In the last #askboardgames show I asked you, guys, for some new topics for the BttS articles. The today’s one has been suggested by Ben Nicholson. “Rulebook Editing with Paul Grogan.” Sounds like an adventure? Oh yes, it was!
This Fall Portal Games is releasing a new edition of Robinson Crusoe. Well, I don’t really want to call it a new edition since this is the same good old Robinson without any major gameplay changes, but at the same time everything is new in the game in terms of production. We have new wooden pieces, we have a new scenario (well, it’s King Kong, so it actually is not that new), we have a new First Player token, we have nice-looking discovery tokens, and most importantly we have a brand new rulebook. It is indeed a good moment to talk today about rulebooks, Paul Grogan, and my adventures with rules for Robinson Crusoe!
It was all very simple at the beginning. We took the previous rulebook and threw it into a bin. Then we contacted Pegasus Spiele and asked them if we could use their German rulebook as a base. They agreed. So we had it translated into English. And then we contacted Paul Grogan. We told him that we had a rulebook based on a very good German rulebook, and we’d like him to take look at it. I thought we were talking about a job that would take no more than a week to complete, a piece of cake.
No such luck.
With Robinson Crusoe – the game already released and one that has been available for years – Paul had a chance to fix the problems pointed out by our fans. The forums and rules threads can be of great help to an editor. But with Robinson Crusoe, browsing through hundreds of BGG threads was quite a challenge. There is a ton of questions about the rules at BGG. And there is a ton of answers.
Paul Grogan: I found your official answer at BGG about moving camp.
Ignacy Trzewiczek: Great!
Paul Grogan: And then I found another reply from you in other thread about camp.
Ignacy Trzewiczek: I was pretty active back then!
Paul Grogan: The point is, they differ.
Ignacy Trzewiczek: You insidious bastard.
Over the years, the number of FAQ, threads, and local editions grew; the German edition had some small changes introduced to the rules. And let’s face it, me answering the rules questions on the forums has never been a good idea. For weeks Paul was browsing through them, thread after thread, and finding all those small details, the small problems, the small inconsistencies, and he was fixing them. One after another.
Paul Grogan: protective amulet
Paul Grogan: old card says “remove any token from the board”
Paul Grogan: EN rules are very specific on what is a token, and what is a marker
Paul Grogan: so tokens are cardboard bits, not the cubes
Paul Grogan: but on a polish forum, back in 2012, you ruled that it was actually markers (cubes) that it should remove, not tokens
Paul Grogan: so just want to check your final ruling. Only cubes? So it can remove exhausted sources, volcanic ash, fog, etc.
Ignacy Trzewiczek: I’d like it to help players to remove any piece of shit that pisses them off on board
Paul Grogan: ok, replacing “token” with “piece of shit”
With every passing week, with every hour spent on the game, an editor – Paul in this case – is able to see more. He can see the inconsistencies in the rules. Not because they were written this way, but because they actually work like that! He sees the unnecessary exceptions where the game doesn’t really need them. Take a look at this:
Paul Grogan: When you take an Explore Action on a card (like the Treasure Map Treasure Mystery card) and get an Event (e. g. Signs of Fire) that instructs to cover a source on the Explored tile, what do I do? nothing? take a Wound because I cannot cover a source? or cover a source on the Camp?
Paul Grogan: the german rules say something about the explore action can be carried on on the Camp tile or an adjacent one.
Ignacy Trzewiczek: Sounds legit in terms of making things simpler, but it is bullshit in terms of theme. You found a treasure map and you look for this treasure in your camp? And you draw adventure “Lost” and you will get lost in your camp? That’s bullshit story.
Paul Grogan: I know
Paul Grogan: hence my suggestion about saying it is either mandatory 2 pawns so auto success. Or, you dont roll the adventure die or something.
Ignacy Trzewiczek: OK, 2 pawns will cut all bullshit. I agree
Sometimes Paul was mean to me:
Paul Grogan: oh, I also found that effect which you said didn’t exist
Sometimes he was telling me that fans says I am dumb:
Paul Grogan: The Ballista (in scenario 5)
Paul Grogan: there is a lot of people apparently who say that it is pretty irrelevant for the scenario and a lot of people think it is a misprint, and should be 1 palisade and 2 weapons.
Sometimes I was not able to accept his suggestions of changes though:
Paul Grogan: Last time I played, I wanted the bear! I had 6 weapons and needed food and fur.
Ignacy Trzewiczek: Fur?
Paul Grogan: and guess what I drew. Bloody feckin stupid birds.
Paul Grogan: 1 food, no fur
Paul Grogan: I’m renaming the card to “bloody feckin stupid birds” btw
That was much more work than I had expected. And the only reason for it was because Paul Grogan is a freaking awesome editor. He has a skill and a natural talent. He is a hard-working bastard who won’t leave any single sentence alone. He is a passionate gamer with only one goal on his mind – make sure you can enjoy the game. This fine print at the end of the rulebook that says “Editor: Paul Grogan” (or any other name in any other game) is quite an important line. Thank the editors for their work!
P.S. I have exactly the same respect for the team behind the German rulebook, with Simon being as super devoted to work and super precise about the rules as Paul. Kudos!