How To Write the Perfect Boardgame Rulebook (With Examples)

Everything you need & tips for copywriting.

Want to create a boardgame rulebook that people will actually enjoy reading?

Most of us don’t think about the rulebook being a place where we can be creative. Often, game designers are more focused on the mechanics, design, or gameplay itself.

And yet, the rulebook is one of the most important elements.

After all, if it’s confusing or unclear — how will they play it?

A good rulebook can make or break a board game; that’s why you need to get it right. Whether you’re creating your own indy game or writing up rules for an established boardgame publisher, here are some tips on how to write the perfect boardgame rulebook.

From choosing the right words to organizing your rules logically, here is everything you need to know.

What to Include in Your Boardgame Rulebook

When it comes to creating a clear rulebook, this is the outline I usually start with when working with a client. Now, I do sometimes add more to this, depending on the type of game.

However, for most boardgames, this is a standard formula you can use:

  • Title or Cover
  • Components
  • Overview
  • Goal
  • Set-Up
  • How To Play
  • Credits
  • Contact Details
  • Copyright Information

Now, let’s dive into each of those a little bit further.

Title or Cover

First, not all boardgame rulebooks need a coverbut I included it here nonetheless. If you were working on a microgame that came in a small box, for example, you can skip this.

If you do have space for a cover, don’t go too overboard on the copy. In fact, I’d probably let the graphic designer do most of the hard work here. You can add elements like the title, tagline, game type, age range, length, number of players, social proof/reviews, and a short description of the game.

But really, save the bulk of the words for inside the rulebook.


The first section of any rulebook is usually the components. This is where you list all the different pieces they can expect to find in the box. It’s important, especially if something’s missing (‘cause hey it happens!)

Add things like:

  • The number of game pieces, dice, or cards
  • The gameboards
  • The rulebook
  • Any other paper materials

Pro Tip: Add a sentence here about who to email if anything is missing!


I love to start my boardgame rulebooks with a little bit of story. Not only does this add a bit more flavour and prime the players for the game, it also shifts the focus away from the heavy mechanics for a minute. Because hey, this is a game after all!

We’re having fun here, aren’t we?

The card game, Dominion, does this well. Instead of diving into all the complex mechanics, it starts with a bit of backstory about you as a player. And come on, who doesn’t love a good story about being a filthy rich monarch?

Image from Dominion Rule Book


It’s also good to have a goal, but you could cover this in the overview. Again, you want to explain why your players are here. I don’t usually specify the win conditions here unless it’s a microgame.


Now we’re finally getting into the logistics. What do I do? Just tell me, or better yet — show me. I love when the set-up section is visual because it means I can just start placing things in the right spot by matching everything to the image.

Evolution does this well in its rulebook:

Image from Evolution

How To Play

This can vary heavily from game to game. Some will break it up by the different game phases, win conditions, end-of-game scoring, character roles, special rules, and so on.

I personally love when boardgames have a quick start section (or a separate guide like Boss Monster does!) It makes it easy for new players to dive in without feeling overwhelmed by more complex games.

Some publishers also teach players by explaining a demo of the first turn. Personally, I find this can be hit or miss. It tells me some tips for playing, but I don’t really get the reason behind the moves the demo suggests.

At the end of the day, you need to test your rulebook in the same way you test your game. And don’t just give it to gamers! Get your grandma in on it and ask for her advice.


Who are the developers? Designers? Publishers? Copywriter & Editors? Artists? Add in any credits in this section where it’s due. You can even add a “Special Thanks” subsection here that includes playtesters or Kickstarter supporters.

Contact Details

Next up, add your customer service email, phone number, social media accounts, or website information. This is important if you’re writing for a large publisher.

That being said, I would skip that if you’re an indy game publisher.

Pro Tip: Add a QR code that links to a landing page to various links you think players might be interested in! Personally, I love to use tools like Campsite for this.

Copyright Information

And last but not least, don’t neglect the fine print. I typically encourage clients to add the classic “All Rights Reserved” bit, the year it was published, and any trademark information.

7 Tips for Writing a Boardgame Rulebook

Alright!! Enough about that, let’s have some fun. Here are some writing tips from yours truly.

#1 Add Creative Flair

Just because you’re writing a rulebook doesn’t mean it needs to be dull. In my opinion, some of the best rulebooks are ones that immerse me into the world of the game.

  • Who am I?
  • Who are my competitors?
  • Why am I working towards whatever goal?

Giving players more background to the story is such a subtle writing technique, but it leaves a lasting impression on players.

One of my favourite rulebooks that does this exceptionally well is Love Letter. It’s not only hilariously dramatic to read, and I regularly quote it with my friends all the time (no shame).

Image from Love Letter

#2 Be Clear & Concise

Now, while I always encourage creativity… Don’t go so far that you’re sacrificing clarity. Your rules should be written clearly in as few, easy-to-understand words as possible.

When I review boardgame copy, the most common mistake I see redundant or unnecessary words filling up the page. Cut ’em out! Please. I wanna play the game already.

#3 Make It Visual

I know I’ve been talking a lot about writing, but your rulebooks don’t just need words. They can benefit from graphic design too. Mix up your formatting with italics, bolding, pop-out boxes, and so on.

#4 Add Strategy Tips

Another thing I love to see in the rulebook is variations, house rules, or strategy tips. It’s a great way to boost replayability since you’re literally telling players other ways to play (or break) the game.

This is more common for party games like Codenames:

Image from Codenames Rulebook

#5 Create a Cheatsheet

More and more boardgames are including a reference card for new players — and I love it. These handy little cheatsheets make a WORLD of difference for a total beginner.

Take SmallWorld as an example:

Image from BGG

It’s a pretty intense territory control game (think Risk but much better and a lot more confusing). But they’ve made the game easier to learn by including a reference card explaining the turns, races, and more.

#6 Think Outside the Box

I’ll admit this tip is kind of broad, but I stand by it. You don’t have to listen to anything I’ve said here — you’re writing a rulebook for a boardgame. Do whatever you think feels right for your game!

Want to make it a comic book? Want to create a special soundtrack like Mysterium does? Want to write a dedication to your kids? I’ve seen all that and more in my time as a diehard boardgame nerd.

#7 Work with Professionals

Finally, my last tip is directed more toward anyone self-publishing a boardgame. You can do a lot of it yourself, but you’ll get everything done faster and better if you hire professionals to work with you.

I can’t tell you how often I’ve played a game with awful design or unclear rules and then donated it (or worse, returned it).

See? Boardgame rulebooks are not so hard after all. Now you’ve got the tools, go ahead and write a bomb boardgame rule book. And if you need help, I’m happy to answer any questions below!

Be sure to follow Copywriting Gamers for more articles like this 🙂

About the Author

Victoria Fraser is a freelance gaming copywriter from Vancouver, Canada who works with clients doing all things copywriting & content marketing. You can learn more at her website to work with her or say hello on Twitter!

Published by Victoria A. Fraser

Freelance writer, podcast producer, and comic artist.

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