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"Leaving blank spaces in rules." Topic

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UshCha08 Oct 2021 5:51 a.m. PST

We are now down to final formatting of Issue 2 of Maneuver Group. we have decided to leave some blank spaces. With a PDF page count is not at a premium so we can leave the odd section of a column blank so that the text and table/illustration can be be better presented by being positioned in a rational manner not dictated by the need to keep page count to a set number because of printing limitations. What is your opinion of this. Note, we are producing a set of rules not a coffee table book so we will not put in unnecessary pictures, that would increase the cost to the player to cover additional time and energy to create and edit such pictures whilst providing no improvement to the rules themselves, so blank spaces it is.

BobGrognard08 Oct 2021 6:21 a.m. PST

I think that rules are helped by white space, it makes it easier to read when it's not a wall of text. However, I also like pictures which illustrate points within the rules. If you are producing a set of rules to sell, taking time and expending energy to get it looking as good as possible would seem to me to be part of the job.

rustymusket Supporting Member of TMP08 Oct 2021 6:47 a.m. PST

I agree with BobGrognard. I have been overwhelmed with rules at times just because of the lack of thoughtful layout.

stecal Supporting Member of TMP08 Oct 2021 7:19 a.m. PST

I like blank spaces so I can write in FAQ clarifications and house rules.

Personal logo Sgt Slag Supporting Member of TMP08 Oct 2021 7:39 a.m. PST

You may not worry about page count, because you will not be printing it out. However, your customers may very well be printing it out! They will care about page count, even if they print them at home on either an inkjet printer, or a laser printer.

I self-published three rule books for an Army Men game aimed at introducing kids to miniatures gaming. The rules, with scenarios, required too many pages for the page count limit of my hand-made booklets, so I split the game into two versions, Basic, and Advanced. In the third book, I stripped out the scenarios, tweaked the rules abandoning the I-GO-U-GO format for random card activation of troop types. This reduced the page count to my physical limit, so the whole game fit into one booklet. The scenarios were moved to my web site, to serve as inspiration for my customers to take a look at my rules, or to mine for ideas for their own rules.

I had few resources, but I did use graphics in my books. Graphics/photo's are useful to illustrate situations -- a picture is worth 1,000 words, as the saying goes. I used photo's to illustrate situations, to demonstrate how to portray certain weapons, such as smoke, by making a circle of cotton balls, on the battlefield, which represented the limits of the smoke cloud; I had unit roster sheets with photo's of commonly available troop types, so players knew what each pose, and vehicle, was, what their stat's were, etc. I also used computer generated graphics to create scenario maps. Images should be used to illustrate, to help players to understand the game, and its components, better. They need to be functional, but they also need to be fun, and inspiring to players, as they read through the rulebook. The whole idea of the rulebook is to excite the reader to actually play the game, to want to put it all together on a table and run a game.

Everything in my rulebooks was B&W because color printing was uber-expensive (circa 1998; my budget was $0.00 USD, it was a hobby of love, not a true commercial venture; I sold 150 copies, and I barely broke even). My point is simple: make it look professional, if you want people to buy it, and take it seriously. If you want blank spaces for FAQ's, or Notes, add them into the document at the end of the chapters, or at the end of the book (this is what I did). Rulebooks are really guidelines. There will be situations arising within the game play, which the book does not address; perhaps the players will come up with new ideas for situations which the printed rules do not address to their satisfaction; perhaps they will come up with new troop types, or weaponry they want to add to the game. Again, make the rules fun and exciting to read -- this is about enjoyment, it is not a college-level textbook they are assigned to read and play…

If possible, keep the reading level at 3rd Grade -- seriously! Reader's Digest was the most read magazine, in the entire world -- it was written at the 3rd Grade reading level, and that is why it could be so popular, because it was comprehensible by so many people. If your average reader can't understand the rules, you have failed, and your sales will reflect this.

Keep it organized, keep it concise, keep it sharp and professional in appearance, and format. Notes pages are fine, but they need to meet the aforementioned criteria so that they do not detract from the whole, or make it less professional looking. Graphics help break up the 'wall of text' appearance of rulebooks -- and they add fun and excitement, as well as inspiration. Scenarios, with maps, are a great addition to any rules set -- they inspire the players to see who could win, playing each side of the detailed scenario. Scenarios are a really great addition worthy of the space, page count, time and effort, to include in the book.

