Tuesday 22 September 2020

Rebels & Yankees v2.0 Released

I'm pleased to say that version 2.0 of these smashing rules is now available from Wargame Vault as a "pay what you want" download.  Author Nigel Emsen & I have worked hard over the last two weeks to bring the fast play mechanisms in the rules to the fore.  They are well worth reading.

I've written quite a lot about our collaboration recently.  So here I'd like to: muse a little about how I approach editing; show some pages before and after editing; and finish by offering a few tips for would be authors.

I believe wargames rules are essentially technical documents. They can, and probably should, be approached in a user friendly way but to work as rules they have to have a sound structure and provide a consistent framework for players.

Editing anything is both subjective, as in this doesn't look right, and objective, as in this doesn't work.  Throw in a need to apply some consistency in layout etc and you get the basics of my approach to editing.  In essence it's a lot of copy editing with a bit of sub editing thrown in for good measure.

Fresh eyes always see things as they are, not as they are intended to be. So when editing there's a lot of tidying up and moving text around but I try really hard to capture the author's intentions.  After all they are not my rules.  My job is to make sure they are as easy to understand as possible.

However, there always comes a point where I uncover something that is either illogical, far too complex, or doesn't fit with the intent of the author.  Then I have to define the problem and come up with options to fix it.

Before & After
Here you can see two pages side by side.  The page on the left is the original. The page on the right is the edited version.  A word of warning: to be legible the images below are probably best viewed full screen:

Here are a few tips to bear in mind when writing, or editing, your own rules:

  • Do not mix any of the following in one paragraph or list: explanations, definitions, or process details ("+1 in melee" etc).
  • Always be on the lookout for repetition. It can, and does, introduce textual inconsistencies.  Remove it wherever possible and only use sparingly for emphasis.
  • Always structure things with the reader in mind but do not presume any prior knowledge .
  • Be consistent.  This applies to terminology, abbreviations, and the use of such things as emphasis, italics (rarely) and capitals.
  • Start each section on a new page and do not worry about the page breaks until very near the end.
  • Use all the spelling and grammar tools available.

You can see many of the tips in action in the sample pages above but here's a written, hypothetical example:

You may wish to describe your approach to generals.  You are tempted to extend this section to cover how to structure commands and to list the general's melee factor(s).  This seems logical as the command structure and melee factors flow from how you deal with generals.

My advice is don't.  This will be just too much for the reader to handle in one go.  The three pieces of information are important but separate.  They lose impact when merged.

The main text (approach & command structure) will be much easier to read split into separate sections.  In fact, people may only need to read about your approach once but they may read the command structure section many times.  Separate sections make this easy.

Moving the melee factors to the melee section will reduce duplication as well make it easier for the reader to find things later.

I understand rules are seldom written in a linear fashion. Bits are added, changed and generally tweaked during development and play testing. But be aware that, from the point of view of a first time reader, this can result in a somewhat random draft with a disjointed flow.

Use the editing process to tackle these issues, impose a little structure and you may end up with a best selling ste of rules.

As always comments are very welcome.


John D Salt said...

Keeping explanations separate is a very important point. I like the approach Victory Games used to use of a two-column rulebook; rules in the left-hand column, explanations in the right. It makes a lot of white space, but, hey, paper's cheap.
I also liked the paragraph numbering scheme they continued from SPI; this is especially useful if the rules-writer is kind enough to supply an index, a rare luxury these days.
A tip I would add is to write the rules in the order they will be met following the game's sequence of play. If your sequence is shoot, move, close combat, put the relevant rules in that order.

uiduach OB said...

What a helpful and interesting post. Thank you.

Vexillia said...

I certainly agree with your last point but it's not an absolute. Sometimes it makes sense to put other things first: only the odd one mid you.

Vexillia said...

Re-edited the "hypothetical example" section to make it easier to read.

Vexillia said...

Replaced all links to "Quick Play Rules" and "Firepower Games" with links to Nigel's Wargame Vault page. Original sites are dead.