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Subject: Boardgame rules; what is your limit? rss

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Stuart Wright
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Boardgame rules; what is your limit?
Good day again boardgamers,

I was perusing the my list boardgames recently and I noticed a trend, it seems that almost progressively, games got deeper and the rules are getting longer and more confusing with each new game. By most gamers standards the games that I play aren’t terribly deep but I come from a "family" or "mainstream" gaming background where the complete rules were often written on the inside of the box top or a double sided leaflet that was tossed into the box. Games like this can be learned in about 10 minutes and most players will have a firm grasp on the rules with about 20 minutes of play. I find with some of the games I have in my collection, I am still reading page 1 of 40 after 20 minutes and the game isn’t fully understood until the game is played about 3 times.

Now I understand that this is a graduated system and most people aren’t going to jump into ASl if all that they play is candyland, life and Sorry. As we progress in our gaming endeavors we look for games that are deeper in theme or strategy that offer more replayability, with this, most times comes at a higher financial expense, more bits and longer more involved rule sets.

Now, in the past I have read posts about gamers limiting their game collection to games under a predetermined dollar value or shying away from a game due to the "fiddlyness" of all of the bits, now after all of that rambling, here is the question, if the price is right and you aren’t swayed by the amount of bits (or lack of) would you let the complexity of the rules deter you , do you have some sort of limit on what you consider an acceptable amount of rules? For example, I have always wanted to get into Warhammer, I understand that it is expensive and fiddly, that’s not what is stopping me, the fact that the rules are so intense and lengthy makes me pass on this game

Your thoughts...
 
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Richard Milner
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I have played many very complex games such as Squad Leader, or Empire (Napoleonic miniatures rules). However such complex games can only be enjoyed with people who have the time to spend learning the rules. This makes it better to play simpler games.

Warhammer (40K) which I do play, is an exception. The core rules aren't complicated so much as badly thought out and written, which makes them more difficult to understand than needs be.

The real PITA with 40K is the codexes. Each one introduces another set of rules particular to the faction described, so if you want to know the entire game's rules you have to learn all the codexes -- there are about 15 of them in play at the moment.

Of course most players, like me, don't bother. They just learn their own army's rules, and probably the rules of the two or three most popular enemy armies. And refer to the books a lot during play.

For whatever reason, though, enough people play 40K that you can move and join an new club and be pretty likely to find people who already play it. There are Ancients rulesets (DBA, FoG) which are similarly widespread. Flames of War must be about that level, too.

It is the combination of complexity and expense that puts me off some of the bigger, longer board games like Twilight Imperium or Runewars. I would love to get stuck into an all day session of a big game like that, but I suspect I would never manage to find enough players, and we all learn the rules, to manage a proper game. So why spend 75GBP on one game I will never play when I can buy two or three simpler games I will play a lot.
 
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Lacombe
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If I'm pretty damn sure I'm going to love the game, the length of the rules if of no concern whatsoever.

If it's not the type of game I like to begin with, I'm unlikely to want to struggle through a huge rulebook just to try it so I can prove myself right [or wrong].
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Lengthwise I don't really have a limit, yet all this text has to contribute something.

Let me play out an example:
I play some simple to medium wargames, which have quite lengthy rulebooks. Yet these are layed out in a dry but systematic manner, which I can read on the couch a couple of times, then test play the rules with map and counters to finalize the rules in my head and I'm off the play the game.
An occasional error will most likely accure in the first games, but nothing major..

Now there are some very distilled rulebooks out there (mostly with Euro's) that although it looks "nicer" and is defenitely shorter, they are horribly written and tend to drive me away from a game, rather then attrackting me.

A good example is Reef Encounter. Not a terrible difficult game (ruleswise), but with a rulebook like that I'm having a hard time to enjoy the game.

This of course applies much less when you a tought the game by someone else.

So, what's my limit? It all depends I guess, yet the game should be smooth enough that you can play it, without constanst second guessing if you apply the rules right.

Cheers, Haring
 
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Scott Arnone
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Honestly, for me, if the theme is good, then I'm usually all for lots of rules that allow for lots of options. If the theme is lacking/non-existent, then I have no interest in reading a novel to learn to play.
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Michael Barlow
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Prop the rules up next to your monitor, open up a word processor and take notes on the rules. Type out a short version, annotated to the section headings or numerical divisions. Most of the rules make sense. Some of the sections don't. See if by going through the entire thing, condensing the salient points to one or two lines helps you understand the bits that, perhaps through transcription or editing, make no sense to you.

If there's still bits that don't make sense to you, ask. BGG is GREAT for that.

I've just read a ruleset (for a wargame) where the use of the word "game" where they, I think, meant to put "day" (as the game is divided into days, divided into turns), gave me endless difficulty until I recognized that, based on the context of the turn summary, the words must have been mistakenly swapped.
 
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Thomas Lang
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Actually the one and only thing that deters me from buying certain games is, that at them moment I do not know where to take the time for games that take more than roughly two hours. I would love to get into games with "terribly complicated" rules (hello Magic Realm) but it's propably going to take a while until I dare purchase that one.

Can't find a decent amount of other nerds to play it with, either...

Rules? I ain't scared of no rules!
 
