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Tips for writing the rules of the game

Game rules are very important!

Writing good rules is extremely difficult, but also very important. People cannot play your game if they don't understand the rules of the game. This applies to every game on the shelves, but also in the testing phase of a game the rules of the game must be clear and complete. It's hard to find playtesters. Make sure they too can understand the game as easily as possible. Nobody wants to play a game with a bad manual!

To make it clear for you, you can search directly below between the different tips. You can easily read the tips individually, or immediately read everything that works for you.

Go directly to:
Start early
Write accessible
Write consistently
Use images
Have your rules checked
Take your readers into account
Design
How did this go with us?

Start early

It is advisable to start writing your first rules before your first prototype is finished. This helps you to think about the rules of the game and what aspects to consider. Of course that is not a final version of your game rules, because just like the game itself, the rules will keep changing during the development phase of the game. However, take your rules of the game at least as seriously as the game itself. This will improve your writing skills and help you develop your game better.

Write accessible

Of course your game rules should be as complete and correct as possible, but also make them accessible. Nobody wants to read a technical summary of the rules. Besides the fact that this is very boring, the rules do not stick properly. Address the reader with phrases such as “On your turn…” or “To win you must…” instead of “On a player's turn…” and “The game is won if…”. It can be nice to have the atmosphere of your game reflected in the game rules, so that you are immediately in that world while reading. However, you have to be careful with this. The most important of the rules are clarity and readability. In Mice & Mystics the rules refer to 'the mice' instead of to the players, but the rules are not circumvented.

Write consistently

Life points, hearts, HP, life, all terms that can indicate the same thing. Be consistent in your game rules with the use of words. Recently we played “Blackstone fortress”, a Warhammer 40K campaign game in which you have a restoration phase where you can play a recovery role with your vitality die. This was very confusing for us, even though it meant different things. If you also mix up terms for the same things, it becomes very unclear. Use one and the same terminology and implement it in both the game rules and the game elements!

In addition, the legibility of the lines is much better if you are consistent in the use of punctuation, capital letters and text styling (bold / italic). If you want to emphasize terminology in your game rules when they first come along, do this for each term and in the same way each time. However, try to minimize the use of text styling and unnecessary capitalization as this usually has a negative impact on readability.

Use images

Voorbeeld van spelregels met illustratie
Carcassonne

Accompany your text with images. A picture is worth a thousand words, so make good use of it. Use illustrations of the actual game components so that the reader can easily connect to the game. Also make sure that it is clear to which text the illustrations refer.

Have your rules checked

One of the most important methods to arrive at good and clear rules of the game is to have them checked by others. You can often find people online who are willing to read your rules if you read theirs too. In addition to being a fair barter, it also teaches you a lot that will make you a better writer. Your blind playtesters are also completely dependent on your game rules and will therefore want to go through them in detail.

A number of example questions that are relevant to ask:

  • How long did it take to read the Rules until you felt like you could play the game using the Rules for reference only?
  • How was the summary? At what point did you have a basic idea of what kind of game it was?
  • How was the layout? Was it clear to which pieces of text the illustrations belonged?
  • Did you often have to scroll back to previous sections of the manual?
  • Were you confused by the rules of the game at any time? If so, where?

It also helps to read your rules backwards. With this technique you can remove spelling mistakes and typos from your story.

Take your readers into account

For any writer, whatever it is about, it is important to step into your reader's shoes. Who will read your text and what is the purpose? For your game rules you can usually assume that you have three different types of readers.

  • The inexperienced playr who want to learn to play your game for the first time.
    Make sure this reader quickly understands what the game is about. Make sure that the story is clearly structured and, where possible, separate the details from the core.
  • The average experienced player who is already used to playing the game, but checks the rules of the game for reference. (how many cards do you start with, where are the guards standing, what actions are needed when you move to the next phase, etc.)
    For this reader it is important that these types of rules can be found quickly and clearly. Make separate columns or images for this and use lists.
  • The experienced player who want to use the rules of the game for looking up certain edge cases.
    The only interest to this reader is that the text is complete and complete. Each edge case must be able to be analyzed using the rules of the game. Even if you never ran into something during playtesting, when thousands of people start playing your game, someone will eventually run into that edge case.

Your text should serve each of these audiences.

Design

Of course, if you can, you should give the rules of the game an attractive design. Most games have a rulebook in the same atmosphere as the game itself. However, it is not always necessary to make, for example, a front page with the title of your game. You do not have to promote your game again via the game rules. If you use all the space for the rules of the game, you avoid the need for extra paper and you can minimize the production costs and weight of your game.

Also remember that for the rules of the game you have to use a font that is no smaller than 10 to keep the text legible for everyone. Also make sure that the text itself has a calm background.

How did this go with us?

Via the internet you can easily come into contact with great people who can and want to help you with everything. Fortunately, we also received a lot of help for writing our rules of the game. After a number of people had checked our first versions almost everything has been rewritten and it is now at a point where they are close to 'complete, correct and readable'. View the rules of the “Tomb of RashaAt the time of writing this article. That means completely bare layout. You can read the current game rules here find.

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