I would like talk about board games again – about game rules specifically. I downloaded some rulebooks and counted words: see the chart above. It can be seen that, in general, games for older players have longer rulebooks.
There are some exceptions, though. For example, Saint Petersburg and 7 Wonders both have very long rulebooks (for 10+ games). This means that new players need advice during the game, and in the case of 7 Wonders are often steered away from the more complex strategies at first. For Dominion, where there is a choice of “action cards” each game, one generally starts with an easier set if a novice is playing. For games like Pandemic, Power Grid, or Forbidden Island, an experienced player will take on the responsibility for the “machinery” that is common to all players.
Conversely, Taj Mahal is an example of a game that is a lot more difficult than the size of the rulebook would suggest. But even simple games can be enjoyable for adults: I would quite happily play Sushi Go! or Kingdomino if offered the chance (in part because the artwork is so much fun). Ticket to Ride is, of course, famous as a “gateway game” for introducing people to modern board games.
As a side issue, many people disapprove of the financial morality Monopoly teaches. More modern games will generally (a) not make money the object of the game and (2) not refer to “dollars.” For example, 7 Wonders refers to “coins,” Dominion has “treasure” cards (which may be “copper,” “silver,” or “gold”), Puerto Rico refers to “doubloons,” Saint Petersburg has “rubles,” and Power Grid refers to the unit of currency as an “elektro.”
I also looked at other keywords (listed below in decreasing frequency). The words “card,” “draw”, “board,” “tile,” “move,” “domino,” “dice,” and “buy” indicate major game mechanisms. For Forbidden Island, Monopoly, Pandemic, Puerto Rico, and Sushi Go! (among others), the text of the rules highlights the “theme” of the game. For example, Forbidden Island has a mechanism similar to Pandemic, but a theme involving a collaborative search for treasure on an island that is gradually sinking beneath the waves (hence the importance of “flood,” “island,” and “water”). Sushi Go! is inspired by Japanese sushi restaurants (hence the importance of “nigiri” and “wasabi”).
- 7 Wonders: CARD, city, build, age, point, victory, coin
- Carcassonne: TILE, score, meeple, place, city, point, road
- Chess (basic rules): MOVE, square, king, piece, pawn, white, black
- Citadels: district, CARD, character, gold, turn, city, gain
- Dominion: CARD, action, discard, pile, deck, turn, phase
- Forbidden Island: CARD, treasure, TILE, flood, island, discard, water
- Kingdomino: DOMINO, king, kingdom, point, place, turn, line
- Love Letter: CARD, round, hand, deck, choose, turn, discard
- Monopoly: property, bank, DICE, house, mortgage, CARD, BUY
- Pandemic: CARD, city, infect, disease, cube, discard, cure
- Power Grid: plant, power, city, resource, step, phase, market
- Puerto Rico: build, goods, colonist, ship, place, occupy, CARD
- Saint Petersburg: CARD, phase, score, ruble, market, worker, exchange
- Sushi Go!: CARD, score, point, nigiri, hand, round, wasabi
- Taj Mahal: CARD, token, visit, place, score, province, point
- Ticket to Ride: CARD, route, ticket, train, destination, score, DRAW
- Tigris & Euphrates: TILE, leader, place, kingdom, temple, BOARD, color