Designing Rules for Any Game

The rules are the backbone of any game. It can be a tabletop game, a video game, or even something you made up with a friend. It is the agreed-upon conditions between players or groups to determine an undisputed victor.

A game is only fun if the rules are clear and fair for all players. The word ‘clear’ doesn’t mean it should be simple. For example, sports games have long lists of rules with strict enforcement. Most of these are placed to keep the game from being too chaotic or harmful for the athletes involved.

Rules don’t need to be the rigid structure of a game, either. Live dealer bonuses, battle passes, and other rewards offered by most games today are special conditions that are optional for the players to pursue. Here are further clarifications of what rules are in games:

What Are Rules in Video Games?

Video games don’t follow the same principles of making rules for board games and sports. For starters, the developers have all the means to prevent players from doing something they shouldn’t. For example, the game of chess has a set of rules that the player must memorize and those are the movements of each piece.

Decisions they make that are not allowed by the rules are not counted or will cause them to forfeit. They don’t need to memorize the same set of rules in electronic chess because the developers limit all possible movement according to the board game.

It is easy for players to forget that their long interactive-narrative is still a game. Single-player video games are often geared to either feel exhilarating using cinematic action sequences or immersive with interesting consequences. Those feelings are still dictated by the games’ rules and it is up to the designers how to evoke them.

Parts of a Games’ Rules

Before you begin designing your first video game, you should have a clear vision of how you want it to be played. For example, chess is a game of wits where two players try their best to read each other’s intentions and counter it.

Basketball is a team game where each team finds the best way to score points whilst preventing the opponent from doing the same. The identity of a game is determined by the following elements:

Entity and Systems

The entities are the contents of the game. In sports, this constitutes the athletes and their tools. Board games have pieces and the board itself but some have dice and cards. For video games, entities include the players’ avatar, the NPCs, and the terrain.

The systems are everything that each entity offers to the game. Examples include the unique movements of each chess piece and the differences in roles between a pitcher and a batter in cricket. The players should know which entity does what as part of the principle that games are only fun if the rules are clear.

Fairness of the Game

Fairness is an abstract concept but it is still part of what the developers offer to the players. For athletes and strategists, a game is fair if their skills and knowledge of the entity and systems are rewarded. Sports and strategy games promote self-improvement and dedication.

For gamblers, skill is unfair because there is no way a newbie can compete with a pro. A game based on luck allows both novice and veterans to play together. Luck-based games encourage players to simply have fun.

In business, another thing that developers should consider for fairness is the objectives for paid bonuses. Video game battle passes or live dealer bonuses offer players extra rewards but they’ll just end up feeling frustrated if they can’t meet the requirements.


Every game should have clear goals. Even if you want to build a game that’s meant to be enjoyed as an exploration game, there should still be an endgame. Minecraft is a building game but it is fun because of the players’ journey to get the proper materials.

There’s also the Nether where they can travel to and defeat the dragons. Even if the main focus of your game is the journey, the player should still be given a destination and reason. No journey is ever meaningful without a quest.

The same is true for competitive games like sports and esports. High school varsity players enjoy the game itself but they strive either for scholarships or to join the major leagues. Players of competitive multiplayers like DOTA 2 or League of Legends enjoy casual matches but they love climbing the tier ranks as proof of their skills.

Win Conditions

If the player has a clear understanding of the games’ entities, systems, and goals, then they can formulate their win conditions. This part of a game is not something that the developers can teach the player, rather it is something that they put onto themselves.

A win condition is a set of circumstances that a player strives to achieve to win the game. In games of skills and strategy, players will try their best to control all entities. The playstyle is different for luck-based games where no entities can be controlled. They wait for the win conditions to come to them such as getting a good hand in Teen Patti.

The Balance Between Order and Chaos

Every game has an element of randomness. It is the basis of a game of luck but it is also present in games of skill. In sports, there is no telling when or if a miracle is going to occur. If it does happen, it becomes a memorable moment for both teams and the spectators. Those ‘miracles’ weren’t impossible. They’re just very unlikely events that somehow happened against the odds.

Games of pure luck such as slots tend to have their extreme moments such as winning the jackpot. The chances are low but it is possible with each spin of the reels and that is what makes them fun. Many believe that randomness ruins the experience but the same number of people argues that a perfectly fixed sequence is just as frustrating. The key is to give the player a clear vision of what is possible and the likelihood of them happening.

Bottom Line

There are a few things to consider in designing a game’s rules. Many tend to skip knowing these basic elements because they want to go straight to designing a game that is very similar to another game. You can take inspiration from a title you liked but you have to design the rules of your game from scratch.

As for the business side, players tend to feel more comfortable with tried-and-tested models. You can take inspiration from a battle pass or live dealer bonuses you think are fair and would benefit your gameplay greatly.