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Robert Burke
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I can't believe how much help I have gotten here at BGG! I met a couple great graphic designers who are now helping me with graphics work!

I was hoping some of you might be willing to give me your feedback on the rules for my game Cartoona.

It's a tile laying game that has three different variants. One for children age 3 to 5, one for kids age 5 to 12, and standard game for ages 8 to adult.



The game uses tiles only on the versions for younger kids, and incorporates cards and more strategy for the standard version.

Below are the rules, any suggestions you can make, or errors you can find would be very much welcome and appreciated. Please forgive the formatting.

Also, I am really wanting to know if I should include photos that show gameplay in the rulebook. What's the conventional wisdom on that?

Cartoona is a game of strategy, chance and whimsy featuring the pop art of Robert Burke. The goal is to score the most points by building colorful creatures. This is accomplished by placing tiles of different creature parts together. The game box includes 94 creature part tiles, 70 game cards and this rules booklet.

Rules

Cartoona Toddler’s Game (Age 3 to 5)

The tiles can be used without the cards to put together thousands of different creature combinations like a puzzle, but with multiple options for each piece. Toddlers can do it alone, or learn to cooperate by doing it with others. It’s an exciting way for young children to be creative and begin elementary addition. Parents can help their children build problem solving skills by providing tasks. i.e.: “Build a creature with three eyes”, “Build a creature with wings”, “Build an all yellow creature”, etc.

Cartoona Children’s Game (Age 5 to 12)

Children aged 5 to 8 can play this simple variation of the game without using the cards. It teaches problem solving, basic math, and cooperation (in team games), as well as inspiring creativity. In this game variant, each child works to build their own creatures with the goal of scoring more points than their opponents by the end of the game. Each child can place tiles only on their own creatures, and can build only one creature at a time.

Each child draws 5 tiles to start
Every turn each player draws two tiles, plays one tile (only one, and only if they can) and discards one tile
Any tile can be played first, after that, new tiles must connect to what the player has already placed
When a player completes a creature a new one can be started
Stack and keep completed creatures to count at the end of the game
Each child scores the sum of all tiles for creatures they complete
Incomplete creatures receive no points
The game ends when the last tile is drawn and the player who draws it finishes their turn
Creatures completed of one color get double the points
If a player plays 2 single tile creatures they are awarded the face value of the tiles +3 bonus points, if a player plays all three single tile creatures they are awarded the face value of the tiles +5 more bonus points for a total of 17 points (face value of all three tiles, plus the bonus points, 4+3+2+3+5 = 17)
The player with the most points at the end of the game wins
For team games, each player draws one tile on their turn, but does not discard
Each player creates their own creature, but can play tiles on their own, or their partner’s creatures

Cartoona Full Game (Age 8 to 103)

The game begins by shuffling the tiles and placing them on the table, face down, in stacks. After the tiles are set, shuffle the cards and place them face down on the table in a pile

The youngest person in the group will play first, or, the losing player/team if this is not the first game. Play then rotates clockwise. If playing a team game, players should alternate by team. For example, if three teams (teams A,B,C) of two people each (player 1 and 2) are playing, they should sit as follows, A1, B1, C1, A2, B2, C2

Singles games - The game can be played by 2 to 6 people all competing against each other. Each player should draw 5 tiles and 2 cards to start, being sure not to reveal them to other players. On their turn, each player should draw 1 tile and 1 card

Team Games - The game can be played in teams of 2 or 3 people each with each player building on the play of their teammates. Each player should draw 5 tiles and 2 cards to start, being sure not to reveal them to other players. On their turn, each player should draw 1 tile and 1 card

Gameplay

Each player draws 5 tiles and 2 cards to start
On your turn, draw 1 tile and 1 card
Place a tile on the board (if you can)
If you are starting a new creature, play any tile you wish
If it is not the first tile being placed, it must line up with a previously placed tile owned by you, or your team
Black lines must line up when the tile edges are in line - Leg tiles are marked with a “F” for “front legs” and an “B” for “back legs” to help you identify them when in your hand - Bipedal creatures use front legs
You can line up any color against any other color, but finishing a creature in one color earns bonus points
In team games, you can play a tile on any creatures being built by any of your teammates
3. Play one card (if you choose)

Once a tile and/or a card is played it cannot be picked up, moved, or reused, unless another card is played that specifically instructs the action

Play then rotates this way clockwise around the table

Gameplay continues until one player/team reaches 67 points.

