Rules are something we all have in our game. However, they are not something we tend to go super in-depth in. Yes, you may have a lot of details in your rules, but the moment someone asks a question chances are it’s not something that you have in your rule book. This is because you made your game, and there’s a lot of minute details that’s second nature to you that others simply do not know about. For example, when an effect is activated. When does it actually activate? Does this effect activate the moment it’s put on the field, or if it states something like “Draw an extra card” does that indicate that you draw it on your draw phase? Do you have a draw phase? Do you draw it the moment the card comes into play. There’s some sort of common sense with everything, however with common since comes being uncommon. If it’s common to you, chances are it’s because you’ve played and developed your game. Those who have not helped in the creation of your game are uncommon to your game, thus lacking in the common aspect of your sense.
This is where having rules for everything comes into play. You should have several rule books, and they should have several different purposes. Your first rule book should be the “How To Play” this covers your basics, and doesn’t go to much in depth on anything. Cover your basic card phases, how to play cards, when to play cards, how turns work, how to start the game, when do you draw a card, what happens if you have a hand in the beginning you don’t like, how do you end the game, are there other ways to end the game? All of these should go into the “How To Play” rule book, and have a little bit of depth to it.
Your next rule book should be a basic breakdown of terminology, icons, and pretty much a key to your game. If you have a card that attacks on the turn it’s summoned and no others do that, you might call that “Rush” or something of the sort. If you have cards with Rush on them, you should explain this in the game. If you have icons on your cards indicating what type of card it is, this is also the section to showcase that. For example, if you have a skull and crossbones to represent a card that only affects your enemy you should explain that symbol. If you have cards to represent attack cards versus defense, do the same. This way people can easily find this part of the game, as well as it is more organized for the user(s).
The major rule book, and the rule book most people are missing is THE rule book. This should cover every little minute detail in your card game. Every single potential question someone might have, and every single little thing with any card. As an example, Magic’s “How To Play” rule book is around 10 pages. But their lengthy, major rule book is 238 pages long. They cover any and everything you might potentially have a question about. This way, no matter what happens in a game, chances are there’s a rule stating who is right, and who is wrong. Everyone hates arguing over who is right and wrong, but what people hate more is never knowing who was truly right. Missing one small detail could be the reason someone quits your game. If they’re in a paid tournament, and they built their deck around one thing, and there’s no written in stone rule around it, the tournament owner says it’s one way, and you, the developer wanted it to be the way the person built their deck then that could be enough of a hassle to the point where that guy loses all interest in the game.
Things you should cover in this rule book are Phases, as well as sub phases, and phases within the sub phases. In your Starting Phase, you might have a drawing sub phase, a Playing Phase in which you place the cards down, as well as an effect phase in which your card effects activate. Inside of the draw phase, you might have a minor effect phase in which if a specific effect makes you draw at the beginning of the turn, this is when you do so. This is something we do not think about, as it seems self explanatory, however someone out there will try to argue it if they assume something different. On top of this, if you come out with a card effect years down the line without having this exact rule book, someone could find a way to exploit that card and completely destroy the game. The more in-depth you go into your rule book, the less likely someone will misinterpret your game, and the less chance someone has at breaking your game, or finding an overly broken game-play mechanic.
Thanks so much to Cogs of War for allowing us to use their rule book for this blog post. You can check them out by clicking HERE