It’s so damn important
This weekend I played one of the big Gen Con 2015 releases. Artwork – amazing, components – amazing, I couldn’t wait to play. I make tea, we have cookies, we play. After a couple of minutes the first question arises, we check the rulebook, we look for the answer.
We don’t find it.
I mean, we do find the right chapter, we find the right paragraph, we understand what the rule says, but it doesn’t explain the issue we have. And believe me, this is not some super rare situation. This is one of the basic actions, and yet the way it is explained explains nothing.
I am so frustrated. I am pissed off. If not for the fact we play with our kids, I would stop the game and put it back into the box. I don’t want to set a bad example to the kids, so I keep on playing, but man, I am really angry. I want to score high, I want to win but actually I doubt if we play correctly, I doubt if I score legitimately, I doubt if what we do has any sense.
I browse the rulebook over and over, but still nothing. Only pure frustration and huge disappointment. I can’t even explain it, I am just pissed off.
I’ve done a few very bad rulebooks in my life. I failed gamers many times. I disappointed them. I ruined their experiences. In the afternoons like the one yesterday I can see this crystal clear – a poor rulebook ruins the fun.
I might be testing games like crazy.
I might design great mechanisms.
I might choose the best theme, the best artwork and the best components.
If my rulebook sucks, if people can’t understand how to play my game, I will fail eventually. I won’t deliver what I’d promised. I won’t even have a chance to show them how cool the game is.
Be strong. Be focused. Be warned. A rulebook, this last lap is so fucking important. Don’t fail here.
My Country for A Good Rulebook! 🙄
I was just telling someone this weekend that I like the way that you guys did the “Witcher Adventure Game” rules, which doesn’t use a “rule book” per se. Instead there’s the short “How to play” booklet that goes over the rules generally, and a longer “list of FAQs on every single condition in the game” thing. It made it much easier to both get started, and find stuff as needed I thought.
I guess I’d have to agree since I spent a week rewriting the rules to Valley Games’ Republic of Rome (holy hell that was a frustrating game to get into).
First thing that happens on BGG? “you missed a spot”
Rule #1 of play testing: don’t teach testers the rules. Hand them the game and the instructions. Be on hand to answer questions that arise, but track those questions and use them to improve the rule book.
One of the reasons I started making rules summaries! 🙂
Possibly the worst example i know is the game “Attack”. The original edition is fun. They put out an expansion. Also fun. Expansion goes out of print, so several years later the Kockstart a “special edition” of the expansion with a new combined rulebook.
The new rulebook is an unplayable, tortuous hot mess. Utterly destroys a great game.
Needless to say I use the old rulebook with the nice new pieces 🙂
Honorable mention goes to Dark moon, which inexplicably uses the word “player” to refer to one team, but not the other. No confusion there, nosir.