[Zombie Cinema] Writing really short rules

Started by Eero Tuovinen, July 23, 2008, 09:42:03 AM

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Eero Tuovinen

Here I have the rules for my game, Zombie Cinema. I explain the backgrounds a bit out there in my blog, but the basic proposition is that the game is supposed to be simple to set up and run, and it should side-step all the traditional social wrangling and set-up social coordination roleplaying games have. The game does all this well enough in play, but what I need to do now is to make these rules as short as they can be while still being understandable. Shorter rules enable players to concentrate on setting up their fiction instead of focusing on the rules, and shorter rules also mean that the game is playable straight from the box.

So if you can spare a few minutes to reading those rules, I'd be interested in some benchmarking:

  • Can the game be played from this rules-set if you are an experienced roleplayer? What sort of roleplayer background do you need to do it? (As in, do you need to have experience with The Mountain Witch or something of the sort to play this.) Remember that you'd have the game board and character creation cards to reference here, as well as a few itty-bitty pictures I might manage to fit onto the rules sheet.
  • Can the game be played from this rules-set if you are an experienced boardgamer? You won't probably have a clear prior image of play to refer to, but you'll have lots of experience in coldly following a rules-text and doing what it tells you to, picking up the strategy and agenda of the game on your first play-through instead of having it explained in the rule-book. Does this rules-text tell you to do all the things that are necessary for setting up a SIS? I know that it doesn't help the players set up situations and the like, but it's not intended to: the notion is that the players will naturally understand what they should be doing when they get their characters interacting in free play, assuming that they're interested in this activity in the first place. Presumably the players will first pinpoint the fact that their characters will get eaten by zombies if they do nothing, and play will then evolve from this notion.
  • Can the game be played from this rules-text if you are not a game hobbyist, but do like zombie movies? Do you recognize any rhyme or reason to the described architecture of story creation in relation to your experiences with zombie stories?
  • Do these rules, objectively speaking, leave any unanswered procedural questions? Do you get any unreasonable readings if you just assume that anything I have not explicitly mentioned may be resolved any way a group wants to?
  • Would any of the above focus-groups find the rules easier to parse if I used different phrasings or terminology? There is some heavy-ass Forge-style rpg theory embedded in those simple sentences, but I've tried to make them all as clear as can be. Could I do better?
  • Anything else I might be doing to improve these rules? I'm trying to fit the rules on one smallish sheet of paper, so I can't really expand the size of the text from this. Anything I would add would, by necessity, come with the expense of removing something else. However, if it proves completely impossible to fit the rules in this space, then I'll have to get some more paper - so if this is an impossible quest, I need to know that as well.
Feel free to point any of your friends to this if they happen to belong to one of the above focus groups. I have had Finnish folks testing and reading all sorts of versions of these rules, but I don't personally know that many English native boardgamers, for instance. Cultural issues might make understanding difficult in ways I don't expect.
Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.