After all tiles are drawn, all tiles in the graveyard should be reshuffled and re-stacked to draw from.

The card discard pile should be reshuffled and put back in play after the last card is drawn


Goal

The goal of Cartoona is to build creatures that are worth the most points - the first player/team to reach 67 points wins

Rules Summary

New creatures may begin with any body part tile
Every new tile played must be placed next to an existing tile, the tile’s edges and the black lines must line up with those of the tile it is being placed next to
Each player can only build one creature at a time in team games, or two creatures at a time in singles games
Each creature you begin should be played directly in front of you on the table so that all players can see who has a creature under construction
Once you finish a creature, score, stack and place the tiles in the graveyard -- you may begin a new creature on your next turn
Each completed creature earns the sum of points shown on tiles used to build it
You can stack a creature as soon as you finish it, or you can keep it in play in hopes of playing more cards on it - you can only stack your creature on your turn, but it is a free action in addition to drawing, playing a tile and playing a card - you cannot stack your teammates creatures, and beware, your opponents can take negative action against finished creatures that remain in play
Cards cannot be played on stacked creatures
Completed creatures of the same color give 2X the sum of the shown point values (Double the points!) (This multiplier only applies to the tile values, not cards played on the creature)
Point cards add, or subtract the point values shown on the card
Incomplete creatures receive ZERO points
When a Swap card is played that allows the player to swap for a tile in play, it must be a tile of the same type - i.e.: The tile must be able to REPLACE the tile you are swapping with (ear for an ear, tail for a tail, etc). On the occasion that a replacement tile disconnects other body parts, the disconnected tile(s) should be placed in the graveyard.
When a Steal card is played which results in tile(s) being disconnected from other body parts, the remaining tiles stay in play
When a player is blocked from using a card by another card - both players must discard the cards played
Instant and Special cards can be played anytime they are needed, even if it is not your turn
Single tile creatures should not be placed in the graveyard - Any team, or player who plays 2 single tile creatures receives an instant +3 bonus - Any team, or player who plays all 3 single tile creatures receives an additional instant +5 bonus - Single tile creatures are not stacked, points are instant and cannot be stolen, or swapped - These tiles are indicated by a plus sign “+” next to the point value
Cards must be played only during your turn unless they are labelled “instant”, or “special”, in which can be played anytime they are valuable
When playing the “Cheat” card you have succeeded once you discard the cheat card without anyone saying anything - dirty looks do not count as being caught - you can use the “Cheat” card at anytime, but must discard once caught, or used successfully (be an honest cheater!) - If caught cheating without the Cheat card you must immediately subtract 25 points (even if it brings you to a negative score) and give all the tiles in your hand to the opposing team(s)
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Chuck Meeks
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I would say that if at all possible include photos and examples of play. ALWAYS! Especially if it is a game geared towards children. It also makes the rule book more interesting to read and may help clarify something that you, the writer, may think is easy to follow but confuses the reader.

I wouldn't call the discard area for completed animals a "graveyard." The young kids might ask about why their creations are dead. What about shipping them off to the zoo or park?
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Kevin Oedekoven
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Just a quick question: Why 67 points?
That seems like an odd number to have as a goal.

Yeah, I know. Not really "rules helpful", but it struck me as an oddity.
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Robert Burke
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Komodo wrote:
I would say that if at all possible include photos and examples of play. ALWAYS! Especially if it is a game geared towards children. It also makes the rule book more interesting to read and may help clarify something that you, the writer, may think is easy to follow but confuses the reader.

I wouldn't call the discard area for completed animals a "graveyard." The young kids might ask about why their creations are dead. What about shipping them off to the zoo or park?


Thanks,I will work on photos for the instructions then. Makes sense to err on the side of clarity. The game not geared toward children, but can be played by children. I could just call it a discard pile, but did not want to confuse it with the card discard pile. Not crazy about calling it a zoo. Do you think I could just say "card discard pile" and "tile discard pile"? Do you really think the word "graveyard" would turn people off?
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Robert Burke
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kevinodie wrote:
Just a quick question: Why 67 points?
That seems like an odd number to have as a goal.

