So Frankly...

So Frankly...

Friday, April 8, 2011

Cheat Sheets

I am a big advocate of cheat sheets for games.  No, I am not talking about secret ways to win.  I am talking about rules summaries.  After all, who really likes to wade through rules to a game?  Furthermore, some games have longer rule books.   Pandemic, for instance has an eight page rule book.  One whole page is a setup diagram, one a sample turn, and there are lots of helpful illustrations, so it’s not really an outlandish amount of rules.  However, since they are spread out over eight pages, looking to verify a specific rule during the game, or even just reviewing the rules quickly before teaching the game, isn’t particularly easy.

Enter the game cheat sheet.  Really, there are two kinds.  The first are what are typically called player aids, which prompt the player for the phases of their turn, or provide other useful information.  I will cover these down the road.  The other type is the rules summary, which are attempts to boil the rules down to their essence.  In many ways, a rules summary is the equivalent of highlighting the rules, though highlighting alone has two issues.  First of all, the rulebook is now permanently marked up, which is ugly, and lessens the value of the game should you ever decide to eBay it.  Secondly, it doesn’t alleviate the problem of having to flip pages to find that rule you’re trying to verify.  There are two ways to obtain summaries: make them or download them.

Making a rules summary is much the same as any summary, but I do have two particular ways of going about it.  The first way is to photocopy or download a copy of the rules.  (Rules can typically be found at the publisher’s website.)  Highlight that copy, and then gather all of the highlights into one page.  Pretty simple.  In fact, I am sure I didn’t tell you anything new there.

The second way creates what I refer to as a turn sequence, and is a hybrid of the player aid and rules summary.  These are particularly useful in solitaire or two player games with more involved turns, like wargames.  Often these rulebooks are 10+ pages long.  For many of these games there is a section in the rules that gives a high level turn sequence.  I copy that and then add more levels of detail in an outline form, with references to the relevant rules section.  As an example, the one I created for Silent War, a solitaire WWII submarine warfare game, can be found here.

Before I go to that trouble, though, I will typically check for summaries online, for instance on BoardGameGeek (BGG).  (I talked about BGG a few posts ago.)  On the page for that game, there is a section called files.  There will be lots of stuff that fans of the game have created to support game play, including game summaries.

Often you will find summaries by an individual I only know by his/her penname: Universal Head.  This person makes great summaries using artwork from the game, so the summaries are aesthetically pleasing too.  Not only are these summaries on BGG, but Universal Head maintains a website that lists them all at Headless Hollow.  Check them out!

The level of effort required to print, or even make and print a rules summary pays off over a brief amount of time.  I love them; they are just so handy.  Next game you purchase, find or create a game summary.  Then please share with me what game you purchased and how you obtained your summary.  Until then,

It’s your move!

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