Producing Fun #4: Paul Grogan - Rulebook editor & Content creator

Producing Fun #4:  Paul Grogan - Rulebook editor & Content creator

Producing Fun is a podcast about making tabletop games from a product perspective.

Paul Grogan runs “Gaming Rules!”, a rulebook editing business and YouTube channel focused on videos that teach people how to play games. As one of the industry’s top editors, Paul has worked on around 100 different rulebooks; closely collaborating with several of world’s most famous game designers in the process: including Vlaada Chvatil (Codenames, Mage Knight) and Vital Lacerda (Lisboa, On Mars).

In this episode we discuss the biggest mistakes to avoid when writing a rulebook, the future of in-game tutorials and the role of a rulebook in a game’s commercial success.

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Sat, 3/12 2:25AM • 1:40:11
rulebook, game, rule, people, books, read, play, magnate, question, editor, editing, text, bit, index, publishers, graphic designer, flavour, paul, vital, point
James, Paul Grogan

James 00:10
I'm James, and this is producing fun, a podcast about making games from a product perspective. Welcome to the latest episode of producing fun. My guest today is well known rulebook editor, content creator, and good friend, Paul Grogan of gaming rules. Paul is a true pillar of the UK board game community. And one of the hardest working people I know, from developing games to running conventions from making videos to training demo teams, he's pretty much done it all. So I had to focus extra hard this week on keeping the conversation as focused as possible on just the topic that I wanted to pick his brains on rulebooks and what makes them great, and sometimes not so great. As I suspected there was so much he had to say on this subject alone, it was very difficult to decide what to keep and what to cut this time. Paul's experience is beyond substantial. He has edited the rule books of games designed by some of the industry's biggest names. People like Vlaada Chvátil the designer of multiple runaway success titles as diverse as Codenames, or Mage Knight or Vital Lacerda, whose heavy Euro games are often regarded as some of the very best in the genre. As to use Paul's own description, a rulebook editor in all caps, his working relationship with these creators is really close. He's so trusted that he's become the exclusive editor of several top creators' work. As many as 100 rule books in, he really knows his stuff. If you are in any way interested in writing or editing a rule book, I would strongly recommend you listen to this episode, Paul is a pleasure to listen to. But I can also say from personal experience of working with him on Magnate that his understanding of teaching games in multiple media in general is invaluable. He has a lot to say here, not only on the immediate practical challenges of structure and wording and rule books, but also on the broader perspective of how commercially important they are. And the increasing growth and new trends in games like built in tutorials. We join the interview, just as I've asked Paul, how he got started as a rule book editor.

Paul Grogan 02:17
Thanks for inviting me on I remember when you spoke to me about you're going to do this podcast before you did episode one. And it sounded like an interesting idea. So yeah, definitely. Thanks for having me on. So how I got into real book editing is by pure accident. Now, when I answer this question, because I'm generally well known, patting myself on the back for being a fairly good rule book editor. So a lot of people assume, Oh, you must have like a degree in English. He's got professional qualifications. None of that. None of that whatsoever. And when I... I mean, I'm a gamer. I've been a gamer since the 80s. Right? I am a passionate gamer. It is my hobby. It's become a job. You know, not through, not through? Well, no, to say he's not through deliberate choice. It was my choice to turn it into a career. But it kind of happened accidentally, because I'm so passionate about the games. What happened is about, well, gosh, when would it have been now what year are we in?

James 03:15
I think it's 2021. I think it's been very confusing the last week.

Paul Grogan 03:19
Especially this week, because it was a public holiday last weekend. So I'm still confused as to what day that week it is.

James 03:24
Oh, 100%

Paul Grogan 03:25
This was about 10 to 12 years ago, when my passion for games got to the point where I wanted to start doing things on a voluntary basis for some of the publishers that I love to publishers sprung to mind Czech games edition and watch your game. Massive fan, bought every one of their games, loved their games. And I started making, you know, going to see them every year and saying hello when everything else. And then I was like, Look, I'm really interested. I love your games, and I'm passionate about your game. If there's anything I can do, like, let me know. And it was like, Well, I guess we could, you know, send you our rule books that we're working on. And you can help us out maybe with them and reading through it. And that's where it all started. It was purely me wanting to give something back to the companies that I enjoyed working for.

James 04:14
Oh, interesting. So actually, that's very interesting. So it wasn't necessarily that you had a kind of specific thing in mind that you really wanted to do for that company. Like, oh, my dream has always been to edit rule books. No, it was more like, How can I help? I think what you're doing is great.

Paul Grogan 04:29
Yep. So talking to them about their games, maybe even play testing their games, you know, they'd send me the files I'd print I'd spend like you know, three evenings printing out all of the titles and all of the time. Wow. Then I'd get any friends round at a weekend. Now, this was all done on a voluntary basis because you know, I had a well paid full time job. I was fine financially. And I was doing this because for me I was like how this is amazing. I've just got Vlaada's new game he sent he sent me a prototype of this game all those little literally spend about 12 hours printing it all out and inviting my friends around and then feeding back to them. That's work right. I was effectively doing work for them and feeding back all. I even went to conventions. I remember being at BayCon, which is a convention down in Exeter that happens every year. That's actually happening virtually this weekend starts today. But I was at virtual, I was at the real BayCon with a physical prototype of Dungeon Pets the year before it came out. And I spent the whole weekend Well, maybe not the whole weekend, but at least 50% of the weekend, playing this game with people demoing it to people. And so this is a new CGE game that's coming later this year. Oh, this is from Vlaada. Who did Dungeon Lord? Yeah, yeah. And I didn't get paid for any of that at all. And they were very happy. I was very happy because I was working on Vlaada's latest game. And then eventually, CGE sat down with me. And I think this is all down to Vlaada. Oh, Vlaada and the boss of CGE sat down with me. This is going back eight or nine years now, I think. And they said, Paul, you've been doing loads of work for us. You've been doing all of this. You've been doing demos at conventions. You've been helping us with our rulebooks, you've been helping play test games, you've been doing all of this. We can't let you carry on doing this. If we're not going to pay you to do it. Because it's not fair. It's not fair on you. And I was like, okay, sure, yeah, if you want if you want to. And we basically made an agreement that I would track the hours that I spent working for them. And we agreed on an hourly rate for that. And then I carried on doing what I was doing. But I was also getting paid for it, which I had to declare as extra income. And I did it all aboveboard and efficient. And that's how we all started. Now, what happened following that is over the next couple of years, my professional career was not working out for various reasons. And as I was starting to do more and more work, and I was thinking, I'm passionate about games, I love games. And now I'm actually sort of doing work in the games. And I was enjoying during the work, because I was doing, you know, I was working on Vlaada's new game, and I was I was doing all of this stuff. And I thought, Oh, I wonder if that I could actually maybe cut down on my work and maybe do more of this. Hmm. And whilst at the same time I've I've always loved teaching people how to play games, I, you know, I was the one who in the 80s Paul would get a new game with all rigour and pulls out. And Paul would teach us how to play a game. And in every gaming group that I've always been a member of I was the one that taught people how to play games. And I actually love just in the process of teaching people. You know, if I went to a convention for four days, and spent all four days demoing games to people and didn't play anything, I'm really happy because I love that I love teaching people how to play games. So I came up with the idea of, because I've no, I've no background in creating videos, or anything. Right? No background in that whatsoever. I came up with the idea that I would create a YouTube channel where I create videos on how to play games. Make sense? Yeah. And a couple of people pointed out to me that this has already been done. A couple of people have already done that. And I was like, All right. Okay, I wasn't aware of that. But that's when I formed gaming rules. I did it with the intention of creating videos. That was the whole sole reason why gaming rules was formed is to create instructional videos.

James 08:20
So it's much more focused purely on that element to begin with, rather than what it does today, which is your

Paul Grogan 08:27
50/50. Well, it's kind of a bit more well,

James 08:30
You've got videos. Yeah. What's the edit rule books, you also teach people how to other people have to demo games, right? That's another part of what you do.

Paul Grogan 08:38
It is but that's a that's a small part of what I do. Okay. Yeah. So so the whole rulebook editing, getting back to your original question was, because I was doing the videos, I was also doing bits of rulebook work. And then the rulebook work, just more came in. And then more came in, and more came in. So we are now where we are, in that a lot of people know Paul Grogan gaming rules. He's that rulebook guy. And they don't realise I do videos as well. Every week, I come across somebody who goes, Oh, you also do videos. I thought you just did rule books and like, whereas other people are like, oh, yeah, he's the video guy. I didn't know he did. Yeah, yeah, these multiple hats. So I fell into it accidentally. And I've just, I've just built up and built up and built up. And thankfully, I've ended up working on some fairly high profile games, which have then had a great reputation for having amazing rulebooks. And that's that's obviously been been really good. But I have to say, again, that has an amazing rulebook. If I was the editor, of it, it's not just down to me, and we'll probably touch on this later on. It is a big team effort of everybody involved. And it isn't just you can't just look at rulebook and go. This is an amazing rulebook. Who's the designer? Right? Because the designer usually has usually, I'm gonna say Usually an exception. The designer usually has nothing to do with the rulebook. And the rule book is a big team effort of writer, editor, graphic designer, publisher, you know, a whole bunch of other people.

James 10:11
Yeah, makes sense. Yeah. makes a lot of sense. Well, the definitely, let's come back to that point, because I'm really, really interested in that point about what makes a good rule book and kind of the team behind it. Because yes, your point, I'm sure, well, spoilers, there's good. It's a lot more complicated than just, it's the editor or, it's the designer. So that sort of thing. So how many books in total? Have you edited? Do you think? Oh, gosh. Right, rough finger in the air. 60 To 100, 60 to 100?! Maybe something like it really depends on where you look at editing. If you look at, for example, on Mars by Vital Lacerda. Okay. Most of that rulebook is me, I wrote pretty much all of that rulebook. And I was involved in that process from the start to the finish. Right. Whereas there's another rulebook, which you could say I edited, where actually I only probably did maybe two days of work on it. Yeah, both of those rule books. I'm down as the editor, but one of them took me about 10 to 15 hours, but another one took me about 100 to 150 hours. Right? So yeah, it's yeah, I've done I've done quite a lot. I am planning on cutting down. But yeah, I think my, my skill set is in the, the structure in the writing of complex games. I mean, I can do other games as well, but bringing me into a rulebook at the latter stages, and then I read through it, and I go, this structure is all completely wrong. And they go, Well, I'm sorry, but the structure is all set. We've done the layout, and we just want you to proofread it. I'm like, Well, you've got the wrong person, because that's, whilst I can do that. That's not really my area. So yeah. So immediately, that raises a question for me, which is, have they actually not just got the wrong person? Have they made? Have they made the wrong process decision about when to bring an editor in at all? If they're bringing them in that like, in your in your opinion?

