Hold onto your hats folks, we are about to get into a riveting topic! You can thank your buddy Evil Monkeigh over at the Delta Vector blog for this one! I was sharing with him my Work-in-Progress design from Homer's Heroes. As always, he and the Google Group gave me some good feedback. However, in the process he also recommended that I share some thoughts on rule book lay-out and design on my blog! That was the spark for this post.
You may notice that in my reviews, I rarely talk about how a book is laid-out or how the ideas are organized. For the most part, I gloss over that. I find reviews that tell me things about font size, white space, lay-out, page count, etc. to be adding words but not a lot of value there. Yet, here I am about to talk about it.
At first glance, how you lay-out your rules seems like an after thought for post-production. After all, the key ideas are your cool new activation system, fluffing out your concept, or how to resolve an action. Those are all very important, but are completely useless if no one can understand what you are trying to tell them.
Remember, to be a game designer you need games for people to play. In order for people to play your games, they have to be able to interpret your rules in a meaningful way.
The Rules Flow
The first thing to consider is what order to present your rules. This is how you intend to introduce players to what they need to play. There are a few ways to do this that I will outline below, and try to illustrate with a few examples.