In episode 8 of the podcast On Board Games, presenters Erik and Donald discuss the poorly designed rule books they have come across in some board games. I've been lucky in this area. Up until now, most of the games I've played have come from major American companies like Hasbro and Milton-Bradley. These companies target their games at families, so the rules are clear enough for Mom, Dad, Grandma, and all the kids to understand. When you leave the shallow end of the board game pool, however, the water becomes a bit more rough.
I may not have a lot of experience with boxed games, but I have been experimenting a lot with free game rules that I find online. There are many sites dedicated to free gaming; they provide the rules and you provide the bits (cards, markers, board). Some of the games are simple to understand, while others made me give up in frustration. My tendency is to believe that I am too dense to understand the game. After all, the rules were printed (or posted online) so someone must have proofread and edited them, right? It must be my fault that I don't understand them.
The beauty of online communities is that people can discuss their experiences. I'm glad that podcasts like On Board Games and resources like Board Game Geek are around to remind me that designers aren't perfect. Confusing rule books do make it into print. There are typos, poor layouts, and other errors that can make game rules learning a new game difficult. If you are like me and jumping into the board game hobby without the guidance of a local game group, keep that in mind.