Paul Grogan 12:09
Possibly. Yeah, I mean, that that rulebook that I mentioned with, with the bad structure could have already had an editor, because there are different types of editors out there. I always say that the three types of editors, Oh, okay. Raw editors, with a lowercase e. There are editors with a Capital E. There are editors, all in caps. Okay, and I'm the latter because I know some editors that are and this is not meant as any disrespect to them. One up from proofreaders. Yeah. It's more like spelling and grammar and spelling and grammar. And they will check the occasional sentence and they may make some suggestions, right, then you've got the next level of editing, where they'll they'll look at it in a bit more detail. And then you've got me and other people like me who look at your rulebook and go, no, no, I, you know, and the reason I'm saying this, is because a company about four years ago, was a new company. And they had a rulebook. And they posted on the various Facebook groups and social medias and said, tell us who the best rule book editors are. Or, you know, give us your recommendations of rule book editors, because we need a rule book editor for a new game, right? And then what they did is they contacted each of those people, and I was one of those people they contacted, and they contacted me for details of how I work. timescales, obviously, cost, and all sorts of things like that. And he and I got the gig, I got the job boards, they came back to me afterwards. And they actually said to me, so they said Paul, we spoke to 50 different editors. 50. I mean, that's a huge amount of people. Yeah, they this is this is this is what I got told they they said they approached 50 editors, and asked them the same questions. They asked me. Every single other editor gave them a price based on word count. Oh, interesting. I didn't I gave them a price based on my hourly rate. And I said, I will work within your budget and within your limit. Obviously, if you gave me 100 Page rulebook and said, Paul, you've got five hours to do it. I'll say no, but quite reasonably. So. Yeah. But if you say, Paul, you're limited to 20 hours of work. I'm not going to then invoice them for 50 hours of work. Yeah. So I was the only editor in the 50 that they approached, that gave them a price based on time spent rather than word and that is because I can't give you a price based on word because I don't know your rulebook might be good, and just need some minor tweaks. Or it literally might need completely restructuring tearing apart whole sections being moved around and a massive rewrite and I can't I don't know that until I've actually started reading and working on it.

James 14:54
So I this is this is really fascinating to me, because one of the sort of trends I've seen a little bit with In the board game world is treating board games like books, right? So I noticed, for example, Ospray games when they were recently washed and made two years ago now, they were advertising someone to join the business. They call they had a role, which they called game editor. Yes. And I thought that was weird to me, because I don't think a game can be edited. And obviously, you know what this podcast is about product. I come from a kind of a software product management background. And so when I'm looking at a game, I'm thinking, well, we're trying to overall craft this marketable experience for people. And the thought that it that it looks like a book editing, where you're trying to preserve the authorial voice of like an individual, let's say like a novelist. It doesn't it doesn't resemble that role. But it seems like as with the rulebook editing, there's this sort of interesting trend amongst some organisations to see it in the terms of this is text that's been produced that we're editing, which is almost it doesn't seem to me like that's your approach at all? No, you're looking at it from the point of view of would it be fair to say, this object is what helps people learn the game? Yeah. So you're looking for how can I maximise the effect of, of how good this is that teaching the game, potentially, that it doesn't even necessarily the fact that it is a book rather, is secondary? Yes.

Paul Grogan 16:19
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, yeah, it's interesting, because gaming, I mean, Osprey games, I know people who work at osprey, I'm friends with some of them. And they are one of my clients. I do do some work. Right. Okay. So I'm curious about this. Because game editor. I'm thinking what, what is that role? I'm right after this right after we finish this, I am going to speak to my contact at Ospray and say, Are you that person? Or are you a game editor? Yeah. Because if it is who I think it is, yeah, they do game development. But they also helped with the rule books into so it's two hats because game, a game developer, and somebody who helped write and edit rule books are different skill sets. But that could be the same person. Yeah, because I do game development as well.

James 17:02
So yeah, that see that I find that really funny, because it seems like we're all working on fundamentally the same roles. Yeah, it's fundamentally what we're doing. But yeah, that's a really interesting one. That's that's one definitely wanted to explore, explore more, I think, because understanding what the roles are, is, to me really fascinating, the point of view of what you're trying to achieve. Yeah, so that makes a lot of sense. And in the same way that you know, it seems like your, your rule book editing interest has emerged much more from your very long lived passion for teaching games, rather than because, you know, you really enjoy the kind of the process of like, editing documents. Alright, I've got, right. Because, right, I can I can understand it, right? Because it's really interesting is that, you know, I have a friend of mine, she's an editor for a national newspaper, a sub editor. And so actually, she loves just crafting text, right? Like that's, that's very much like, what the bit that she and she's exceptional at it. But it strikes me that it's, it's, it's coming from, even though there might be an overlap of skills, it's coming from a slightly different place. Yeah,

Paul Grogan 18:04
I have no interest in that whatsoever. My passion is, and I have this every time I'm working on, you know, I'm helping right now chip theory games with the rulebook for burn cycle, chip theory games, one of my favourite companies love what they do. And as I'm sat there reading the rulebook, I'm thinking, it's midnight, I really should go to bed, I feel awful. But I'm thinking, this rulebook is going to get printed, and it's going to get into people's hands. And they're going to read these rules for awareness. And they're going to look at the examples that I've written with the images that I've written, and they're going to go, I get that, and they are going to be able to play that game. And I know that and that, that is pumping through my veins, which is why I can't sleep at night, because I'm like... but it's exciting. And this is why I'm, you know, working on some of the, you know, Vital Lacerda, for example, right? Me, I me and Vital have become friends over the years. And I'm now known as the people who the person who writes his rulebook, right. One prior to this, I, I was a fan of his games. I was a fan of Vital Lacerda his games before I even started working for him. So now we're in the situation where I'm lucky enough, in a way, though, it's not luck, I've made my Oh, luck, but you know, I feel very happy about the fact that I'm now working directly with him. And we will be having arguments at two o'clock in the morning about whether something should be worth two points or one point. This is my life now. Yeah. wouldn't change it for the world. If you just said to me 10 years ago, you're going to be Paul, you're going to be writing Vital Lacerda's rulebooks. I'd be like, yeah, get away. You know,where do you get that from?

James 18:04
Yeah, yeah. How would that how would that happen?

Paul Grogan 18:04
Yeah. So yeah, I have no interest in the actual technicalities of, of writing text or anything like that. It's because I'm coming from people are going to get this rulebook, and people are going to be able to learn how to play from the rulebook. So yeah,

James 19:55
Very interesting. Very interesting. So I get prompted a question from Twitter. view on this in terms of the role of the different people in the process, which I guess this is a good opportunity to get into that. Yeah. Should then the graphic design of the rulebook be managed more under ideally your watch? Because I think that raises because because the objective of the graphic design is to make the rulebook usable, but you don't obviously do the graphic design yourself in in kind of Paul's ideal world of what is the best structure for tackling rulebook editing? Yep, would you have yourself as the boss of the rulebook graphic designer?

Paul Grogan 20:34
In an ideal world? Hmm. I guess yes. But the way that it normally works is that I will work on the rulebook in Google Docs. I will I will work exclusively in Google Docs at the start add images and add notes and add comments. And then it goes off to the graphic designer, however, I always want to be involved in that process. There is only I think, maybe two rule books that I've worked on, where I did the text, and then it disappeared. And I didn't see it again. Now that made me uncomfortable, because it's my name is the editor, I wrote the text. And when that rulebook left me and went to graphic designer, who knows what they did, because you're absolutely right, that the actual layout, and the graphic design is so important, you know, if that call out boxes on the wrong page, or in the wrong section, or they didn't bold, the headings enough, or they use the wrong, you know, title for a particular section. So it looked like a subsection, and it was actually a big new, you know, all that sorts of stuff, or worst case, the graphic designer goes on, I couldn't fit these rules onto that page. So I've moved on to page 23. No!, you know, yeah, so as soon as soon as a rulebook leaves my, my area and goes to a graphic designer, if I never see it again, that is not something that I choose to do. And in fact, all of the rule books that I'm working on right now, whilst I'm not in charge of the graphic designer, the graphic designer is, you know, working for the publisher, and they work into their things, I'm involved in that process. So I will be able to say, you know, I won't be able to change the font, I don't like it. But I will be able to say that the arrow on that image is not clear. It needs to be pointing a bit more this way and things like that, because images and examples. And I want to see the entire rulebook holistically as as as a product and not just moves in it, but also the examples where things are and everything else. So yeah, I do like to be involved in that final bit.

James 22:40
Well, it makes a tremendous amount of sense because the layout to me seems like it is equally important to the text that if you have the layout, if you just had the text and the layout is very poor or the layout can actually surely detract from the text by implying things that are that are wrong.

Paul Grogan 23:02
I've seen some there was a rule book which somebody blinked because I because I'm known now for being the rulebook guy. People tagged me in on Facebook posts when they've they've read a bad rulebook. They just go off just read a rule book for such and such a game. It really awful shame they didn't hire Paul Grogan. Now that is very, very flattering. Yeah, what he means is that my Facebook feed, he's like, oh, somebody is mentioned. And suddenly, my brain is like, Oh, I'm just going have a look at this rulebook now, and suddenly, I'm now looking at a rulebook forgetting that I have no interest in. And I'm looking at it, and I'm going oh, yeah, and one of the ones that I saw last month, and it was very, very simple, it doesn't matter how good the text is, they'd gone with a two column approach. Because it's a it's an A4, or Letter size rulebook, which is fine, that's normal. But what they done is, they broke the sections up vertically, but didn't have dividers in between the sections. So you were reading down the left column as you do. And then when you finish the left column, you switch to the right column. But actually, what they done is you go down the left column, and then that actually continues about a third of the way down the page. That's the end of that section. And then it continues on the right column of that, and it was like, it was unreadable. You just could not follow it. And that was simply and I'm going to be rude here. It was an unskilled graphic designer, who just copied and pasted the text into InDesign, changed it to two columns, split it up into the various sections, but didn't actually think through putting graphical dividers between the sections. So you were reading it, and it just yeah, it just didn't flow properly. And that has nothing to do with the structure of the rulebook the guy who did the the text, fine, that was fine, but when it goes to layout, it was just Yeah, it was a nightmare.

