I Have A Board Game Idea – Now What? Part 27: 5 Tips for Better Rule Books

There is very little that I enjoy less than writing a rule book. This can be a problem as the quality of your rule book can make or break your game. We all can relate to how frustrating it can be to try and learn to play a game that has a poorly written rule book. This week I am going to look at 5 tips for writing better rule books.

Tip 1: Use consistent and hierarchical formatting

This is an excellent place to start when improving your rule books. It will help with the flow of your rule book, which will increase understanding. A change in formatting is also a visual clue that additional new information is coming. Having headings also makes it easier to skim the rule book when you are looking for that specific rule later. Have your broadest topics and the top and the more specific topics and the bottom.

Tip 2: White space, examples, and images are your friend

White space around your paragraphs and headings makes a huge difference in making your rule book more readable as well as less foreboding. Examples and images can really help solidify understanding, and are a great opportunity to highlight those special edge cases.

Tip 3: Use consistent, simple, and commonly used terminology

This can’t be emphasized enough. Once you call something a battle zone, make sure that is how you refer to it for the rest of the document. Leave your thesaurus on the shelf, as this isn’t the place for fancy synonyms. Also, you can greatly increase understanding by using commonly understood and used terminology like hand (collection of cards), turn (a single player taking their actions), and round (all players taking their actions).

Tip 4: Get lots of feedback

The best way to make sure your rule book is clear and understandable is to have lots of different people look at and provide feedback on your rule book. This isn’t just blind play testing, though that is important and can be helpful. You want people to read your rule book looking for errors, inconsistencies, and simplicity.

Tip 5: It’s ok to need help

Not everyone is a technical writer. In fact, the talents of a good technical writer and a creative person don’t overlap very often. It is a great idea to hire a great technical writer as well as a great graphic designer, as they will be able to make your rule book the best it can be. Just make sure they have played your game so they have a common point of reference and a feel for how the game should be played.

That is everything for this week. If you are interested in learning more, there is a ton of information available on the internet. I would recommend checking out Dustin Oakley’s Presentation at Crafter Con 2017 to start. What things do you like to see in rule books, or what things have you done to improve your rule books? Let me know in the comments. Until next time, happy designing.

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