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Concerning the layout of the rulebooks....

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Lieutenant JG

Joined: 23 Dec 2010
Posts: 26

PostPosted: Tue Feb 19, 2013 6:41 am    Post subject: Concerning the layout of the rulebooks.... Reply with quote

Nobody may really care and this may just be a pet peeve of mine I dont know but after working through some of the SFB Cadets Training guide and reading through some of the Romulan Border FC rulebook I find that the concepts of both games and base mechanics are pretty straightforward and simple to grasp. It seems to me however that redundant explanations reexplaining rules from multiple viewpoints and rehashing rules concepts in multiple sections ads ALOT of unnecessary weight and sometimes confusion to what is overall a not that difficult to understand set of rules.

Is it just me or is the whole style of layout of the rulebooks for these games a little....oh..I don't know...outdated?

I have been gaming for over 3 decades and have been around games like SFB, ASL, BattleTech and such that have for the most part not changed the style of presentation practically at all in all this time while so many other designers have moved to more elegant and easy to grasp methods of explaining their game mechanics to the average book learner. Certainly a degree of more aggressive editing could help. I noticed for example that after a quick perusal of the sections in the SFB training guide I could pretty much condense the explanations down into a couple of paragraphs that the manual spreads out of a page and a half if not more.

Kinda makes me wonder that if the writers of the rules and editors feel the rules require so much over extrapolation who they are writing them for in the first place. It seems like learning the game simply by reading the material is made so much more tedious by wading through the excess to pick out the useful stuff. Pretty much sitting down at this point as I wade through the books and jotting down condensed notes on the actual rules so that I can help others learn the games without the mind numbing effort that is required to read an reread the same points.

So that I dont sound like a total fool I will give one good point that prompted me to bring this up.

Page 11 and 12 of the FC Romulan Border rulebook pretty much makes a clear explanation of movement and how the impulse and sub-pulse phases work. Then on page 13 just after charts referencing movement point costs the rules jump back to rehashing the previous page with, what seems to me, a rather pointless paragraph rehashing concepts from page 12.

Seems like this sort of rules layouts really kinda throw the reader off the train of discussion and rules section at hand.

Has there ever been any thought given to revising overall the way the rules are written to make them a little more learner friendly simply from a basic explanation point of view? I mean most aspiring players would probably fit the "fairly intelligent" model anyways and it almost seems like the over explaining is coming at you like the writers are trying to teach a moron to bake a cake.

By the by this is more of a "I am just curious what the thoughts are" and NOT intending to be insulting or critical of ADB in ANY way. I have nothing but respect for ADB as SFB is one of the few games I have seen on the shelves of the old Hobby type stores all the way into the age of FLGS from the time I started gaming at about the age of 8 until now ( I am in my 40s).
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Joined: 16 Jan 2007
Posts: 797
Location: North Carolina

PostPosted: Tue Feb 19, 2013 1:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If you could just see some of the questions posed by players, about what many would think are the simplest of things. Not always by new players either.

Been away from SFB for a long time, but there are so many interactions, Movement with weapons, movement with terrain, etc. Hard not to over sample some things.

For players moving from SFB to FC, though most things are relatively the same, the games do have some differences which actually require unlearning things for FC.

No denying things can always be explained better, trying to keep FC to the simplest activities, does lead to over explaination at times. The hardest part is finding the best way that people at a levels of experience gaming can understand.
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Joined: 08 Oct 2006
Posts: 3498
Location: Dallas, Texas

PostPosted: Tue Feb 19, 2013 4:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The "redundant" sections are there because the company's experience with its customer base says that they need to be there. They have simply found that doing that actually reduces the number of questions that are asked over time. While that may be counter to your personal experience, that is what ADB has seen, and why the rules are done that way.

Also, in my personal experience from answering Federation Commander questions for a while now, *nothing* is clear. Smile No matter how it is written, no matter how it is organized, someone isn't going to get it. ADB has tried very hard to organize the rules such that the number of those someones is as small as possible, but that number will never be zero.

I am not being dismissive. I do agree that there are sections of the rules that could be clearer, and that some pieces could have been organized differently. But, at this point, there are limits to what can be done. We can't just restructure the rules, as rule (5B3) can't suddenly become (5C4) or something. We can't get rid of the rule numbers, as they are the shorthand used to make sure people are referring to the same thing. And, because of questions, we will generally end up adding words, not removing them.

(As an example, the tractor rules are at least 50% larger than they originally were due to questions and clarifications. Nothing in that rule has actually changed. It is just clarifications and special cases being covered. You expect web rules to be complicated. Tractors, not so much, but they are.)

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Captain Jack
Lieutenant JG

Joined: 12 Nov 2012
Posts: 36
Location: Old York

PostPosted: Tue Feb 19, 2013 7:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't see a problem with repeating things.

For several reasons.

1. Some people will read what they think the rule is, rather than the rule.

2. It can be handy to have rules repeated, if they bear relavence to that section. (so you don't have to keep looking back and cross checking.)

3.Rules clarity can be difficult. As a rule, that seems a clear as day to one person, is as clear as mud to another!

4. Sometimes errors or just unforseen things crop up. (my gaming group says this is just me being arkward!) Shocked
Scourge of the Dreadnought, master of ph3, grandmaster of the RA ph3!

p.s also has a large share in a shuttle building company!
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Fleet Captain

Joined: 23 Sep 2007
Posts: 1967
Location: Devon, UK

PostPosted: Wed Feb 20, 2013 11:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I find it helps to have clarifications in the context of the rule; this will invariably lead to duplication in places.

What is a problem is when the clarifications contradict the rules. And although I am always asking rules questions, I have to say that FC is refreshingly free of contradictions.
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Sneaky Scot
Lieutenant Commander

Joined: 11 Jan 2007
Posts: 387
Location: Thornbury, Gloucestershire

PostPosted: Sun Mar 03, 2013 1:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

What might be useful is hyperlinks within the pdf document. Thus, if rule (5C2) is referred to in rule (4F) - a completely made-up example by the way - then where (5C2) is mentioned, a link cold be provided so that readers can jump to (5C2) instantly.

Just a thought - don't know how practical it is, and I agree with Kang that I find the FC rules refreshingly straightforward.
Nothing is quite as persuasive as a disruptor pistol on slow burn and a rotisserie......
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Joined: 07 May 2007
Posts: 1565
Location: South Carolina

PostPosted: Mon Mar 04, 2013 1:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I did hyperlinks with my rulebook and it is wonderful!

I hyperlinked every rule number (including all the sub- numbers/letters) and every rule reference throughout the entire text. I also hyperlinked the table of contents and the index. The index is particularly useful, especially after I added new entries which were not included in the official index that our group found useful.

There was a brief conversation about doing this awhile back. Basically, anyone can do anything as long as the one who does it does it only for him/herself. It cannot be distributed and definitely cannot be done for sale.

I advised ADB when I completed my project and they asked me nicely to please keep it to myself and not distribute it. I have not.

But it IS a wonderful add-on feature to have. Every rule, completely cross referenced, at one's fingertips.

It takes awhile to get it done, but it can be done.

"Sometimes our best is not enough. We must do what is required." -- Winston Churchill
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