James 24:55
Yeah, this is to me not that different to the way that graphical user interface design works in software, which is that you have to make it navigable as the first priority. And obviously, there are certain conventions about how we read books, the way that we read them is that we read one column and then the next column. And if you work against that convention, then it's gonna, it's not gonna work, it's gonna be very hard to navigate yet. So there's got to be a really exceptional reason when you break those conventions. And it strikes me that this is this is a real problem. Alright, so that's interesting. Part of this, though, and I remember we've had a couple of conversations about this previously, that there is a also a boundary, which seems to be somewhat soft to me between the rulebook usability and then the usability of aspects of the game as well. Yes. Like, for example, iconography. Yeah. Which I know is something we've discussed in some games. Yeah, you've worked on? Yeah. So what role do you think the rulebook editor can proactively play in putting into iconography and user interface design of game board elements? For example,

Paul Grogan 25:56
Generally speaking, none.

James 25:58
Ah, okay,

Paul Grogan 25:59
Generally speaking, right? If you were wanting to design a game, and you needed a rulebook, and you went on to the social media forums and said, you know, recommend me some rule book editors, and you find one and you hire them as a rule, book editor, you're going to get rule, book editing, that's what you're going to get. And a lot of rule book editors would not feel comfortable if they were looking at a rule book and looking at a game and they went, Oh, these icons are very clear. They're not gonna say anything. Because they've been hired to be a rule book editor. If you hired a third party to be a rulebook editor, and you didn't know them, and they would, you know, it's like, it's like hiring a guy to come around and paint your wall. And he went to, yeah, you know, you know, that, that that set of hanging baskets you've got there? Yeah, well, they don't really look great. and you're like, but let me just just paint the wall right. Now, I'm in the fortunate position, that I can't keep my mouth shot. The people I work with know that I can't keep my mouth shut. So I'm a little different. If I see icons that aren't clear, I say something because I can't not. But I don't expect or the rulebook at citizen to do that. And I'm very sorry, if you're a rule book editor, and you're listening to this. And you do comment on iconography, where you think it's not clear? Yeah, great. And please do that. Because to be honest, if I was in the position of the designer of the game, or anything else, I want that feedback. What I don't want is I don't want people to think, or I think there's a problem here, but it's not my position to say something. So I'm not going to say something, right. I'm always, this is one reason why I no longer have a full time job, and I'm employed by somebody else, is I will always speak my mind. And I will always, I will always say when I think something is wrong, or could be improved. And thankfully, going back to Vital, you know, me Vitel, Lacerda, and, Ian O'tool. Ian O'toole gets all of the credit for all of the iconography and all of the graphic design on the game. And to be honest, he deserves 95% of it. But then there's me and a couple of other people going, Oh, that one would look better if you just move that little bit to the right and added a bit more fading on it. And oh, yeah, I'll do that. So yeah, it's it's all a big, shared team effort. But as far as your question about iconography being usable, you could have the best rulebook in the world. But if your iconography is not clear, or, you know, things are just not in the right place on the board, people are going to not they'll read the rulebook in the blank, right, and now know how to play and then they'll come to play it. And they'll be like, wait a minute, this isn't intuitive. You know, I'm doing something over here. And it's, it's actually affecting something over the other side of the board. Well, you know, and people like me, and you will be looking at that and going, Well, why didn't they just put that track next to this one? Yeah. And things like that. Or why isn't there a... Why isn't there an up arrow icon here, here, reminding you that whenever you do something in this area, the share price goes up by one or something like that. And it's little things like that. And as I say, for me, because I can't keep my mouth shut, but also, I am a game developer. I do game development for some games. Yeah. So I, I find it very difficult when I've got that sort of thing to suggest. So I always make sure if somebody hires me as a rule book editor, I say, are you okay with me making any suggestions about the gameplay of the game? Or would you like me to just not say anything and just edit the rulebook? And always they say, No, if you've got any thoughts on it, let us know. Okay, interesting. I always do, but I usually check beforehand.

James 29:41
Yeah, that will that makes a tremendous amount of sense that you would do a check beforehand, because I can see that some people would feel Yeah, they're very precious. Right? I mean, that that can't be something which, which you're a stranger to people getting very precious about things being done in a very particular way. That's been my experience in general working With lots of different people that who are designers, especially, that they tend to be they can get very precious about some things. And they they're not prepared always to have to give up on their not so great ideas. Yeah. But I mean, obviously, you've had the experience of working with some of the top designers in, in board games in general. Do they tend to be sometimes a bit precious? Or they tend to be pretty good at giving up on their some of the worst ideas?

Paul Grogan 30:25
It depends on the person?

James 30:26
Okay, interesting.

Paul Grogan 30:27
It depends on the person. And the other thing as well. Is, confrontation always makes me uncomfortable. I am not good with confrontation, right? Having confrontational discussions about rules of a game. I mean, confrontational is probably the wrong word. But it's disagreements.

James 30:47
It's like forthright disagreement, right? Yes. All right.

Paul Grogan 30:50
With people who I'm a fan of, and let's go, let's say you've Vlaada Chvátil, let's say Vital Lacerda, let's say Richard Breese. These are heroes in the game industry. These are well known popular designers. And I'm having arguments with them. And it makes me feel really uncomfortable. But again, I speak my mind when I say something. And the great thing is, is that and the reason why I carry on doing it, is because I feel that I have helped, even if I say I played the game a couple of times, I don't like the way these work, it feels a bit un-thematic, etc. You know, I'll have that. And they'll go, What are you talking about? Paul, you don't know what you're on about this, that and the other? And I'll be like, right, that's, that's, that's fine. I've said my bit. And they've made they've they've said no, for whatever reason. But sometimes they go, Oh, yeah. And the change gets made. And that's why I keep on doing it. I don't win all of the arguments. But going back to the 2am conversation with Vitel Lacerda this, this is a classic This is from about two years ago, but there was a there was a particular part of On Mars. And it was about two or three in the morning. And there I was in bed on the iPad. And we were having this back and forth about this particular thing. And I felt he was getting a little bit angry. It he probably wasn't he was probably just tired in the language barrier and things like that. And I was reacting to that. And you just agreed to, you know, call it a night because it's three o'clock in the morning, and we'll go to bed will sleep on it. I got up the next morning there was there was a message from him to say, Paul, I've had to think about it. And you're right, we're going to go with your change. And he's like, right now, I don't want all of my arguments with Vital. But yeah, that's why I persist, because sometimes I'm onto something. Yeah. And sometimes I can make the designer look at it again. And think about it from a different angle. And then and then review. So again, we're talking about different roles here. It is not normally the role of a rulebook editor to be having those kinds of discussions with the designer. But I'm fortunate in the position that I mean, especially with Vital who I've been working with now for like five years, this is just how we work together. He did that. That's that's just how it is. And we're doing exactly the same now on Weather Machine. And one of my rules, suggestions that I put in about three weeks ago. He liked the idea of it, he's made that change. But then he said, unfortunately, I've now had to add five more components to the game. And we now need a way of tracking whether the component his face up or face down. But that change got made into the game. And I and this is the thing with most of the games I've worked on, I can look at the game and I can look at a little bit of it and go oh, that was me that bit, you know, I? On Tzolkin on, which wheel is it one of the wheels of solchen the last space on one of the wheels, there's a not equals to sign. That's my not equals to sign. Because I said, and this is this is going back a long time. Now. I said, I think that is too powerful. If you allow a player to move up on the same God track twice with that action, and they all thought about it. And they went, Yeah, you're right. And they put a not equal to sign on it. And and then that makes it clear in the game that you can't do that. It's two different contracts. Right? It's little things like that. And that if we go back to my passion for games, yeah, this is why I carry on doing what I'm doing. Because it's just so... it's so rewarding. And it's the unsung heroes. I mean, you've had you've got it with Magnate, you are the designer of Magnate. But how many people have you been working with over the last couple of years on that project that have influenced some of the rules to make them better in one way or the other?

James 34:45
Countless. Exactly. It's already the case because it's quite a complex project. It's already the case that when I look at the credits for it, it's not the end of a Marvel movie. Yeah, like a little bit already. But actually, if I if I included all of the people that have contributed in some way, but just having a bright idea or the play test or something? It really would be like the end of a Marvel movie with like, the all the technical credits of the massive SFX team and things like that it would it would be it would be. And yeah, you're completely the team effort thing is fascinating. Would you say then that it would probably would it pay rulebook editors in general to have a bit of developer experience?

Paul Grogan 35:24
Well, it's helped me, because he's helped me see things from a different angle. And it's like, going back to graphic designers, right? There's a graphic designers, and there's graphic designers, who are gamers. And if you're going to get a graphic designer to do the layout of your rulebook, try to get somebody who is a gamer, because the end product will be far better, right? Because they, they're a gamer. They've read rule books, they know how example images work, they know Oh, yeah, we need an image of a card. And we need, we need an arrow pointing to the bottom bit of text. And we need to draw a circle around where they know that, whereas I've worked with some graphic designers, who are not gamers, and it was painful. Because their graphic design skills are good. But they don't actually know. So I in one case, I literally had to create my own images for them in Photoshop. Right, very rough images and say, Look, this is the image we need go and make it look nice. Yeah. And all it was was here's a picture of a card with an arrow pointing to where the armour is. Right? Yeah. And saying, for example, this unit has four armour. They weren't able. I mean, they were a bit stubborn. But I've seen other rule books done by people who are graphic designers who aren't rulebook people. And yeah, it's just so yeah, I think, I think having multiple hats, having multiple angles all, all helps the situation. And again, you mentioned that I demo games at conventions, you know, and I do a lot of that I do a lot of teaching games in person to people that helps the rulebook writing videos, helps the rulebook, right, all of the different aspects of my job all feed into each other. And they're all I mean, all of them are all around teaching games. So there is definitely a complementary element to each part of the job.

