Style Guide for Writing Board Game Rules
Examples taken from Splendor http://www.spacecowboys.fr/img/games/splendor/details/rules/Rules_Splendor_US.pdf
Clear: The goals and decisions players may make, using the game’s resources, are clear.
- Choose your words carefully. Use modifying words like “may, must, can” to state specifically whether something is required or optional. Be specific in regards to quantities.
- On their turn, a player must choose to perform only one of the following four actions.
Consistent: Use the same structure and terminology throughout the rules.
- Write in outline form, step by step.
- Use bullet points when the order of items doesn’t matter, and numbered lists when they do.
- Bullets help clarify where one idea starts and another ends, and which ones are subsets of others. Keep items of similar importance at the same level. Put lesser items at a lower level. Example:
- Write only one instruction per bullet.
- Format using visual elements, but use formatting tricks sparingly; sometimes less is more!
- Use larger font sizes to emphasize headings and subheadings.
- Use color, italicize, underlining, or bold to make important terms to stand out.
- Use white space and lists to organize the rules, so that related rules are close together on the page.
- Be mindful of how you use pronouns. Use “the player” when outlining general game play. Avoid using gender-specific pronouns as much as possible; if you do use them, alternate gender-specific names and pronouns in examples.
- A player can return all or some of those they’ve just drawn. (non-gender specific)
- A player may purchase one of the face-up development cards in the middle of the table or a card in his hand that was reserved on a previous turn. (male gender-specific)
- Thus, if a player has 2 blue bonuses and wants to purchase a card which costs 2 blue tokens and 1 green token, the player must only spend 1 green token. (no pronoun used)
- Use consistent, thematic terms for game elements. This helps players to integrate the rules and theme together so the game makes more sense. Capitalize specific game elements but leave generic descriptors lower case. Keep capitalization consistent.
- Instead of “1 green token,” Splendor’s rules above are improved if the phrase “1 green Gem token” is used.
Concise: Write bluntly and directly. Be specific.
- When writing rules you have to be a straightforward and clear.
- The reader must understand exactly what you are talking about without question.
- There is no room for interpretation in rules so word choice must be assertive as to remove all doubt.
- Use second person, imperative sentences when giving individual instructions. In second person, the subject is you (often unstated but understood.) Imperative sentences are commands.
- In Splendor, you take on the role of a rich merchant during the Renaissance. You will use your resources to acquire mines, transportation methods, and artisans who will allow you to turn raw gems into beautiful jewels.
- It’s typically easier to understand several short sentences than one long sentence.
- Shuffle each development card deck separately, and then place them in a column in the middle of the table in increasing order from bottom to top.
- Don’t touch the gold.
- Remove unnecessary words as much as possible.
- Use clearly-labelled diagrams to depict common game situations that are difficult to explain with words alone.
Complete: The written ruleset contains all of the game’s rules.
- For your first draft, write like a robot (logical, step-by-step, leave nothing out). Then, edit it so that it is easier to read.
- Record yourself teaching your game to someone, then use that recording to start your first rules draft (then your rules will be written in the order that you teach it!)
- If you can put definitions of keywords in the margins, that can help people read through your rules fluidly.
- An appendix at the back of the rulebook for keywords is an excellent reference.
Google Slides Presentation on Writing Board Game Rules Blank Rules Template www.kathleenmercury.com