyone knows how to play the board games that I am designing for.. Likely a bad idea if you are right.
I've revised a couple things and re-ordered the basic System Vector rule book. It's not numbered, as it's the bare basics and would have been more work to number everything. Thinking about it in order of play helped quite a bit. It makes a bit more sense now...
 
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Frank Griese
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Quote:
Although maybe we're talking about something different, but I try not to ramble about components and the like in order to keep it short and to the point.


The only thing I would include (and I find it important, because you might want to check if you have all the components) is a simple list of the game components.

10 Action cards
40 Space tiles
20 Gold tokens

Etc.
 
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Rob Koch
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The only other thing I would note is the actual document format. I prefer PDF files since I do read these on non-computer (i.e. I don't have OpenOffice or MS Office available) device. While PDF is pretty much readable anywhere without conversion and losing of the formatting that the writer intended.

 
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