James 37:19
Yeah. And that makes complete sense. Again, kind of bringing it back to what you said about being an editor in all caps, because actually, that is about that that kind of total view of how games are taught. So in general, then, do you think rule books are getting better? Or not? I mean, obviously, outside of your books, you put a tremendous effort into making them really excellent. But I'm thinking about from this very holistic perspective. But is that true? In general? Yes, and No? Interesting.

Paul Grogan 37:48
It's, it is it is a really interesting one. And I have multiple things to say about this. Because some people think that a bad rule book will kill a game. And there's been evidence of that, right? There has been evidence of games that could have been huge, popular, amazing games. But the rulebook was so bad, it was such a barrier to entry. People just weren't able to actually play it. Right. And there's a couple which I I don't know whether I should mention them or not, but people probably know which ones I'm talking about. And then there are other games that come out with bad rulebooks but are hugely popular and sell millions. And it's like, well, hang on a minute. And you know, people people have said that the Terraforming Mars rulebook isn't that good. Okay, now the Terraforming Mars rulebook is okay, it's not good. Well, maybe it's good, but he's not great. It's certainly not good rule book I've read book, Terraforming Mars has sold millions. The state of the rulebook for that game has not held back the sales of the game at all. Interesting, whereas there are other games where the reputation of the rulebook absolutely condemned the game to the bargain been within six months. And it's fascinating how you get these things because you're like, Oh, well there's the evidence there's the evidence that rulebooks right they've got it got to be good otherwise this happens and then you get other games that come out with not good rule books that's still seem to do well. There's also what's very interesting is what the Spiel des Jahres committee said not last year but the year before which when I read it, I tell you what I had a naked dance around the garden I was because the Spiel des Jahres committee. For those people who don't know the Spiel des Jahres is just the German Game of the Year award in our hobby or industry awards. This is the most prestigious one. Now the Spiel des Jahres is about generally goes to what the committee feel is the best overall game and it is very much weighted towards family games. It didn't used to be but it but it is now and that's fine, but they made a statement. and they said that if your rulebook for your game is not of a good enough quality, we are not going to consider it for the Spiel des Jahres award. And I was jumping and jumping for joy, because I can bang on about how rulebooks need to be better. And it makes nobody listens. Nobody cares, right? Yeah, there's a publisher out there who go in and well, we don't care about programming, we're not going to listen to what he says. Right? But the spirit genres committee saying it, suddenly, publishers have to pay attention. Now. This is this is pressure, it's pressure,

James 40:32
it's applying pressure. That means that if potentially you don't you make a crappy rulebook, then you 100% know, your game isn't getting nominated.

Paul Grogan 40:40
Yes. Now, yeah. You know, if you've if you've designed, you know, Magnate, for example, is never going to get nominated for this build as yours. That's just, you know, that's just how it is. It doesn't fit into that character doesn't know it does. So, So for example, your you don't need to worry about that. In terms of oh, I've got to make sure my rulebooks good. You know, if you've designed a five hour heavy complex Euro game, you go Oh, ugh, got to make sure my rulebook's good. Otherwise, the Spiel des Jahres committee is not going to look at it know that they're not going to look at it anyway. But yeah, so in some respects, rulebooks are getting better. There are a number of publishers who have over the years, improved their rule books. Now, in my opinion, they should have done it sooner. In my opinion, if you are a publisher, and you've spent a year in the industry, and you've made three games, and all of your rule books haven't been good, you need to do something. Yeah, some of those publishers took four or five years before they eventually caved in and decided to start improving their rule books. Because you can it's just time is the right people. It's money. That does what it takes to do a good rulebook. And some publishers have and some people, some publishers have been doing better and better results, or the publishers haven't. Or the publishers are still producing rule books, which are mediocre at best. And that's disappointing to see. But there are some other publishers who are still out there producing awful rulebooks and are showing no signs of even wanting to improve. And Kickstarter. Kickstarter is a whole separate thing. There are so many games that come out on Kickstarter with what look at these artwork. Look at these mini. Yeah, oh, look, it's just made 1.5 million funded in 9.3 seconds. And then the game comes out and the rulebook's terrible. And the game sold, you know, made half a million or more. And that's, I can see why. Because if you put a Kickstarter up for a game, and when this game contains a really good rulebook, right, it's not gonna fund. But if you say, look at these fancy minis look at these look at this nice artwork and all of this, like, that's what sells. So a good rulebook isn't going to sell your game. But it is going to make because because if you've got the, you know, if you've spent three years designing a game, and you've got these miniatures, and you've got this art work, and you've got a brilliant game, you've got 100 scenarios, and you make 2 million on Kickstarter, right? Fantastic. from a business point of view. You can buy your helicopter and you're happy. The game then gets out there on people's shelves and all of the backers get it and nobody's playing it. Now, for me, I'm not against designer. I'm not a publisher, of course, I'd want to make a million and buy a helicopter. But I'd also want my game to be sat on people's gaming tables and being played. Oh, yeah. Well, 100%. Yeah. So as a as a designer, I would hate the fact that I've spent two or three years designing a game, and it's out there, and nobody's playing it. Not because the game is bad, but because they can't learn how to play the game.

James 43:48
Well, ultimately, you've not made a game you just made a collector's object. Right, right. At that point,

Paul Grogan 43:52
Yes. Until a fan comes out and rewrites the rulebook for you. Which will happen.

James 43:57
Well so that's, so that's really interesting, isn't it? So first thing is that yeah, that makes total sense. To me. What we're saying is, is that rule books are more like a hygiene factor in the sense that they aren't necessarily the thing that will move the needle from a commercial perspective. And in fact, you've got these really interesting examples of you've got games, which have been terrible rulebooks, but still been very successful. Yes. But if that might be that they're very successful in spite of their bad rulebooks. Yeah. And it could easily be that actually, if the rulebooks had also been good, it's quite possible those games might have been even more successful, because we're actually what drove their success with something else. Yeah. Yeah. So yeah, and this to me, I mean, this this question has to be good, because you want to reduce the friction for people to play it. And it doesn't. I mean, this isn't the problem. I guess. It's very hard to prove commercially. But I would have expected that the more people that learn your game more quickly and pay it more quickly, the more quickly that they tell other people To play yeah. And the kind of slow motion viral pattern that all board games follow would would just be accelerated. Right.

Paul Grogan 45:06
I hope I hope so. Yeah, I hope so. I mean, one of the one of the rule books that I've been working on for the last six months is Batman, Gotham City Chronicles, right? Yeah. Yeah. And I hope they don't mind me talking about this. But the rulebook for that game was not very well received. And that is a classic example of a game which made a huge amount of money on Kickstarter. And I know, dozens and dozens of people, if not hundreds of people who have this game, they backed it on Kickstarter. Yeah. And they tried playing it. And they failed to learn how to play from the rulebook, and they put it back in the box. And I know this, because I am now a member of the Batman, Gotham City Chronicles, Facebook groups, and I have been for the last six months, and people know, I've been working on the rulebook. And that's how many people have told me, We have this game Paul. We've got this game, we bought it. We tried playing it. We couldn't decipher the rulebook, we've put it back in the box. But now we know there's going to be a new rulebook, we'll wait. And when the new rule book comes out, and it's really interesting, from a company point of view, because what Monolith have done is they've they've hired me to basically completely and utterly rewrite their rulebook. Sure, they're going to be going on Kickstarter and launching, they're going to launch it again. And they've realised they need a better rulebook in order to do that. But they also want the people who've already bought the game to be able to play it. Because they made the money from it. They're now reinvesting that money back now they didn't need to, they could have said, Write Batman, let's just write that game off. Right that we made it, it made us loads of money, people can't play it, apart from the fans that have really invested the time and effort, but let's just leave it there. But they didn't. They've gone back in and said no, no, no, we need to actually support this game and do that. So that, you know, that's, that's, that's one aspect of it. Because sometimes a publisher will just step away from a game and, and write it off and it's finished. And then, you know, then then they're done with it. So yeah, it's, it's, it's that barrier to entry. And I've had this now, you know, 15 years ago, or maybe even 10, maybe 10 to 15 years ago. If I got a game that I was like, Oh, this looks like a kind of game that I'd like. And we start reading it. And I Oh, no, this rule books really bad. And I can't work out this. And this doesn't make sense. And this is contradictory. And whatever. I would spend days of my life, browsing the forums, talking to other people, asking questions, and everything else I've put in all of that effort, I then create create my own FAQ, I then create player aids with it, and I do that. All so I could play the game, because that's the kind of person I am. Was. Now, my impatience, my tolerance for bad rulebooks has gone that if I now get a game like that, and I start reading the rulebook now. And if within an hour, I'm like, I'm not saying, Oh, I'm very sorry, but the structure of this rulebook isn't good enough. I'm not gonna even bother. I'm talking about you start reading it. Something's not explained something contradicts something else. This isn't there. That's not there. I'm like, No, I'll tell you what, I'll go and play one of the other 300 games that I've got in my collection. Yeah, I actually just don't, don't bother now. So for me, a bad rulebook is a barrier to entry and would stop me playing the game.

James 48:21
Do you think this has been then your job, to some extent has been an influence over your changing kind of tastes and games over time?

Paul Grogan 48:27
Absolutely. Because I have more respect as a gamer for the publishers who take the time and effort to do things as I think they should have done. Yeah, rather than just the people who put in minimal effort, and just hope that that will be okay. It's like, No, I've, I've no time for them and have no time for their games now. And, you know, even if people say, oh, yeah, the game is great. You just really, really need to spend, you know, a week learning it and browsing, you know, when the FAQ is bigger than the actual original rulebook. Oh, god, yeah. And so I've rewritten the entire route. I'm like, no, no, the publisher should have done that. You know, and then you've got other publishers, who are really going to every effort possible to make sure the rule books good, and you know, all of that like, well, they're the ones that I want to be, you know, be interested in.

James 49:18
Yeah, completely. Well, I mean, that there's just so much that exists now. Yeah, that doesn't seem like a tremendous reason to be it to put that amount of effort in, because as you said, like, there's so many other games that have done that job that kind of respected the customer in that sense. And then the game is also equally good. Yes. So why wouldn't you pick that game rather than the one that's going to be a huge pain to learn? Yeah. This is very interesting. There's a there's a piece of research on BGG that tried to work out whether or not rule books in general, we're getting better by the size of the FAQ threads, which is kind of like, I think, but doesn't sound like that would work.