Yeah, I know. Not really "rules helpful", but it struck me as an oddity.


Well, originally we had 100 points to win, but after a bunch of playtesting it was a bit too long. Then, I tried to cut it to 42, because after all, that is the answer to life, the universe and everything. But 42 was too short a game.

I settled on 67 for a few reasons. 1. Good number for game length. 2. It's odd and random, just as the creatures are. 3. The devil is 6 and God is 7.
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Kevin Oedekoven
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Tinyelvis wrote:
kevinodie wrote:
Just a quick question: Why 67 points?
That seems like an odd number to have as a goal.

Yeah, I know. Not really "rules helpful", but it struck me as an oddity.


Well, originally we had 100 points to win, but after a bunch of playtesting it was a bit too long. Then, I tried to cut it to 42, because after all, that is the answer to life, the universe and everything. But 42 was too short a game.

I settled on 67 for a few reasons. 1. Good number for game length. 2. It's odd and random, just as the creatures are. 3. The devil is 6 and God is 7.


Fair enough.

And since I derailed the thread a touch, let me try to get it back on topic.

My initial advice would be to look over your rules and choose to speak in the third person (referring to a player actions as, "Player can/may...") or referring in the second person ("On your turn you can/may...")

I also agree with using images where you can to make the rules more clear - remember that a picture is worth a thousand words, and when used as a supporting element to text, that number rises considerably.
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kevinodie wrote:
Tinyelvis wrote:
kevinodie wrote:
Just a quick question: Why 67 points?
That seems like an odd number to have as a goal.

Yeah, I know. Not really "rules helpful", but it struck me as an oddity.


Well, originally we had 100 points to win, but after a bunch of playtesting it was a bit too long. Then, I tried to cut it to 42, because after all, that is the answer to life, the universe and everything. But 42 was too short a game.

I settled on 67 for a few reasons. 1. Good number for game length. 2. It's odd and random, just as the creatures are. 3. The devil is 6 and God is 7.


Fair enough.

And since I derailed the thread a touch, let me try to get it back on topic.

My initial advice would be to look over your rules and choose to speak in the third person (referring to a player actions as, "Player can/may...") or referring in the second person ("On your turn you can/may...")

I also agree with using images where you can to make the rules more clear - remember that a picture is worth a thousand words, and when used as a supporting element to text, that number rises considerably.


Thanks so much for your help Kevin, I really appreciate it.
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Tinyelvis wrote:
Komodo wrote:
I would say that if at all possible include photos and examples of play. ALWAYS! Especially if it is a game geared towards children. It also makes the rule book more interesting to read and may help clarify something that you, the writer, may think is easy to follow but confuses the reader.

I wouldn't call the discard area for completed animals a "graveyard." The young kids might ask about why their creations are dead. What about shipping them off to the zoo or park?


Thanks,I will work on photos for the instructions then. Makes sense to err on the side of clarity. The game not geared toward children, but can be played by children. I could just call it a discard pile, but did not want to confuse it with the card discard pile. Not crazy about calling it a zoo. Do you think I could just say "card discard pile" and "tile discard pile"? Do you really think the word "graveyard" would turn people off?


I was not just thinking about the children in regards to the Graveyard thing but it just seems to really be out of place with the theme of the game. It makes me think that you are doing animal experimentation and when you finish creating them it's off to the graveyard with you. Maybe you could say "release them into the wild" or something like that. But you could just use card discard and tile discard pile too. It really was just an observation about my first impression. Graveyard just had an odd sound to it theme-wise.
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Robert Burke
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Komodo wrote:
Tinyelvis wrote:
Komodo wrote:
I would say that if at all possible include photos and examples of play. ALWAYS! Especially if it is a game geared towards children. It also makes the rule book more interesting to read and may help clarify something that you, the writer, may think is easy to follow but confuses the reader.

I wouldn't call the discard area for completed animals a "graveyard." The young kids might ask about why their creations are dead. What about shipping them off to the zoo or park?


Thanks,I will work on photos for the instructions then. Makes sense to err on the side of clarity. The game not geared toward children, but can be played by children. I could just call it a discard pile, but did not want to confuse it with the card discard pile. Not crazy about calling it a zoo. Do you think I could just say "card discard pile" and "tile discard pile"? Do you really think the word "graveyard" would turn people off?


