Epic Gumdrop Ep 7: Rules

game rules

Everyone likes reading rules, right?

On this episode of Epic Gumdrop talk about how well written rules can make a great game even better. Or how lousy rules just make us want to permanently close the box.

Listen above or subscribe via iTunes.

Here’s the main points we cover in the podcast. Well written rules consider the following:

AUDIENCE
Rules need to accommodate a variety of gamers and straddle between approachability and edge cases.

  • New gamers
  • Casual gamers
  • Experienced gamers
  • Frazzled parent gamers

LANGUAGE

  • Grade 9, not PhD
  • Concise sentences
  • Short, precise words (remove ambiguity)
  • Keep flavour text to a minimum and use it consistently

LAYOUT

  • Avoid building walls of text from margin to margin
  • Short paragraphs (helps users scan rules)
  • Topic headings, subheadings
  • Avoid distracting backgrounds

TEXT

  • Avoid 6 pt Gothic. Make it legible without aid of instruments

IMAGES

  • Nice, but be relevant. Use text boxes or arrows to point out specifics

TYPES

  • Write a short intro/high-level overview which introduces concept and simply states end conditions. Think elevator pitch
  • Simple games do well with a short, highly visual document
  • Complex games need separate Gameplay/Walk-through and Reference documents
  • For complex games an Index, Table of Contents are nice

GENERAL

  • Designers: don’t avoid writing rules until the last minute. Include this as an essential part of the design and game-testing process. This gives playtesters lots of opportunity to help you edit your rules and fix absurd typos
  • Proofread. No one writes well enough to avoid the boring task of proofreading. It seems obvious to state, but clearly lots of people don’t do it
  • Simple rules design may help during the translation process. Removing ambiguity in your English rules (an already ambiguous language) can only help translators
  • Poorly written rules means end users (us) will tape the game box shut, place it on a small raft in a large mud puddle and light it on fire as a sacrifice to the language gods
  • Worst case scenario is you have to publish errata on your website (please be diligent in doing this). And don’t beat yourself up – unless you are Fantasy Flight Games you probably didn’t have the budget to hire freelance Technical Editors or Proofreaders

Please let readers know below if there’s any rules writing tips we’ve missed, or if you simply want to point out glaring typos I didn’t catch.

Finally, go watch Mike Selinker’s excellent (and humorous) Ten Rules For Writing Rules:

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