Paul Grogan 49:55
No, because the the number of users of BGG has gone up the number of people you Using BGG has gone up. And if you look at some of the rule books, which are, in my opinion, extremely good rule books, there are pages and pages and pages of FAQ, because people are lazy. And a lot of that if you look at the rules, forums for games, which have really good rulebooks generally the replies to those forums are eight, some page 17. Or you will say, or it is because and this is another interesting topic that I don't if we want to go down this route, but there is a difference between a bad rulebook and a complex game. And I know so many people,

James 50:42
I absolutely do want to go down this route. Like because that seems very critical to me that the meeting point of actual rules. Yeah, and the rulebook is just critical.

Paul Grogan 50:51
Yeah, there are so many people who will go Oh, yeah, the rulebook for game X is really bad. Yeah. And I'm like, no, no, no. The rulebook for game x is an extremely good rulebook. Everything is in there. There's no contradictions. It's in a good structure. There's no missing rules. It's all there. It's all fine. The game is just really complex. And therefore you are going to have a hard time learning how to play that game. Even though the rule books are good rulebook, right? Yeah, because it's a complex game, and you're going to make mistakes, and you're going to forget things but great western trail, in my opinion, whilst the rulebook might not be perfect. It's one of the best rulebooks for a complex game I've read. I was a I read, I read the rulebook for great western trail, I was then able to play great western trail and teach other people how to play and had no questions whatsoever in the game that weren't covered in the rulebook. Everything that cropped up in the game was in the rulebook. Therefore, that rulebook served its purpose, it taught me how to play the game. And I didn't have any questions afterwards. And there are pages and pages and pages of questions on there about what what what happens if you do this? Well, that, you know, it's it's in the rulebook it is there is not a hidden, it's there in a big red box. So yeah,

James 52:09
So quantitative analysis wouldn't even help you solve that problem and then of analysing it, because of the problem. It's the nature of replies to this all confounded by all of these issues of the more popular games, or just have more responses. Exactly. People often don't even bother to look necessarily in the detail the rulebook to be like, Oh, actually, this is even covered in a specific in rulebook FAQ or something like that. Yeah. So it's basically not amenable to that kind of analysis. Basically,

Paul Grogan 52:31
Even though the rule books that I've written recently for a game, which is which has just come out, backers have just got hold of a game, which I worked on the rulebook for, I mean, I worked on rulebook like, months ago, but you know, backers are now getting their copies of it. And one of them, well, some of them are Patreon supporters of mine, and he sent me a message through Slack. He said, I hope you don't mind, Paul. But I found a few missing things in the rulebook. And I said, What, please let me know, because I want to improve all the time. Yeah. And he was like, yeah, yeah. So so the concept of there's a few things that refer to the level of a card. Hmm, okay. And at no point do you actually mention anywhere in the rulebook what the level of a card is or where it is? And I'm like, I'm panicking. And then later, he came back to me and went, Oh, no, no, no, no, it's all right. I found a big blue box right on the page that says, here's what the card is. And I'm like, Who? Right but it's interesting, because I'm trying to work out psychologically, he didn't when he was reading through it, he didn't see that blue box, he didn't see that big box saying, this is the level of a card. And that's exactly the kind of question you'll get on BGG is somebody will go, Oh, I've done this ability. And it says that I score two points per level of my yellow cards. What is the level of a card? And some of the replies will be? It's in the blue box on page 11? And they'll go Oh, yeah. And that's it. The rulebook was fine. It was there. It was just some people, some people miss it.

James 53:56
So most probably, if there was anything that could have been improved about it, it would be something around the graphic design, probably, of how it was positioned, maybe

Paul Grogan 54:03
Maybe. Call out boxes are a difficult thing to get right. Because some people mentally ignore them. Yeah. But you can't interrupt your flow of text. With side information. It's a tricky thing to get right.

James 54:18
But yeah, that I think that that's something I've noticed quite a bit in terms of reading things is that I tend to, if anything feels like it's sort of like additional notes, or you might like to know, my brain just goes, nope. Right? Just ignores it. And it has to be something that's like a read with like a strong icon or something that's like, Do not skip this tends to be the only thing that I will pick up. So that's yeah, that's Yeah, that's very interesting. Considering that what I mean is the question of complex games versus rule books, raises a meaty question for me, and it's one that I've thought about a lot during the magnet is that are there just some rules that are just simply less amenable to explanation?

Paul Grogan 54:57
Yes, and I'm working on this morning driving me crazy. And I'm trying to convince the publisher to change the rule. And I had a discussion with them at about 10 o'clock last night. And they said, they're not going to change the rule because it causes balance issues. So unfortunately, it's a very difficult concept. And I said, Well, this might end up with an entire page of examples to explain this particular concept in this game. And they said, well, that's your job Paul. Here's the rule. You now need to explain this as clear as possible. How you do that is up to you. And I've gone are right, okay. And it's a Rick. It's one of those ones where if I was sat with you right now, and I had the board in front of you, I could say, Look, this piece here, you see it moves to here. And then there's this right, I can't do that in a rulebook. No. Right? I have to I have to do it with still images and text. And it's, yeah, it's a concept, which I'm, I'm wrangling with this afternoon.

James 55:50
So that's an interesting subtlety, isn't it? So there's the question of is the rule just difficult to explain? Yeah, there's the question of is the rule difficult to explain in the given medium? So for example, in a text document, and then there's the rule of is the rule just poorly expressed, and the expression of it can be improved?

Paul Grogan 56:08
It's, yeah, I don't know how I'm going to solve this one. Because when you're demoing again, to somebody in person, I can use analogies. Right? So I can be saying to you, look, James, if I move this piece over here, yeah. And I move through this here, then it's just like the doors in Star Trek, you know? Yeah, right. Right. Great. I can't do that in a real world, right?

James 56:28
Yeah. Oh, sorry. Like this. Think about this. Imagine that, you know, in this TV show.

Paul Grogan 56:37
So yeah, you can use the freedom of expression when doing a physical playthrough, where you can act things out, you can use hand movements, you can move things around, you can do all of that you can use analogies, is great, and explaining a concept within a game. So it's a tricky thing, because I don't personally believe that flavour text within the main body text of a rulebook is a good thing to do. Flavour text, when it's in a little side bit in a different font in italics, or whatever it grain. But flavour texts mixed in with actual rules is not something that I want to see, I want to keep my flavour texts to the side. But that does mean, I can't start using flowery flavour text to describe this particular situation. And if I did, it would actually make it easier. So I'm at the moment I'm wrangling with I'm explaining the rule. And then in brackets, I'm putting a thematic explanation rule. So it's not quite flavour text. But it is a thematic explanation for the rules, but it's in brackets at the end of the sentence.

James 57:49
Interesting. That's kind of an unusual midway point, because then when we were editing Magnate, we ended up just differentiating, here's the flavour text, it's in a different format. It's very clearly different versus the kind of technical nature of the rules text. Yeah, I guess the problem is, is that the rules text is has to be technical, because there has to be a definitive way to read it. Yeah. There can't be a kind of multiple approximate set of interpretations, like it's a poem or something like that. That's not what you can do. It has to be very clear what exactly is meant. Yeah. But the problem is, is that actually, in terms of explanation, I think I was fine in terms of teaching games in general is that without thematic and analogy, everything is much more complicated, which is why robic editing is difficult, right? Because it requires you to be technical about something that if you're verbally explaining, you can work by analogy. I mean, if I think about the way that you teach games, you have a very clear method for this. It's very different. It isn't like reading a rulebook out. It was absolutely sure it's nothing like that now. So. And just yesterday, I was talking to Jaya about this about the the fact that I find it difficult when people try to explain games to me who are not used to explaining games, because what they do is they tend to say, well, in the game, you move the piece from here to here, and then you can draw one of these cards. That's where they start.

Paul Grogan 59:04
Yeah. And you're like, Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, is this a cooperative game? What are we trying to do? How does it last for 10 rounds? Or does it last when a market reach?

James 59:14
Yeah, held it up first? And they say like, and they're like, oh, yeah, it's a game about defeating a horde of invading robots. And I'm like, right. Now. First, before, before we can go into

Paul Grogan 59:26
That is similar in rulebooks. In terms of structure, you have to start with what the game is about. Yeah, then you have to start with. I mean, I always like to start with a little bit of flavour introduction. So a couple of paragraphs in italics, of setting the theme of the game, it's the year 3000, whatever. Then I like to have a couple of paragraphs about what the game is. This is a cooperative game for two to five players where you are trying to do this, etc, etc. The game will last for, you know, four rounds and then at the end of the four rounds, if your walls are still standing you when they get right. Okay, so we've had the thematic flavour, then we have the precise detail and straight away, right? I know, I know what the game is, I know how you win, I know roughly how long it's going to last. And then we start diving into. Here's the list of components. Here's the setup. And then and so in that respect, the teaching person will follow a similar structure. Because you start off with the with the high level, and then you start going down into the detail. But one of the things that I've been doing recently, and some people won't like this, but this is a style choice. If, for example, a game has a number of rounds, and each round, there are three phases. And in phase one, everybody draws two cards from a deck, right? So that's dead simple. In phase two, all players take an action. And then in phase three, you do cleanup. Okay, right. So the structure of the game is very simple three phases. I want to explain the, the overall structure of the game with those three phases. First, when I start describing phase two, if there are 10 different actions that you can do, I'm not going to explain them at that point in the rulebook. Yeah, all I'm going to say in the rulebook is in phase two, you will perform one of 10 actions, the actions are all explained. Maybe even in the appendix, literally, I'm not going to put them in the middle of the rulebook, because at that point in the rules, I want players to read. Okay, phase one drawcards. Phase two, perform an action phase three do cleanup, right, that's in my head. You don't want to interrupt and say phase two, you perform one of 10 actions, right? I'm now gonna spend six pages talking about those 10 actions. And then seven pages later go. Phase three, cleanup is like, what? No, no, no, because by the time you've got to that page of the rulebook, you've forgotten that you're in a three phase structure.

