There's a phrase in writing that refers to the editing process and I believe it goes like this: "Kill your darlings". That is a quote from Stephan King and while I doubt that Mr King was thinking in rules terms I know a bit of what he means. You can look up the whole quote if you like but those three words have been a bit of mantra when building the rules.
Time and time again through discussion after discussion each part of the rules has been put through the wringer with the same question every time; "Does keeping (this) or removing it make the game better?".
It's a tricky question because better is subjective. Luckily I wear some different hats and so I have some competing lenses that I view the rules from.
The first lens I use is the production lens. I am responsible for making the molds and casting the metal parts for the models. I do the quality control and manage the workshop by doing the maintenance, cleaning and checking that we don't run out of critical materials like blister packs and bases, metal etc. If the rules overly complicate what is available to who then I see it when I'm working on the pre-production step of selecting parts to go in each mold.
From a production stand point the army builder rules are the most important. What goes with what. The rules tell me what models are going to be our best sellers so I can plan if a model is going to have a single mold with all the parts or have multiple copies of parts distributed into full production molds to all real mass production.
For example the Hunter and Jager gears are in five molds (two for arms, tree sprue and weapons, bodies, and legs) while a model like the new greyhound is only in a single mold. The determining factor is of course price. More mold means more cost so the right decision affects the bottom line and helps keep our prices down as the cost of metal goes up.
From a designers perspective I always edit the rules for clarity, and I never assume that what is clear to me is clear to an average reader. As much as I wish that every player had a degree in English lit the rules have to be written to that an average reader can engage with the material and grasp the concepts. Every edit has to be from a legibility and comprehension standpoint. I edit, shorten, and edit some more. I remind myself constantly that people will be reading the text on tablets and even phones and that brevity is always better.
The rules have to cover the required material but also be as short as possible. Since I am not a professional editor I do my best though I often fall back on university classes where I had to edit science articles for web pages. Wherever possible information is reduced to table or point form. Four hundred words can easily turn into a ten cell table this way and save space plus be easier to read. Diagrams, examples, and headers are all important is helping the rules flow consistently and with a structure that allow players to pick up the rules and find where they have to be easily.
The last perspective is the most important and that is the perspective of the player. A player has two modes of reading when it comes to rules. There is the in depth initial read of the rules which is usually done sequentially like reading a work of fiction or non-fiction. As the player reads the language, the jargon, and the style imprint itself and affects their experience. when I edit from the viewpoint of a player I am always checking if the sequence of the rules is logical. Do you need to know rule A before using Rule B. When should one rule reference another? When does an important rule require extra emphasis with a diagram, table, or just repetition?
Players will also end up using the rules as a reference. Each section has to be treated as if it will be read in isolation. Can it be read quickly? Will it define all the terms required to accurately use the rule? These are questions that hang over every sentence, line and paragraph.
Luckily I've been getting some practice in this over the last two years I've been working on this project. They say that in order to be an expert in anything you need to put in about 10,000 hours of practice. In my case I've been playing miniature games for almost 25 years and I've read from the player perspective at least those 10,000 hours needed to be an expert editor/reader.
As we get closer to the beta release there will be a period when the rules are off to the printers for physical copies of the beta rules (we know players love rules in print) I'll be working on the final big edit, rendering the beta rules down into a quick start format for the pod squad to use for demos and for new player to jump in and start playing immediately with as few obstacles as possible.
As the editors say, cut, cut, and then cut some more…
If you haven't already checked out the new youtube channel you can check it out here for some previews of the rules.
Currently painting: More Heterois!