My two centavos -- worth everything you paid for it. Cheers!

olicana08 Oct 2021 11:18 a.m. PST

White space is also useful for noting house amendments which every set of war game rules ever written gets. Space would help that nicely and prevent the need for 'extra pages' having to be added.

Good idea, blank spaces in all rules please.

olicana08 Oct 2021 11:21 a.m. PST

As for page count. Paper is cheap, it's the ink that is expensive blank costs virtually nothing, even on good quality paper.

Colour is what costs most in printing. I'd like two formats when I download a PDF. Full glossy colour, and plain text.

……with blank spaces in both, please.

I suppose the ability to home edit would be too much to ask? Resale copyright issues here, probably – forget I asked.

Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP08 Oct 2021 7:05 p.m. PST

If good layout means blank space I'm 1000% in favor.

I have a rule set almost ready and I have decided to go with two files. File 1 will be all rules, and almost pure text, with a handful of key diagrams. All B&W.

File 2 will be all color, and primarily diagrams, examples of play, etc. My thinking is you will print one and refer to the other on a screen. Of course, if you have ink/money to burn you can print out both.

Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP08 Oct 2021 7:06 p.m. PST

BTW At least for me page count never bothers me. Fistful of TOWs is B&W and several hundred pages long, and one of the best written and organized rule sets I know.

Oberlindes Sol LIC Supporting Member of TMP08 Oct 2021 11:28 p.m. PST

I'm with Bob Grognard and Stecal.

UshCha09 Oct 2021 1:22 a.m. PST

Thanks for that, its an interesting take Bob Grognard,Oberlindes Sol LIC and Stecal.

Sgt slag thanks for taking the time. While there will be blank spaces we do have diagrams quite a lot as you say a picture is worth 1000 words. Fundamentally we had the aim of trying not to leave gaps in the rules that players have to fill with guess work. Where that is unreasonable we put in an sequence which if followed will give a reasonable answer in complex situations. We are aimed at a niche market of history enthusiasts.

olicana, It's never going to be full co-lour glossy, that puts us off. Glossy pictures inevitably means superficial rules aimed at parades of miniatures at the expense of realism.

Extra Crispy you make me feel much better. Our rules are about 150 pages but covers far wider scope than most, engineering is included as is how to draw up your own Army lists. However a bit surprisingly we do sell army lists and they are more popular then we expected.

BobGrognard09 Oct 2021 2:18 a.m. PST

"Glossy pictures inevitably means superficial rules aimed at parades of miniatures at the expense of realism".

That's a ludicrous statement and seems to be a massive case of inverse snobbery. A well produced product does not mean it is superficial or inferior, it means that someone has made an effort to make what they have produced look as good as possible. It's called taking a pride in your work.

What is more likely is that a product which has has no effort put into production quality has also had little effort put into its content.

GildasFacit Sponsoring Member of TMP09 Oct 2021 3:17 a.m. PST

BobG : that is just as ludicrous as the statement you criticise.

A set of wargame rules is a user manual of how to play the game. Pictures are appropriate where they help understanding and distracting where they do not serve that purpose. In most cases a well drawn diagram is better than a photo of models 'in action'.

If authors would spend time on getting the text right then the effectiveness of the rules would improve. Adding window dressing in the form of glossy photos is not making it 'professional' if they serve no purpose or if there is a better way of presenting the information.

Personally I don't see the need to dumb-down the language of the rules (but I'm not sure what 3rd grade reading level is) unless you aim at an audience that would find 'heavier' language difficult to understand. The concepts of most wargame rules are mainly aimed at a general ability a bit over the average so language should suit that.

UshCha09 Oct 2021 4:51 a.m. PST

GildasFacit – That's the point window dressing costs money and does not add to the rule mechanics. We have loads of diagrams but to the point. A glossy cover adds not one Jot to the rules. Me if I buy rules its for the technical content not pictures that are irrelevant and pointless. They are often close ups that you never see if you are playing at your best.