James 1:01:49
I wonder that's really interesting in the perspective of how rulebooks meet how people mentally file things, because it's almost like that's a bit like, what you end up with is something which is more usable when it's like a fractal pattern, where there's this thing of like, first step step is you have the structure of the game. And that gives you a way to understand okay, the overall, it's displayed in a series of repeating rounds. And each round is phase one, phase two, phase three, and I suddenly got a superstructure in before I know anything else about the game I'm sitting in about to play the game. And I've got a sense of how my turn arc will be. Yes. And then your next thing, right, well, we're not going to tackle what the 10 actions you can do in phase two all yet. We will have a set when we get to that we will explain that in in. We will explain that in due course. Yeah. And that reflects a little bit I think how people file information, right, is what it seems to be. And I guess that's that's partly what the art of writing the rulebook is, right? It's reflecting the way that information is filed. Yes. But but at the same time remaining completely unambiguous. Yeah. Which a metaphorical approach can't do.

Paul Grogan 1:02:48
Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. And yeah, the amount of sentences of rules I've written, which have then gone to other people, and they've read it a different way. I mean, I read a rule yesterday. And it was quite funny, actually, because I was on the discord channel, where all of the play testers are. And I read this rule, and it said, Put a token on either side of the wall.

James 1:03:09
Okay, right. Yeah.

Paul Grogan 1:03:11
And they said, Paul, you need to mention that, because there's only three tokens in the game. You can only do that a maximum of three times.

James 1:03:22

Paul Grogan 1:03:23
I'm like, Well, I'm putting a token on either side of the wall. So that's two tokens. So how can I if there's any, surely I need six tokens? And they went? No, no, no, you put a token on either side of the wall. I went oh, as in both. Yeah, I was reading it as both were as they were. Now, I was the only person who interpreted that line as put a token on both sides of the wall. Oh, interesting. Everybody else. And it could have been because I had I didn't have much sleep on Wednesday night. But everybody else interpreted as put a token on either side of the wall. And I did it or the other. Yeah. Yeah. And I interpreted it as put it on both sides. And now as I say, I was the only one that made that misinterpretation. But that meant I had to say, and I just changed the word either to one side of the wall brackets. It doesn't matter which,

James 1:04:23
yeah, yeah. Right. I say yeah. Because that that because I'm ambiguous,

Paul Grogan 1:04:26
Because if you put one side of the wall, players will go well, which side of the wall? Yeah. So you have to say, one side of the wall. And then I felt I needed to add a note to say, it doesn't actually matter which side of the wall you put the token on. And yeah, it's interesting how many people will read as you say, a rule needs to be precise and clear, and unambiguous. And I've had this with rules I've written: I've written it and I've got yep that's clear. You know, a couple of years ago, I learned a lot about the word any. So if I say to you James right there's a barrel in the corner. There's a barrel in the corner there. It's filled with apples. Go over there. And get me any apple. Yeah. Yeah, you're gonna get me one. Or you're gonna get me... The word any, is ambiguous.

James 1:05:15
Oh, there are lots of situations in which I found this Yes. Where it's it's it what effectively because it doesn't exactly mean all but it can kind of mean all exaggerations, right.

Paul Grogan 1:05:25
So it could mean all in some circumstances get me exactly rather than one. Now say, go over there and get me any one apple. Because it's unambiguous. And it's funny, because another rule book that I wrote, went to the backers a couple of weeks ago for feedback, and one of the backers came back and suggested removing the word one from that line, because taking any one token is clear. And I went, No, it's not. And that's exactly why but it's interesting that I gone the extra mile, and I'd put take any one token and some backer one but backer in particular, read it and said, You don't need to use the word one, because by saying take any token that infers and I'm like no. Language is is easily misinterpreted. And we haven't even touched on translation issues.

James 1:06:20
Oh, my God. Well, I'm actually going to say, I had a whole set of questions on translation by the part those for now. Yeah. Because I'm really hoping that obviously, we'll get a chance to do this again. Yeah. So that's one of the ones we can we can do part two next time, though. Absolutely. The thing I really wanted to get into that I'm really, really excited to get your opinion on because it's a passionate area for me, is around the role of evolving how we teach games, right? In particularly around the development we've seen in the last few years of tutorials. Yes, so you know that I have put one into Magnate. Yeah, I did something which I've recently been playing with. Gloomhaven, Jaws of the Lion. And I've been going through the tutorial to that. And I'm thinking that I first came across it several years back with Fog of Love, which had one. So where are we going with this? Are rule books in the current form gonna be obsolete at some point?

Paul Grogan 1:07:09
No, we're gonna still have rule books. But the number of games that are now using a walkthrough, first game, read this first demo, whatever. Yeah, it's brilliant. And so different ones. I've done it different ways. That you know, there are ways to do it where it is literally scripted. So you've got like a four page, read this first booklet, and it says right, setup the game. Now this player, I've just actually done something like this a couple of weeks ago, me and a friend of mine got the Middle Earth collectible card game from 1995. Right, this is a really, really old card game. Now one of the problems with that game is it was very, very inaccessible because the rulebook was really, really complicated. And we found that in I think, 98, or 99, the company who made it released what's called a starter set for the game, it was the last thing they released before the game then got cancelled, because it was just prior to the films coming out, at which point, they didn't have the licence anymore. Okay, so that's why the game got wrapped up. But we found a starter set. And we were playing it. And we managed to find the Starter Set walkthrough that came with the game. And it was 100%, scripted, literally, even down to the dice rolls. Wow. So it told you to stack your decks in a certain order. It then taught you step by step through all of the phases of the game and told you right at this point, you need to draw two cards, you have now drawn this card, notice that your opponent has just moved through wilderness, so you should play this card on them. They then choose to fight the spiders, they roll dice, they roll the seven. So this is what happens. Right? What me and a friend of mine did is we played through this entire game on Tabletop Simulator. Following the scripted walkthrough. We made zero choices whatsoever. Yeah, right. We literally just followed what we were doing. reading from the book and going through the steps and moving the cards around. By the end of it, we knew how to play the game. That was the best way to learn that game. And that was 100% scripted with no player decisions and Gloomhaven Jaws of the Lion has done it slightly differently. What it's done is it's split the learning up into five. Your first five scenarios it teaches you the basic rules and then says right off you go. Go and play them. Then it teaches the next bit of rules and says now go and play them. So it is giving you the choice. You feel that you're playing the game. But any game that uses that kind of approach for me gets gets a thumbs up and I know you've done it with with with Magnate. Because some people will not need that. Some people will read the rulebook and go right, I now know how to play the game and they'll go and play it. And other people will want to sit down with your walkthrough manual and go through that step by step. And so what you've done is you've reduced the barrier to entry to your game. And that's got to be a good thing. But how much time and effort did it take?

James 1:10:19
Oh, God, it was yeah, it was a monstrous time. It was months and months of development work in early last year. It was absolutely brutal. It was the the toughest, single piece of design that I had to do in the entire process, probably. And it was optional. And yeah, and it was optional, because we didn't need to do it. But I felt that this is really interesting thing about where tutorials might be critical, it felt like Magnate has a couple of mechanics that are I don't think that horrendously difficult to understand. But they present enough of a barrier, I think in themselves that even rulebook explanation of them, they're the kind of thing where you'd read a page and go, What? Hey? And then you play it and go, Oh, I see it now. But until you've seen it played, you'll, probably be in a bit of a headache. So to be able to demonstrate that and get that over. Also, you know, I just wear that so many games, it was before that sitting on people shelves for so long. And I know that the fact that I have to read a rulebook first before I can just start playing makes me slightly less likely to play something every time. And that just thinking, You know what, I could get the new game. I could unseal it and then begin playing it with my friends straightaway, without any prep. Just seems like a very attractive prospect to me. And I guess to that, the slightly wider circle of people? Because one of things I'm really aware of is that, you know, a lot of time on BGG, or a lot of time in the industry. By their nature, most people have heavier skewing tastes, and they're super tolerant of reading rule books, and they're super tolerant, of that sort of thing, because they have to do it. Yeah. But if you're if I'm with people who are more casual, they're the kind of people that don't play many board games play Magnate, they instantly recognise elements. And they're like, Oh, it's a bit like Monopoly. And actually, they're making strategic decisions before the end of their first game. So it's like, it's obviously not fundamentally too difficult for them to learn and play and get a lot out of, even though it's a pretty big looking game. But I just I just felt like I want to get people to that point so rapidly, right?

Paul Grogan 1:12:27
Yeah. And it's interesting, because, as you say, the board game hobby that we know, every board gamer that I know, I'll say every 90% are on BGG. Yeah. Right. How what percentage of gamers in the world are on BGG? Not many, a few percent. Because we're talking about the untapped. Well, not the untapped market, but the market of family games. Yeah, the Ticket to Ride the Catans, the kind of games 90% of the people who buy those games have never heard of BGG. They need a rulebook. It's like, Oh, I've bought this game. The last game I bought was, you know, Monopoly Exeter. If they bought Magnate, without your walkthrough book they will take one look at the rulebook, they'd start to read it, and it would go back in the box. However, the walkthrough booklet, there'll be like, Oh, okay, right. And I think what would be great, is if they say to their friends, we've got this new game, it looks a bit more complicated than Monopoly. But, you know, come around, it's got one of these walkthroughs we can sit down, we can try it. And we will know at the end of that, whether this is the kind of game that we're going to like or not, yeah, so it reduces not only the barrier to them learning how to play the game, it reduces the barrier to them even trying the game out, because there's a few people I know. The few people that I know in the world, though, who are not gamers. They're a bit scared. It's not just oh, I can't be bothered learning. It's, oh, that's too hard work. And that's for people who play those games, and think I am not good enough for that. And if you can just make the game approachable and say, look, you'll be fine, then then that's good.

James 1:14:14
Yeah, completely. Well, this is my sincere hope for it. Is that this, it takes the form of a deck actually, like a deck of Tarot sized cards that hopefully will, will do that. How many games are you seeing that are coming your way in terms of editing work that are that have a tutorial element to them? Is it still quite small?

Paul Grogan 1:14:36
It is quite small. And I think I need to be starting to recommend it more, because going back to what we were saying earlier on, when people hire me to be a rulebook editor, they get all of my other stuff bundled in that. And I think what I need to be doing is I need to be saying to people, have you considered some kind of you know, tutorial walkthrough for this game, I mean, I haven't even considered it for Weather Machine. I'm working on the Weather Machine rulebook right now, with Vital Lacerda. And I haven't even considered that. And I don't know if I should.

