Introduction to How to Write Clear Game Rules

Lewis Pulsipher, Game designer, Teacher, Author

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21 Videos (1h 12m)
    • What's the objective?

    • Your #1 opponent: Satisficing

    • Never forget your audience

    • Write in Plain English

    • Put Yourself in the Reader's Place

    • "20 dollar" words

    • Tone: personal rather than impersonal, active rather than passive active passive

    • Sequence of play versus Reference

    • Mechanics, Rules, Descriptions - the Difference

    • What Rules Length?

    • Skimmers

    • Too-Concise rules can become Incomplete or Incomprehensible

    • Rules on Cards - a "modern" way to avoid long rule booklets

    • Drafts drafts drafts

    • What you can and cannot legislate against

    • "Cheat Sheets"

    • Include a Play-through?

    • Rules missed section

    • Graphics in the rulebook?

    • Editors and editing; developers

    • Software for writing rules


About This Class

This topic is broad enough that my full rules-writing class is too large for Skillshare (60+ videos and several long documents).  So here I provide a selection to serve as an introduction.

If you're doing it right, one of the hardest parts of game design is writing clear rules. If you mess it up, your game will be a dud, no matter how good the actual game is - because it won’t be played correctly. How to write rules varies with your audience - of course. Polish the rules as you playtest.

If you're designing a video game for other people to produce (program, art, sound, etc.) then you have to write very clear game design documents if you want things to work as you envision.

Learning Objectives

Understand the purposes of rules writing
Recognize "the enemy" of rules writers and what you can do about it
Understand all the details involved in rules writing
Benefit from actual examples
Think about all the non-rules items you might include with the rules
How and why rules are tested






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Lewis Pulsipher

Game designer, Teacher, Author

Dr. Lewis Pulsipher (Wikipedia: "Lewis Pulsipher"; "Britannia (board game)"; "Archomental" ) is the designer of half a dozen commercially published boardgames. His game "Britannia" is described in an Armchair General review "as one of the great titles in the world of games." Britannia was also one of the 100 games highlighted in the book "Hobby Games: the 100 Best". He has over 17,000 classroom hours of teaching experience including teaching video game design and production, and over 20 years of part-time graduate teaching experience.

His book "Game Design: How to Create Video and Tabletop Games, Start to Finish" (McFarland) focuses on practical advice for beginning game designers, about how you actually create and complete game designs. He also contributed to the books "Tabletop: Analog Game Design," "Hobby Games: the 100 Best," "Family Games: the 100 Best." His game design blog has been active since 2004, and he is a contributor and "expert blogger" on, the #1 site for professional video game developers.

His latest published game is the 2015 "Sea Kings", a Viking adventure game. Three new versions of Britannia, including a 90-120 minute version and a diceless version, are forthcoming.

Lew has a Ph.D. in military and diplomatic history from Duke University, from ancient days when degrees in media, computer networking, or game design did not exist--nor did IBM PCs. In 2012 he was a speaker at the East Coast Game Conference, PrezCon, Origins Game Fair, and World Boardgaming Championships. Long ago he was contributing editor for White Dwarf and Dragon magazines, and publisher of various game fanzines.

Game design blog: and
Teach game design blog:
"Expert blogger", Gamasutra:
former contributing editor, White Dwarf, Dragon, Space Gamer, etc.

Recent Interviews with Lew:

Boardgame University #27 (with Tom Vasel, audio): 

Designer Spotlight (with Jason Levine, video)):

RPG Review (with Lev Lafayette, text):