Game rules

Writing rules for a game is always a difficult proposition. There is a line to be walked between writing too much, and not enough. If you write too much, then you will lose the attention of your reader, too little and they will not be able to understand the rules you are trying to convey.

Including examples with a set of rules is, I feel, very important. An illustrative example can really aid in the understanding of the rules. A diagram can be even more helpful, pictures really can be worth a thousand words. As in all things though, they must be considered in moderation. Too many diagrams and examples can distract from the main purpose of the rules, and this is obviously undesirable.

I think that the main effort of a rules document should be focused on the specific or unusual areas of your game. If your game is a variant of a well known game, then don't reproduce the rules of the base game, but do be sure that you cover the exceptions or differences sufficiently. Make sure as well, that you provide extra illustration of any exceptions to the general run of play. If it usually costs you one Gold coin to purchase a resource, but it takes two in Winter, then this seems to be a part of the game which would be ripe for an example.

The length of a rules document is also important. Don't expect the general public to read more than a page or two of rules (possible up to 4 sides of A4 if sufficiently illustrated). A rules booklet that runs to up to around 20 pages is possible if your game is for more dedicated gamers, and any rules longer than this will only hold the attention of truly serious gamers. Each extra page of rules will tend to limit your possible market, as the number of people willing (and able!) to read and understand your rules will get smaller. Always consider removing unnecessary rules, and look to rewrite rules to be simpler and shorter to explain. I would very much advise against producing rule documents without extensive testing, it's as important to play-test the rule documents as the game itself, because it's very rare the game players will have the benefit of the game creator on hand to walk them through the difficult or poorly explained concepts of a badly written rules document .


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