Thursday, April 08, 2010

Rules 1: Induction

This is the first in a potential series of shorter posts discussing rules writing. An appropriate subtitle might be "How Not To Confuse Your Customers". Each designer, editor, publisher has their own strengths and weaknesses. Clearly a great deal of time is spent on various aspects of many rulebooks (eg detail, examples, art, images, component list, sequence of play, index, etc). However, ignoring some of the most fundamental aspects of rules is like spending all of your time and effort on the paint job of a building that is going to collapse. The best service you can do for your customers with regards to the rules is to makes them clear, concise, unambiguous, and elegant.

Today's topic is induction. In the most general sense, induction is the process of finding a pattern or general rule that describes a set of data. It can make a complex aspect of a set of rules an order of magnitude easier to understand and remember. Consider this generic example of a game:

We have a basic wargame. There are 3 different nations represented by the colors red, green, and blue. Within each nation, there are 3 different unit types A, B, and C. The rulebook lists their respective attack values as follows:
red A 5
red B 6
red C 7
green A 6
green B 7
green C 8
blue A 7
blue B 8
blue C 9
Obviously, there's a pattern here, but presented like this, would you not try to remember it like this? How long would you consult the chart before memorizing the numbers? How would you go about teaching this part of the game? Would you list all 9 elements? Would you just show the chart?

Now consider the following description of the above chart: The base attack value is 7. Red units are -1, and Blue are +1. A units are -1, and C units are +1.

Now you are able to state the attack value of every unit without the chart. The nations now have a "thematic" sense, as do the units. You could also add a new nation or unit type to the system simply by describing how it fits in (eg unit type D is +2, nation yellow is also -1).


At 8:29 AM, Blogger Jugular said...

I think that's too mathsy for most casual gamers to read, even though when in play it will probably be easier to understand.

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