I was not just thinking about the children in regards to the Graveyard thing but it just seems to really be out of place with the theme of the game. It makes me think that you are doing animal experimentation and when you finish creating them it's off to the graveyard with you. Maybe you could say "release them into the wild" or something like that. But you could just use card discard and tile discard pile too. It really was just an observation about my first impression. Graveyard just had an odd sound to it theme-wise.


I think I will change it to just be "tile discard pile".

Thanks for the suggestion!
 
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I have updated the rules with some suggestions and expanded them a bit.

I think I'm close... comments appreciated.

I put the updates in a Google Doc
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1QCvGsamar7HtGnnnxLmgbwrL...

 
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First off, repetition of tile laying rules in each of the three sections (toddlers, kids, adults) with varied level of detail feels odd. Are there any differences in the placement rules among the versions (not talking about when, how many, how to score, just 'what position/orientation is a valid placement')? If not, it would be good to move them into a special section (e.g. 'Tile Placement Rules') at the beginning or the end of the document, and just reference that section from the other sections. You have such a section at the beginning, but it appears like an overview, not like 'THE LAW'. There are some rules which seem to be there between the lines:
- don't line up body interiors with green background
- all tiles have an intrinsic orientation and must face in the same direction (actually not sure about that)
- you may build several creatures at a time, as long as they are connected by green background, ...).

Be very verbose, and also give examples of what's not allowed (yeah, us German speaking folks, we like it when things are VERBOTEN!). Have a look at rules of other tile laying games (Carcassonne, Mondriaan 2020, ...).

Are point values marked as 'countable items', (like: 1, 2, 3, ...) or as numerals (1, 2, 3, ...)? If the latter, review the toddler game and the age limits for the intermediate game, bearing literacy in mind (yeah, your 5 year old can count up to 67, (s)he's got a gamer dad. The average 5 year old can't tell a 1 from a 7).

Are single-tile creatures multi-colored? Otherwise, exclude them explicitely from the 'single-colored creatures score double' rule. Or rethink them completely. I feel the scoring rules for single-tile creatures are too long, especially when I have no control over how many of them I'll draw (in the adult version). Maybe the cards have some nice effects making them an important part of the game, but from the rules alone they appear like 'too much chrome'.

Goal and Summary sections are out of place. The Summary is too wordy for being a summary, and brings up some new issues not mentioned earlier. Also it is a sub-section of the advanced game, which is not quite clear from the formatting. Try to incorporate all that is said in the Summary into the detailed rules.

Maybe start from scratch and write the rules anew. This often helps to remove legacy wording. If you keep on editing the same old document, the same old phrases survive, although in an oral explanation you'd be much more poignant. For example, the third time I was told that each player starts by taking 5 tiles and 2 cards, it felt 'overdone'.

good luck

Edit: the recent passing away of 108 year old Jopie Heesters is no excuse for discriminating against seniors. Keep it Ages X and up, or put the upper limit at the far end of life expectation, e.g. 167.
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Puschl wrote:
First off, repetition of tile laying rules in each of the three sections (toddlers, kids, adults) with varied level of detail feels odd. Are there any differences in the placement rules among the versions (not talking about when, how many, how to score, just 'what position/orientation is a valid placement')? If not, it would be good to move them into a special section (e.g. 'Tile Placement Rules') at the beginning or the end of the document, and just reference that section from the other sections. You have such a section at the beginning, but it appears like an overview, not like 'THE LAW'. There are some rules which seem to be there between the lines:
- don't line up body interiors with green background
- all tiles have an intrinsic orientation and must face in the same direction (actually not sure about that)
- you may build several creatures at a time, as long as they are connected by green background, ...).

Be very verbose, and also give examples of what's not allowed (yeah, us German speaking folks, we like it when things are VERBOTEN!). Have a look at rules of other tile laying games (Carcassonne, Mondriaan 2020, ...).

Are point values marked as 'countable items', (like: 1, 2, 3, ...) or as numerals (1, 2, 3, ...)? If the latter, review the toddler game and the age limits for the intermediate game, bearing literacy in mind (yeah, your 5 year old can count up to 67, (s)he's got a gamer dad. The average 5 year old can't tell a 1 from a 7).