A good example is helicopters flying overheat tanks. To survive combat the helicopter must be flying pretty much full tilt (about 150 kts (77m/s) so its moved over a tank gun normal range (2000m) in 30 sec. On that basis in the real world and most rules including ours its on table for less that 30 seconds. Why show such a shot, nobody I know is going to paint a model for the sake of less than a bound.
If it fly's at tank speed its dead in less than 30 sec. Again justification glossy pictures are for model parade games, Again if that floats your boast that fine but please don't lie about it being a simulation. We at least attempt some level of plausibility.

BobGrognard09 Oct 2021 5:57 a.m. PST

Gildas Facit. Ludicrous? To say that "Glossy pictures INEVITABLY leads to superficial rules"? How so? I really need it explained to me how that can possibly be the case.

UshCha. What does your comment about helicopters have to do with rules presentation? You stated, quite unequivocally, that superficial rules are the inevitable result of glossy pictures. Can you not accept that a good set of rules can have glossy pictures?

GildasFacit Sponsoring Member of TMP09 Oct 2021 7:26 a.m. PST

No Bob – your statement is just as ludicrous, I didn't say that UshCha's wasn't.

My point is that what you call 'high production values' are not always that at all when they fail to contribute anything to the purpose of the rules. So far, and I have seen a fair few rule sets, I have seen very few that include glossy photos that make any contribution to the understanding of the rules.

You don't have to be aiming at high levels of simulation for this to be true either, using diagrams to support text in simple rules is much clearer and easier to follow than photos.

Pretty is not always practical.

BobGrognard09 Oct 2021 7:57 a.m. PST

Gildas Facit

I never used the term "high production values". I simply said that "a well produced product does not mean it is superficial or inferior, it means that someone has made an effort to make what they have produced look as good as possible". I don't see that as in any way controversial and certainly not "ludicrous".

Ask and professor or teacher, well presented work isn't always the best, but it often is and indicates care has been taken. Likewise, poorly presented work isn't always poorly thought out, but nine times out if ten it reflects lack of care taken. Again, this is not a ludicrous statement.

I am not equating glossy pictures with well presented, but I am simply saying that glossy pictures do not "inevitably lead to superficial rules". That statement is ludicrous.

GildasFacit Sponsoring Member of TMP09 Oct 2021 8:59 a.m. PST

I don't need to ask a teacher, I was one for 32 years and a design engineer who had to produce operating manuals before that.

Work that 'looks good' is totally useless if the content or clarity is poor. I taught in a technical background so my view on the subject may be very different to that of someone from the liberal arts but, as I said, a set of wargame rules is an instruction manual, not a comic novel.

You equated glossy photos with being well produced by inference as that was what UshCha was complaining about.

There is no logical correlation between glossy pictures and superficial rules but, in my experience, most sets of rules that are studded with photos use them as set dressing and are, in my opinion, poor rules. I put that down to time being spent on presentation rather than on content.

BobGrognard09 Oct 2021 9:26 a.m. PST

I did not at any point equate glossy photos with being well produced. UshCha equated glossy photos with superficiality and I pointed out that this was a non sequitur. The argument does not stand up. Superficiality cannot be a term applied to EVERY set of rules that have glossy photographs in them. I certainly hope you didn't teach English!

Both you and UshCha appear to be parading some kind of prejudice against glossy pictures. It perfectly reasonable for you to prefer rules in black and white and with no photos. It's equally unreasonable to make statements which condemn any set of rules with glossy photos as being superficial.

UshCha09 Oct 2021 10:50 a.m. PST

It is not glossy pictures "per say" but in my experience in WARGAMES RULES almost inevitably the glossy pictures or covers indicate Model Parade rules rather than a credible simulation. My explanation of this in post 09 Oct is a graphic example. In addition Glossy photographs take up a great deal of time and resource, this is clearly a waste of resource which would be better put into research. In some other types of publication Glossy photographs may have there uses, wargames rules is not one.
Being out and about looking at wild life reminded me that all the good bird recognition books use diagrams not glossy photographs so again in a manual such as a good set of wargames rules there is little point in glossy photographs even to actually explain a point within the rule system.