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Twisted Archer
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My limit is my memory. If I can't memorize every rule in the rulebook, and therefore have the capability to play the game without it, I don't want the game.
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Charles Bame
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When I got into games, 35+ years ago, I really enjoyed reading the complex rules; I think most of the enjoyment I got from games was from reading and figuring out the rules. (Weird, huh?).

I've changed over the years and now I prefer simple rules and easy play. The game has become much more important to me that the rules.

Anyone else experience this?
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Derry Salewski
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No. I would play any game I liked regardless of how long it took to learn the rules.
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Isaac LaRue
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Complex rules don't bother me, but if I can't explain the game in under 15 minutes, my wife will stop listening. Of course when something comes up later in the game she will say "You never told me that." My response is almost always "yes I did you just weren't paying attention anymore." Needless to say that doesn't go over too well with her. As such I have to limit the complexity of games to keep peace in the house.
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Pokey 64
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For me it comes down to clarity. A good game has tight rules that are explained clearly. If explaining the rules to make them crystal clear (using diagrams, pic,s, examples) ends in a rule booklet of several pages that's OK by me.

My limit is rules that seem to have an exception to every rule. Also, rules that appear in different places in the rulebook rather than being grouped together (this usually happens because of all the cases for exceptions) and long errata sheets (this is the sign of a disaster).

I also dislike when a great game, with great rules goes into expansions and then they decide to add to or change the rules. If it ain't broke, don't fix it! Expansions and additions to a game should use exactly the same rules as the core game. It never fails. You get a great game and it sells in droves, then come the expansions and it gets so overbloated and changes so much the expansions end up sitting on the shelf (I don't buy expansions to games anymore just because of this).
 
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The Tak
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I look at it as building blocks.

Take Twilight Imperium for example. Most seasoned gamers have seen every mechanic in TI before. Role selection, area activation, variable player powers, limited actions per turn (by way of the command chits in TI), simultaneous conflict based on better to-hit odds (rather than rock/paper/scissors type combat), player trading, political negotiating, etc.

That said, if you took someone 'off the street' and threw them at a TI rulebook, they'd probably be completely lost. Not that they couldn't figure it out given time, but it would be so foreign and frustrating that they wouldn't enjoy the process.

I think the same applies to any length of rulebook. If that's what you're used to size and content wise, in part or in whole, then it's nothing to incrementally increase that size. Different folks have different personal tolerances of course but that doesn't mean it's 'too much' for them to handle.

You wouldn't ask someone who just got proficient whittling sticks to build your new shelving, or someone who's just figuring out how an engine works to repair your car. The same goes for gaming. Baby steps, baby, baby steps!

I'm fine with it right up to the point that I spend more time reading the book than playing by the third play. If the book is too long or two poorly organized that after three plays things don't start to fall into place, I'm moving on. Exceptions made for rules that are explicitly designed around such (example: Squad Leader's programmed instructions, or B@HotH's survivor/traitor roles, but that may not be a rulebook in your definition)
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Mac Mcleod
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thumper7458 wrote:
Boardgame rules; what is your limit?
Good day again boardgamers,

I was perusing the my list boardgames recently and I noticed a trend, it seems that almost progressively, games got deeper and the rules are getting longer and more confusing with each new game. By most gamers standards the games that I play aren’t terribly deep but I come from a "family" or "mainstream" gaming background where the complete rules were often written on the inside of the box top or a double sided leaflet that was tossed into the box. Games like this can be learned in about 10 minutes and most players will have a firm grasp on the rules with about 20 minutes of play. I find with some of the games I have in my collection, I am still reading page 1 of 40 after 20 minutes and the game isn’t fully understood until the game is played about 3 times.

Now I understand that this is a graduated system and most people aren’t going to jump into ASl if all that they play is candyland, life and Sorry. As we progress in our gaming endeavors we look for games that are deeper in theme or strategy that offer more replayability, with this, most times comes at a higher financial expense, more bits and longer more involved rule sets.

Now, in the past I have read posts about gamers limiting their game collection to games under a predetermined dollar value or shying away from a game due to the "fiddlyness" of all of the bits, now after all of that rambling, here is the question, if the price is right and you aren’t swayed by the amount of bits (or lack of) would you let the complexity of the rules deter you , do you have some sort of limit on what you consider an acceptable amount of rules? For example, I have always wanted to get into Warhammer, I understand that it is expensive and fiddly, that’s not what is stopping me, the fact that the rules are so intense and lengthy makes me pass on this game

Your thoughts...


16 pages broken down as
1 page flavor/50,000 foot summary with victory objectives

1 page overview of the major elements of the game

The next 13 pages are 50%-60% rules, 30% examples, 10%-20% illustrations.
The last page has any optional rules.

If the rules are longer than that, it's usually a million exceptions so it is better to have base rules then specialized exception rules for each side.

If the rules are longer than that, they are usually over illustrated (which is usually fine and counts as a shorter rule book in my view) or the rules are poorly written.

Some really long rules have been boiled down by player aids to under 50% or even a single page. I think every game should include a single page game aid. I come to BGG and print those for every player-- it reduces game time, improves game rules fidelity (since everyone has at least a summary level view of the rules instead of having one person with the rules), and makes the game more fun (since play focuses on gameplay instead of rulesplay.)
 
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Ryan Sturm
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Have you tried the How to Play Podcast?
 
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