08 August 2007

Game Rules: They aren't always perfect

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.

1 comment:

Nathaniel Todd said...

Hey Dani,

Nice start to your blog!

One point I would make about rules for designer games is that even if they are well written, it is very difficult to make much sense of the game without having the bits in front of you to see how pieces interact and how the sequence of the game plays out. For instance, I think the Puerto Rico rules are pretty well written, but they sure seemed like jibberish to me until we started playing (without knowing much of what was going on!) Often times designer games need to define many bits, how they interact, player choices, and new mechanics. All of that is pretty difficult to organize in a way that makes sense just after reading the rook book. Simpler games like Uno or Blink are much easier to explain and thus pose less of a challenge when it comes to rule book design.

You mention in a post (it may have been a different one) that you don't have access to a veteran gamer to help explain new games to your friends, and I agree that with most designer games that would be a big help. Given a few curious friends and a couple hours, however, I love to just open up a new game and figure it out. I suppose that certainly is the 'hard' way to do it, and it does take the right type of people (not bored easily), but I think it is a fun way to learn a new game.
Anyway, sorry for being so long winded, but you got me thinking (thanks!) and I look forward to reading more of your thoughts. Keep up the good work!