Forget the rules

25 10 2010

I’ve been playing Dixit recently, and have had the pleasure of introducing new people to the game. I bought my own set last week at the Essen board game convention – I unpacked the box promptly discarded the instructions, showed them the cards and pieces and showed them how to play.

I taught them it slightly wrong, even though the instructions were right there in front of me, I told them how to play the way I was told.
The difference was slight – ending the game when the cards run out rather than when the first player reaches 30 points. The person who taught me to play told me from memory, possibly the person who taught him also did.

Game instructions are part of the oral tradition, they need to be able to fit into someone’s head in order to be carried about, they need to be light-weight and spring back into the right shape when called upon after years of storage.

A friend told me of how he’d found a game of Cluedo in a bar and tried to play. The instruction sheet was missing and it was a ‘new’ version of the game that had all different rooms and extra cards. All his memory touchstones were gone and, to his great frustration, he had no idea how to play it at all and had to give it up.

If we’re to think of instructions as part of the oral tradition, they need to take on the behaviours stories have. They should stick in the mind in the correct order so as to not have anything be confusing or get missed out. if a rule isn’t easily remembered – was it essential to the game play? Nobody forgets a main character from a story. There are as many versions of Cinderella as there are people’s heads, but the shape of the story is the same in all of them.

Ditching the rule book isn’t unique to board games, having a page of instructions at the beginning of a computer game is undesirable and preferably avoided if you don’t want your player to bounce away in distain. In most modern computer games, the first few levels will gradually introduce the player to how the game works and what they need to do in order to play. Could this be replicated in board game rule sets?




2 responses

26 02 2011

ooh, my hand!

26 02 2011
Mink Ette


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