The Written Word: Created, Edited, Perfected.



Ann and Ruth have a niche in board and card game development. This includes creating and editing game rules, providing guidance and feedback for new game concepts, proofreading text on boxes and other materials to be included inside the box, and play-testing the game for user friendliness and completeness.

Could You Play This Game?

Here are hypothetical rules for a new game, Card Play. Pay close attention to the rules, and then ask yourself, “Could I play this game?”

Box contains 54 cards. Deal 54 cards, face down and place the rest in the middle as a draw pile. First player draws one card, decides if he or she can use it. If usable, player places the card in her or his hand. If unusable, player discards. Winner is the player with the least number of cards in his or her hand.

Be honest, while reading these bogus rules, how many of you are shaking your heads, saying you’ve seen rules like this? This “game” is totally unplayable.

Why? Here are a few reasons why.

1. The rules do not make sense. How can you deal all 54 cards, the whole deck, and end up with a draw pile? Even if the rules stated to deal an equal number to each player, if you are playing with 2 or 6 or 9 players, each would get an even number with no draw pile. The rules do not address this.

2. The rules don’t address the number of players or the recommended ages. Is this for children? For adults? For adults who believe they’re children? These rules do not specify.

3. If really played, the person who would win is the person who never picks up the cards they’ve been dealt. The rules never state the players should look at their cards.

An analysis could go on and on. The point is that when playing a game, it is extremely important that the rules be clear and complete. A designer must take steps to ensure the rules are complete, that they follow the actual play of the game as the designer envisioned, and that the rules are written for the average recommended age. You wouldn’t want a game for children to contain calculus, nor should a game for adults contain references to Sesame Street characters, unless the intended audience contains parents of young children.

The first piece of your game viewed by potential players is your game box. Your box needs to be as perfect as possible to entice a potential player to pick it up, and take it home. What if the “bogus” rules above were on the back of the box? Do you think that game would sell well?

Editing is a part of game design that is frequently ignored. Game editors have the ability to review the game for structure and playability, in addition to the basics of grammar and syntax. Our advice is, after you’ve play-tested the game and are ready to send it to a printer, send it to an editor first. A different set of eyes reviewing your hard work can pick up mistakes you (and your software package) may have missed.