Even the US army does not bother with glossy photographs in their manuals, even the more modern ones, so there is no need in a wargames rule system to waste money on glossy pictures. Unless of course you feel the US army is incompetent in this regard.

GildasFacit Sponsoring Member of TMP09 Oct 2021 11:29 a.m. PST

Bob – read what I wrote, not what you think I wrote. I never even mentioned superficiality and, if you read what I ACTUALLY wrote, you will find that I said both ideas were as ludicrous as each other. Clearly you have problems with language skills too !!

I actually prefer the judicious use of colour in rules – another assumption of yours that has not come from my posts – just not in irrelevant photographs or pictures.

The few rules that do have usefully employed photos are those that give additional information on figures to use or painting guides. Even if these are provided with or as part of the rule set I do not consider them to be part of the rules as they are not needed to play the game.

BobGrognard09 Oct 2021 12:06 p.m. PST

UshCha, there is a big difference between expressing your belief that colour photos add nothing to a rule set, a perfectly legitimate position with which many gamers will agree, and saying that rules which have colour photos are inevitably superficial. That is rather insulting to all of those other rule sets and a massive generalisation.

UshCha09 Oct 2021 12:54 p.m. PST

If its a massive generalization name a modern set that has gloss pictures that has even the absolute bare minimum basics of a linear ground scale. Without that its impossible to create any plausible map.

BobGrognard09 Oct 2021 8:43 p.m. PST

"all those other rules are rubbish, so buy mine". What a great line in advertising.

You posted your question on the Game Design Board, so my comments were about rules in general and not specific to modern rules. May I suggest that if you want to promote your rules, the best way to do so is not to continually make derogatory remarks about other rule sets, but rather to tell us what is good and exciting about what you have created.

UshCha10 Oct 2021 7:11 p.m. PST

BobGrognard I suspect you love of glossy pictures and lack of appreciation of technical manuals would exclude you from my target audience anyway. We have never need under any illusions that we are only publishing for a few folk with a specific interest in simulation.

BobGrognard10 Oct 2021 10:01 p.m. PST

Interesting that you equate liking good presentation (which you seem to insist is just about glossy pictures) with an inability to appreciate technical manuals, as though one precludes the other.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP13 Oct 2021 7:32 p.m. PST

I think you could use those blank spaces for any number of things that would benefit the rules depending on how much overall space you have and your ability to format:

1. Wider spacing of the lettering or larger type, depending on your ability to 'set type' in the rules format. It improves legibility.

2. Wider spacing between lines to allow for inserting corrections, additions and clarifications on the appropriate line.

3. Spaces at the end of each rules section for player notes. For all those house rules and clarifications that could otherwise be lost or not organized with the rules they refer to. The ESR rule book does this, for instance.

4. Short quotes from sources or references that support or illustrate various sections of the rules. It often can help focus reader expectations in reading the rules and understanding concerning the rule objectives in process and play. It also supports the claim that the rules are simulating.

5. Provide wider spacing between sections, so they don't look 'crowded', graphically opening up the pages.

My motto in MSs is: Blank space should serve a purpose or it is 'wasted space.'

pfmodel19 Oct 2021 3:59 p.m. PST

Different player prefer different rules formats, you will never please everyone. I have found I normally format my rules into three versions, 1 column and 2 columns, both of which have spaces, and 3 column which has no spaces.

The advantage of no spaces, small font and tight format is the rules are very short. You can open a double page of the rules and view a sizable proportion of the rules. This is very good when you need to cross reference rules in a game, but are not very pretty. The old SPI Board game rules are a classic example.

At the other end, a single column set of rules which each page only dealing with a specific part of the rules, is easy to read and learn the game from. The issue is it's hard to reference rules, a classic example if FFT3. Beautiful rules, but unusable in a game.

Some rules try and mix both ideas, so spearhead is 2 column but keeps spaces to a minimum, but does have diagrams and pictures, so there is some bling to make the rules interesting as well. Its a good compromise.

You need to determine your audience, experienced older gamers want no spaces, and new players want spaces and bling.

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