James 1:15:11
It's difficult to decide what are the right projects for it.

Paul Grogan 1:15:14
Yeah, because as you say, it's a huge amount of work, but also the target audience for Vital Lacerdas games. None of these other games have had walkthroughs or introductions. Whereas Burn Cycle is going to have one. The rulebook I'm working on at the moment for Chip Theory Games, Burn Cycle is going to have in the back of the rulebook, and we're going to reference it at the start, if you want to just see how the game plays, here's like four or six pages at the back of the rulebook with, it's kind of like an example first turn. But it's actually more is going to be explaining what happens explaining the different steps and actually seeing it being played out. And I think the plan is to write it in such a way that you can physically set up the game to match the images and physically play, play it through and play it through just to see how it works out. A little bit, maybe like the, the middle of the card game thing, where it is just literally we were moving the pieces around, as the texts told us to do so.

James 1:16:13
Yeah. So that's very interesting. And I guess the advantage of doing once you're doing a book over say, a deck of cards, is that a book: you can have those quite big graphical examples. Because the biggest form I think I faced on the deck of cards for this was that you had to just describe things really well, because obviously, you couldn't have more than a few pictures, there's not a lot of space, you can't have a whole diagram. It obviously has other advantages, because it meant we could do things like during the game, when we're accelerating the scripting bit, we give it to everyone draws their own secret card from the deck, and they know what actions they're going to perform over the next round, and that sort of thing. So it's a bit more flexible in some ways. And if obviously, it's nice it being bite sized, like people don't feel like there's too much being explained at once. That's an interesting challenge there. It's a fascinating one picking them because the Vital Lacerda's games, other than Escape Plan, which taught me the book must be almost two or three years back, other than that, I've not played any of his other games. Because to be completely honest, um, even though some of them look amazing, like the recent version of Kanban EV, yeah, I like that. And I'm all that looks up my street. But I am a little bit intimidated by them to be completely honest, even as someone who designs games that are not light, I look at them and I think oh, you know what, if you just told me there was a tutorial, I would be much more on board with it than having to wade my way through the through the rulebook even when it's a very well written rulebook. Yep. Yeah, it's an interesting one, isn't it? Okay, well, I'm we've been talking for quite a while now already. We have and it's been that the time is flown by so before we before we would like to just move on before we end to some listener questions. Yes. So we got a chance to do that because I'm sure there's loads of things we can talk about in future in another episode. And so I've got lots of people submitted questions I'm sure lots of people are just as interested in in picking your brains okay been so what I'm gonna start with I'm going to get the Jaffa Cake questions out of the way right okay, because those are always the classic one the most important ones because at some point online, your love of Jaffa Cakes became something of a meme in the board game industry. But I'm obviously really keen to get into the more practical questions. Where certainly publishers, aspiring game makers could could learn a few kind of useful tips, that kind of thing. So the first question jaffa cakes is of course, are they cakes? Are they biscuits?

Paul Grogan 1:18:34
So they go hard when you leave them out in the open? I think that means they are cakes. Yes,

James 1:18:40
I believe that was HMRC is ruling on them as well when it came to the VAT case on cakes. So that makes sense. And then the second question is, what are your thoughts on different flavours eg cherry or lime?

Paul Grogan 1:18:52
Right? So the cherry ones are amazing. The strawberry ones are good. The pineapple ones were better than I expected. The passion fruit ones I had one of them and gave the rest of the activity.

James 1:19:03
So no strong vote for passion fruit?

Paul Grogan 1:19:06
The passion fruit ones? Yeah, I didn't like them at all.

James 1:19:09
Well I'm very glad to ask you those questions. And I've got both very direct on brand answers along along with a very on brand Jaffa Cake related questions. So the next question I'm going to be on stretches is about rule books. And the next one is have you ever encountered a rulebook that needs such an overhaul that you just wanted to shred it to pieces instead?

Paul Grogan 1:19:28
Yes, and have done so, virtually. There are a few rule books which I have been a consultant on where literally they said, Paul, we're going to pay you for one day of your time to read through our rule book and then give us your honest evaluation. Okay, and on a couple of occasions, I have said you need to start from square one. You need to start back at scratch because the entire rulebook every part of it is a disaster. The whole structure is a disaster book As I read each individual section, it was in shorthand, right. Every section I wrote, every section I read was written, from the point of view of you already know how to play this game. And I'm just going to remind you of a rule in short,

James 1:20:14
Almost more like designer notes. Than really being a rulebook.

Paul Grogan 1:20:19
It was in PDF, it had images, it had layout. Okay, when you read it, it was like, yeah, so in the movement, part of the turn, each player moves their figure across the board. Right? How many spaces? Well equal to their move value? But it didn't say that. Can you move through other people? Oh, yeah, you can move through them. But you can't end the space on them. Right? It didn't say that. It literally just had short notes. So there's been a couple of rule books I had like that, in fact, three in the last six months, where I have provided one day's worth of consultancy work on them. All three of those were, you really need to start from scratch with this rulebook again. So yeah, I have had that. I've also had ones where they gave me the job of editing. And the first thing I did was start a brand new document, not even take the existing document and start moving it around, but actually start a brand new document, and then start copying and pasting bits of text in and editing them as I went, because I felt that the, the structure just, you know, just just wasn't there. So yeah, I've had that. And I've had, I've had other rulebooks, where it literally just needed half a day's worth of proofreading and minor grammar. And then it was mostly okay.

James 1:21:36
Well thank you to Tom, for that question. Because that I think, is quite illuminating, again, in terms of just making how clear how varied the work is from the point of view, they're very different processes, you're applying to very different rule books and what you get on the kind of input to that as well. So John asks, What's a kind of red flag that a rule book is going to be really poorly written? When you first encounter it; what's the kind of biggest red flag I guess?

Paul Grogan 1:22:01
Those things that I just described. I normally get a fairly good impression early on. I mean, yeah, when I start reading through it, I will get any, I will get an initial impression straightaway, just just from the way it's written. And I'm not talking here about language, if they if they're not using Oxford commas, and there's the occasional spelling mistake, don't care at this stage. I'm looking for the actual content in there. And it is, it's a combination of things. It's a combination of too much information. The front loading is a big problem in rulebooks. This is this, we could if we're going to do part two of this next month, yeah, front loading of information, we can I have a whole hour half hours discussion about that. Yeah, well, it's one of the big problems that I see in rule books, even ones that come out. But that is a red flag for me now. It's a red flag for me. And one of the rule books that I'm working on at the moment, had 12 pages of front loading information before then got into how to play the game. And I said to the publisher, how much editing permission, are you giving me for this rulebook, and they went, you have full control. And I went, thank you very much. Because I'm going to remove that 12 pages of front loading information, I've now got it down to two. Now, I don't like any front loading of information. But unfortunately, this game, there are some very important concepts you needed to have early, but I have kept it to the bare minimum. But before that, it was literally 12 pages of his loads and loads and loads of detail about very, very detailed stuff. Before we explain how you set it up. And that was just that was just too much. So yeah, it's a problem, which it's not a red flag, as in, I won't work on this. It's a red flag as in, this is a big problem you need to do something about

James 1:23:50
Makes total sense. AndI've known lots of rulebooks I've experienced where it's strangely structured with lots of upfront about that kind of conceptual stuff that I'm like, Yeah, I don't care yet. This doesn't seem like it's very helpful at this stage. So Mike asks, why don't more rule books use indexes to help facilitate finding keywords?

Paul Grogan 1:24:10
Yeah. So index is not a thing that I generally use. But in the last six months, I've been starting to come round to the idea of having more indexes in them. So some good summary books have indexes, Fantasy Flight Games, books generally have indexes, and sometimes indexes go too far. You know, I've seen some games with indexes with just like, you'd never look that up in the index. That's, you know, an index should be a player is like, they've got a rule like adjacency. What does adjacent mean? And rather than flipping through the rulebook to find where the rules on adjacency are, what they should do is they should be able to go to the index adjacency page three, go to page Right, right, that's fine. That's a good example of an index. A bad example of an index is putting something like game setup in the index. Right? You because nobody would go to the index setup, you'd go to the contents page to see where games at? Well, yeah. But yeah, so index is an interesting one, because some of the rulebooks that I've been working on in the last few years don't have indexes. Vital Lacerda's rulebooks don't have indexes. I'm considering suggesting to him that we put an index in Weather Machine. And that will be the first index in a Vital Lacerda rulebook.

James 1:25:34
And is that because they're potentially amenable to it, because you've got quite a large number of keywords and those sort of things that come up?

Paul Grogan 1:25:42
Not just that, it's just the fact that I've been coming more and more round to. So I personally don't use indexes that often. But over the last year, year and a half, I've heard a lot of feedback from people to say they find index is really useful. So a little bit like what you did with the Magnate tutorial walkthrough thing wasn't needed. It was an optional extra that you did in order to help the people who would find that useful. Yeah, if creating an index is going to be four hours more work on 100 hour job, it's worth it.

James 1:26:18
Yeah, especially with that kind of time commitment, right..

Paul Grogan 1:26:23
The danger is, so one of the components of Weather Machine is the research tiles. So do I have research tiles in the index? Well, you would think yes. But then what do I do? Do I put every page that research tiles are mentioned on, which are about 10? So um, that's the thing. It's not just the case of, oh, you should have an index. He's like, Yes, I should have an index. But what do I do? Do I do research tiles? How you get them? Page? 12? How you spend them? Well, that's on page. There's four different ways you can spend that. So I'm like, Yeah, I'm not quite sure. Where I go on that. And Vital might say, No, he might say, No, Paul, we've got the contents page. And that's actually got a strip that's got the breakdown of where everything is.

James 1:27:08
it's a difficult one. I mean, I mean, indexes are a pain point. I know, a lot of academic publishing, working out what you do with them. And it's effectively the same kind of problem, because he said, it's like, well, how are you going to choose what goes in and what doesn't? Yeah, you overstuff the index, you just end up with a replication of a lot of the book. And it's no longer useful as an index, right? It's, it's like you have to somewhat deselect what goes in there to make it useful. I would do and those are kind of always always pain point problems. So I think the last question we're gonna have time for today, I'll save that for another time, is from Liam. So, ignoring grammar and spelling, spelling mistakes, what are the three biggest mistakes that people make when writing and editing rule books? And how are they best avoided?

