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How to Write Clear Rules (and game design documents)

Course Summary

Poorly written published rules can ruin a tabletop game. Rules/design documents may be the hardest part of game design.

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    Course Syllabus

    • Introduction
      • What you'll discover
      • Introducing the Teacher
      • How this class works
      • Anonymous (if you choose) Voluntary Entry Survey
    • What's the purpose of written game rules?
      • The Tabletop Ideal would be . . .
      • The Video Game Ideal would be . . .
      • What are the objectives, what are you really trying to accomplish?
      • Game Design Documents - and Alternatives
      • Satisficing - the "enemy" you're faced with
      • Writing: Put yourself in the reader's place (and try some "odd" readers!)
      • Call a Spade a Spade - write plain English
      • The "best" way varies with the audience!
      • An exercise - write rules for a well-known classic game
      • The differences between mechanics, rules, and descriptions -and game design docs
      • Game design documents - and problems
      • Game Concepts, Treatments, and other Marketing Documents
      • Sea Kings first full set of rules 1377 words
      • Sea Kings fifth set of rules 2917 words
    • Writing the rules
      • Rules Length
      • Software for Writing Rules
      • Tone of voice: passive/active, impersonal/personal
      • Skimmers
      • "Twenty Dollar Words"
      • Sequence of Play versus Reference Rules
      • Britannia second edition Reference Rules
      • Britannia second edition Sequence of Play rules (as rewritten by Fantasy Flight)
      • Rules on the cards
      • What can you not "legislate" against?
      • "Cheat Sheets"
      • Example: A one-page reference ("Quick Guide" to Britannia)
      • Example: Player's Aid for "Pacific Convoy"
      • An outline for Sequence of Play rules
      • Drafts, drafts, and more drafts - it's not "write once and done"
      • Use of graphics in the rulebook
      • Editors and editing - and "developers"
    • Testing and improving the rules
      • Testing rules as you playtest the game
      • People who make up their own rules without knowing it!
      • Blind testing
      • Distributing rules before the game is published
      • "Living Rules"
    • What might be in the rules, other than "rules"?
      • Rules often missed or misunderstood
      • Examples of Play
      • A Play-through
      • Example: Historical walk-through of the first two turns of Britannia
      • Optional Rules and Variants
      • Strategy/Playing Hints
      • Designer's Notes
      • Learning Aids that aren't in the box (are online)
      • Example: Quick "How to play Britannia" MP3 audio file
      • Example: A text strategy aid posted online - for Britannia
      • Example: A strategy hint audio aid posted online - for Britannia
      • Flowcharts? Lookup Tables? No.
    • Conclusion
      • Rule Translations
      • Pacific Convoy first full set of rules (2219 words)
      • Pacific Convoy sixth full set of rules (3939 words)
      • Online Resources
      • Assessment
      • Exit Survey
      • Conclusion, and Where to from Here?
      • All the slides used in this course up to 15 April 14
    • Bonus Material
      • Why I wrote my book "Game Design"
      • What makes my "Game Design" book unusual or unique?
      • Lew's Games as of October 2014

Course Fee:
USD 29

Course Type:


Course Status:



1 - 4 hours / week

This course is listed under Development & Implementations and Quality Assurance & Testing Community

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