Changing the Rules

You’ve spent weeks or months carefully writing and crafting your rules, creating components, printing and packaging, and you game has finally been released to the world.

You ran through the rules countless times yourself, correcting, editing and formatting them until they were perfect. You gave them to playtesters to read through and play the game from, and you gave them feedback, and updated the rules where necessary.

However, the game has been in the hands of the wider gaming public for a few months. They have some questions (some of which are frequently asked) about grey areas in the game rules that you just didn’t see. Worse than that, it turns out that some of the rules in the final printed version are just plain wrong.

What do you do?

Once a game has been released for a while, it tends to pick up a set of errata and frequently asked questions. These changes tend to cause confusion within the player base, simply because the updates are not evenly distributed to all people who have played or purchased the game.

If a player buys a game, then they have the rules, generally, they will play the game according to the rules as best they can, and make a decision one way or another about any of the grey areas in the rules. Henceforth, they will use this interpretation, and happily get on with the game. If the creators of the game release rule clarifications, then they won’t get to all players of the game. So, you’ll start playing a game, try and make a move, and someone will whip out a badly printed copy of the latest FAQ, that bans that move. Suddenly something you’ve been doing for months will be forbidden, and the manner of the change might not be perfectly handled, leading to resentment, and destroying the friendly atmosphere of the game.

This only happens if rules updates are released, so you could avoid this situation by not providing these updates. Some rules issues are so great thatthey need to be changed, to make the game play correctly. All the playtesting in the world can miss something vital that must be fixed to make the game work.

You need to consider a way of providing updates that will ensure they are assimilated by the gaming community as far as possible. I have a few thoughts, but I doubt there is a full solution

  • Keep the number of updates to a minimum, and release them rarely. This should allow them to spread through the gaming community without becoming confused with newer updates.
  • Foster a culture within your gaming community of ensuring that everyone is aware of which updates and rules will or won’t be used before they start playing.
  • Keep all of your updates in one place. Ideally, roll them into a single document, that is easily downloadable
  • If at all possible, provide a fully up-to-date rulebook for download, which highlights any changes from the original.
  • If you change or clarify something, do your best not to change it again, switching back and forth leads only to confusion.
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