A strand about board games, rules, and information design.

Four board games (2006)

Rules for two sorts of draughts, go, and halma, without using words. Print out double sided, fold each sheet in the middle, take on holiday, and challenge locals!


This was an interesting exercise which demonstrates the language of visual conventions—and its limitations. We like to think these are “universal”, and they are certainly international, but they’re not a priori intuitive to anyone. (Especially this one!)

I’d like to hear from anyone who actually tried to use these. How did you get on? What was the most intuitive part? The least?

House rules (2011–)

This is a software project following on from the above. Its goal is to produce board game rules automatically from a definition file, in a consistent and (hopefully) visually pleasing manner.

Abstract board games are a good type of information for this experiment because of their constrained vocabulary. They are akin to computer programs yet they are normally presented as straight prose. (Recipes are in a similar position.)

I would like to ask

  • What kind of generic visual language might improve on prose as a way to present rules?
  • How can software help us produce rulesheets which follow these standards?
  • Many games have variants or are very similar to other games. At what point is a game better explained as a variant or as its own game?
  • The theme given to an abstract board game seems to improve people’s ability to recollect the rules. How can we take advantage of this within a standard language?

Here’s an example of the current PDF output:


The github repo for this is a mess!