House rules

Board game rules are a bit like computer programs in that they need to be followed precisely; have structure and repetition; deal with the manipulation of objects in a space; and have an end condition. But the rules are presented for and interpreted by people, so the default approach is to use straight prose.

Increasingly, people are turning to visual language to communicate their ideas. In science and mathematics these representations have been normal for many years, but it is still a relatively modern development. Today visual language is taking over business: presentation formats like Powerpoint are used to share information generally, whether or not somebody will actually present them.

In this environment, prose board game rules start to look old fashioned.

Visual language

What kind of standard, or understandable visual language might improve on prose as a way to present board game rules?


Can software help us produce rulesheets which follow consistent standards? How effective are these?


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?


A program to produce board game rulesheets


Pictorial rules for two sorts of draughts, go, and halma.