Paul Grogan 1:27:46
So front loading information, which we just talked about, which, for those people who don't know, it's basically a lot of information at the start of a rulebook, which you do not need at that time? It's important, it's very important that you know how to play the game, but it's putting it in the right part of the rulebook or not, right at the start. And so that's, that's one. One thing that's there, too, the other thing is potentially breaking up the flow of your rulebook with going off on side tangents when something could be subsection out and moved on. Like I mentioned earlier on with the actions, you know, you don't want to break up the middle of your rulebook with 10 pages detailing all of the actions when you could put all of the actions in an appendix at the back of the rulebook. And then just, you know, and I think the third one is a lack of examples. Now, most of the rule books that I read, have a lot of good examples with images. But some rule books don't give enough space for that, and you need to, but I also don't want to see silly examples. I don't want to see you know, if you if you take three apples to the fair, you gain three points. For example, three apples to the fair and gain. Yeah, no, right. I don't want to see. But what I want to see is at the end of the game, all players will score one point for every three apples they have. For example, James has seven apples, he gets two points. Yeah, right. Okay, because he would say round down in the text. You see an example of it happening, but where the example exactly matches word for word, what the text is, then it is not useful. So yeah, examples, lots of them. But but good ones.

James 1:29:39
So where they're genuinely disambiguating they're not just refer repeating text, and effectively they are there to there should be some intuition behind their design around anything that wouldn't be incredibly obvious just from reading the text is where you want examples.

Paul Grogan 1:29:53
If we're talking about examples, and this is another another bit of a mistake that I do see is never ever put rules in an example. So the example I've just given you was an example of doing it wrong. So I say at the end of the game, yeah, each player scores one point. For every three apples they have. Yeah, full stop. Yeah, example. James has seven apples. He scores two points. You needed the example to know whether you needed to round down or not. Right? That text should have Yeah. rounded down. Yeah. Okay. Never ever put a rule only in an example. Because an example should be optional. Right? You shouldn't need to read an example in order to be able to understand the rules. And you do see this. You see, this occasionally is not often, but you do see that you're reading the rules, and you get the rules. And then you read an example. And the example. There's another rule in the example that wasn't described in the actual rules, text, and you're like, Alright, okay, so I can move through my friends, for example.

James 1:30:56
Right there this is because actually, you're hiding rules in the examples, when really you need to have a clear differentiation between this is a rule, and it's one of the continuous texts. This is a tool for illustrating a rule.

Paul Grogan 1:31:09
Exactly. So you don't don't copy the text word for word.

James 1:31:13
Yeah. Because then it's probably superfluous.

Paul Grogan 1:31:16
Exactly, yeah. You never put something in an example that hasn't actually been covered in the rules.

James 1:31:21
Yeah. Completely makes a tremendous amount of sense. Okay, great. Well, I'm sure that will be very practically useful to anyone who's interested in making their own games. So we're close to wrapping up now. What should we be on the lookout for from gaming rules coming up soon?

Paul Grogan 1:31:37
Coming up soon? When are you planning this podcast to go out?

James 1:31:40
So this will be going out? In late April,

Paul Grogan 1:31:45
Late April, so by then, the Keyper at Sea rules video will be out. Because Keyper at Sea is an expansion set to keeper designed by Richard Breese. Oh, right. Yes. Yeah, he's going on Kickstarter on the 19th of April. So I will have the video will be finished next week. In preparation for that. It has a so if you've got Keyper if you've played Keyper and you like Keyper, it is an expansion to that. But it also has a solo mode in the game designed by David Turczi. Obviously, because he's the he's the I think, I think there's a contract that's been made that he designs the solo games for every single game in existence. I think that's the deal he's made.

James 1:32:26
Oh, yeah. He designs a phenomenal number of solenoids. I had a wonderful chat with him in Essen about about getting some advice for Solos for me.

Paul Grogan 1:32:35
So that's coming out. What else have I got coming out by the by the end of April? I can't actually remember. Let me just have a look at my calendar. I can tell you that my my workload for April has changed. I mean, we've discussed work work changing things before so the things that I did have planned for April have actually now been sort of delayed moved around that everything else but Weather Machine rulebook with Vital Lacerda I'm working on people are not going to see that anytime soon. The Burn Cycle rulebook with Chip Theory games, again, people are not going to see that anytime soon.

James 1:33:07
A lot of preparation probably. Yeah, lots of upcoming stuff and different videos.

Paul Grogan 1:33:11
Yeah, I will be working on the how to play videos for Stefan Felds to new games, Hamburg and Amsterdam. They won't be finished by the end of April. But they will be they will be hopefully sometime in May. I'm working on one of David's video for Defense of Procyon Three which is David Turczi's, game, and lots of other playthroughs I'm doing playthroughs generally two to three times a week at the moment on the channel. So there's lots of them coming out. A lot of that as part of your you've been because I know you're you've been as you've been kind of pushing your Patreon, right? Yes. The your you've been doing more kind of playthroughs and been able to bounce that a bit more versus just doing rulebook stuff. Yeah, this is this has been probably the biggest change to my channel and my life over the last couple of years is the Patron's support is basically it provides me the financial flexibility to take time off my paid work. Okay, so I have always said that the Patreon support is for the other stuff that I do. I don't want people to support me on Patreon for the rulebook work that I do, because I get paid to do the rulebook work right. Yeah. And I also I'm I not ideally wanting people to support me on Patreon to fund the sponsored videos that I do because they've already been paid for. Now I know other people do that I just I just don't feel comfortable about it. So for me the Patreon campaign is to fund all of the other stuff that I don't normally get paid for. And the biggest change to the channel is because the Patreon has been fairly successful over the last couple of years. It enables me to take X number of days off a week during which I produce content or do things like this this podcast so for example, this weekend this weekend is virtual Baycon. This will have been in gone by the time this podcast comes out. But I am doing over the next three days? Seven live streams of different games, none of which are paid for none of which are sponsored. And it is the patrons support that funds that because sure I'm doing a weekend. But I've actually spent approximately two days of my life in the last month planning and organising all of this. Of course, it's all that planning and preparation that's gone into it. So yeah, there's, there's lots of videos coming up coming up this weekend. But by the time this goes out from now, there will be about 10 more videos on my channel of games that I'm playing.

James 1:35:36
Well, I mean, I mean, that's gonna say right at right away, I want to say to the listeners, then look, if it means backing Paul's Patreon means that actually, he does podcast with me, then please do that. Because that I think is, I think that's great. Now, I think that that's really, really important. Well, you know, yeah, I think it's really great. I feel like I get tremendous amount of value out of your out of your patrons

Paul Grogan 1:35:57
Very much. It's giving something back. And it is really nice, because the Patreon channel, and this is a whole other topic for another time, because when I launched the Patreon I did so because so many other people had launched a Patreon. And it was like, Oh, well, maybe I should as well, right. And I didn't really know what to expect from it. And it started out fairly small. And back then, I don't even think I was live streaming because I didn't, I didn't have the I didn't have a good internet. Whereas now a couple of years on the Patreon is very important to me. And I just want to give more back. And I'm constantly enthusiastic about doing more stuff for the channel, covering more things playing more games and everything else. And it isn't just, oh, well, the Patreon people are paying me this amount of money, therefore I need to treat it. Like I need to give something back. It's it's not that it's more. This is actually encouraging me, and, and stuff like that. And of course, patron supporters get to vote on which games I'm going to be playing and what they want to see and things like that. Sometimes it's the ones I want to play. But very often, it's you know, the other day, one of my Patreon supporters had just bought again, and went online and said, Oh, Paul, you've not done a tutorial of this game. How am I going to learn how to play it? And I was like, Well, what are you doing next Wednesday? Do you want do you want to play it? And we did. And we actually did. We did a live stream. And it was a live stream for patrons supporters. So it wasn't a live stream that went public. But it was a live stream. And then we got somebody else who said Who else on the Patreon Slack channel wants to learn how to play this game. And they went Oh, yeah, I'll play it as well. So all of a sudden, I you know, I did, I did a live private stream for some Patreon supporters of me teaching some other Patreon supporters how to play a particular game. And he is nice. And no point in that did I feel? Well, they're giving me money every month, I really should give something back. It didn't feel like that at all. It was they are helping me have the lifestyle that I want. Yeah, I want to do this. And of course, I got to teach people how to play games, which, you know, I loved anyway. Absolutely. So and they sent me a package jaffa cakes in the post. So Oh, as

James 1:38:07
As as long as I get the Jaffa Cakes. That's critical. Right? Absolutely. Fantastic. Yeah. All right. Well, I just want to say thank you so much, again, for joining me, this has been so much fun. It's been tremendous going through all those things. There's so many things that I really want to talk about that we had to leave off. So we can do a part two, I would love to do, we can actually do a part two, we'll give give some of the other people a chance to be on the show. But yeah, at some point when you want to come back for part two. We do need, though, for part two, to remind ourselves what we've talked about here, because otherwise, we'll just talk about the same stuff again. So oh, don't worry, I will make a list. And I'm sure we won't be short at topics.

Paul Grogan 1:38:43
Yeah. Yeah. Cool. No, it's been it's been a pleasure. You know, me, I always like to chat about rule books and stuff. Because coming on to a podcast like this and talking about it for two hours, actually helps me as well. Because what it's doing is it's actually got more things going round in my mind. And it's the classic case where if you're just doing the job all day, every day and not stopping to reflect on what you're doing. Yeah, then you're not improving. So talking to you and getting questions from the listeners, you know, has been useful and just talking through some of the things again, you know, I you know, people say, Oh, Paul, yeah, he's like, really, really good rulebook editor. And I say no, I'm always improving. I'm always looking for, you know, where we can get better, where we can improve and things like that. So that's been good.

James 1:39:36
Producing fun is produced by Naylor Games. If you enjoyed the show, follow us on Spotify, Stitcher, or other major podcasting platforms. Remember, Producing Fun is also a product and thrives on feedback. So please leave a review wherever possible, or simply send me your feedback directly. You can message me on Twitter at Naylor James and write me an email James @ Until next time.

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