Are single-tile creatures multi-colored? Otherwise, exclude them explicitely from the 'single-colored creatures score double' rule. Or rethink them completely. I feel the scoring rules for single-tile creatures are too long, especially when I have no control over how many of them I'll draw (in the adult version). Maybe the cards have some nice effects making them an important part of the game, but from the rules alone they appear like 'too much chrome'.

Goal and Summary sections are out of place. The Summary is too wordy for being a summary, and brings up some new issues not mentioned earlier. Also it is a sub-section of the advanced game, which is not quite clear from the formatting. Try to incorporate all that is said in the Summary into the detailed rules.

Maybe start from scratch and write the rules anew. This often helps to remove legacy wording. If you keep on editing the same old document, the same old phrases survive, although in an oral explanation you'd be much more poignant. For example, the third time I was told that each player starts by taking 5 tiles and 2 cards, it felt 'overdone'.

good luck

Edit: the recent passing away of 108 year old Jopie Heesters is no excuse for discriminating against seniors. Keep it Ages X and up, or put the upper limit at the far end of life expectation, e.g. 167.
.

Thank you so much for the excellent critique. I remember the Carcossonne rules being excellent, I will start there and go through all your suggestions.
 
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Puschl wrote:
First off, repetition of tile laying rules in each of the three sections (toddlers, kids, adults) with varied level of detail feels odd. Are there any differences in the placement rules among the versions (not talking about when, how many, how to score, just 'what position/orientation is a valid placement')? If not, it would be good to move them into a special section (e.g. 'Tile Placement Rules') at the beginning or the end of the document, and just reference that section from the other sections. You have such a section at the beginning, but it appears like an overview, not like 'THE LAW'. There are some rules which seem to be there between the lines:
- don't line up body interiors with green background
- all tiles have an intrinsic orientation and must face in the same direction (actually not sure about that)
- you may build several creatures at a time, as long as they are connected by green background, ...).

Be very verbose, and also give examples of what's not allowed (yeah, us German speaking folks, we like it when things are VERBOTEN!). Have a look at rules of other tile laying games (Carcassonne, Mondriaan 2020, ...).

Are point values marked as 'countable items', (like: 1, 2, 3, ...) or as numerals (1, 2, 3, ...)? If the latter, review the toddler game and the age limits for the intermediate game, bearing literacy in mind (yeah, your 5 year old can count up to 67, (s)he's got a gamer dad. The average 5 year old can't tell a 1 from a 7).

Are single-tile creatures multi-colored? Otherwise, exclude them explicitely from the 'single-colored creatures score double' rule. Or rethink them completely. I feel the scoring rules for single-tile creatures are too long, especially when I have no control over how many of them I'll draw (in the adult version). Maybe the cards have some nice effects making them an important part of the game, but from the rules alone they appear like 'too much chrome'.

Goal and Summary sections are out of place. The Summary is too wordy for being a summary, and brings up some new issues not mentioned earlier. Also it is a sub-section of the advanced game, which is not quite clear from the formatting. Try to incorporate all that is said in the Summary into the detailed rules.

Maybe start from scratch and write the rules anew. This often helps to remove legacy wording. If you keep on editing the same old document, the same old phrases survive, although in an oral explanation you'd be much more poignant. For example, the third time I was told that each player starts by taking 5 tiles and 2 cards, it felt 'overdone'.

good luck

Edit: the recent passing away of 108 year old Jopie Heesters is no excuse for discriminating against seniors. Keep it Ages X and up, or put the upper limit at the far end of life expectation, e.g. 167.


On the single tile creatures. They are free points -- 100% luck of the draw. This was inspired somewhat by the red 3 rules of Canasta. I like having a whole creature on one tile, but now that I think of it, I always HATED that red three rule in Canasta. I am considering taking the single tile creatures out altogether because of your advice. What do you think about putting them in a Kickstarter only expansion with their own rules?
 
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We took the rules back to the drawing board. Much better now. Thanks for everyone's suggestions! I am having them professionally proofread/edited and then a graphic designer will make them beautiful, with images for each step where they can help the reader understand.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1OFbQROipsxNHZumx68ALNMk7...

Thanks again!

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