Monday, 17 November 2014

Rulebook Design – World of Twilight

Back in March this year I pledged towards the World of Twilight Kickstarter, Travels through Anyaral. I have long been an admirer of what Mike Thorp has done with the game and the fact that he originates pretty much all of it himself is a great example for budding game designers.

The World of Twilight is one of the best branding examples in the gaming industry for me. Despite not having tons of cash to throw at it, Mike has developed a truly unique and recognisable logo and visual style for the game – his pencil illustrations have come to epitomise the brand and is, as I say, pretty unique and easily identifiable. Whilst I've never actually played the game, I have downloaded the first two books as free PDFs and felt compelled to pledge when the opportunity arose.

Last Thursday a parcel arrived containing the book and my Kickstarter exclusive miniature. Given the recent series on this blog about designing rulebooks I felt the need to add a supplement post about this book having given it the once over.

The internal design matches what's gone before in the first two books. It's a pretty clean layout, almost duotone rather than full colour inside, and does the job. The pencil illustrations work really well on the textured background and the whole thing feels like part of the World of Twilight family. There is no page navigation to speak of and the page numbers are very subtle, but I don't think it's really an issue in this instance.

The only real design issue I have is the background fluff (above). It's been set in a display font, which does not work as body copy for me – it's a real challenge to try and read it so I suspect a lot of people will probably not bother, which is a shame as clearly a lot of work went into writing it. Mike tells me it was a conscious decision and that's fair enough, it comes down to individual designers' tastes – even if I don't agree, at least it was a conscious decision not a random selection.

This book is clearly as much of a labour of love as the ones that went before and the passion that went into it is obvious to see. I love the concept of World of Twilight and it has carved out its own corner – and is still carving – in an industry that's notoriously difficult to break into.

Yet as much as I like this book, the format and print finishing lets it down for me.

This rulebook was crying out to be perfect-bound, like the small Malifaux rulebook, but instead it was saddle-stitiched (stapled). Just like the Saga rulebook in my previous review post, it has bowed due to page numbers and paper weight. Mike has since told me that it was a conscious decision to go down the stitched route to match the two books that went before and that's perfectly valid. Although I'd personally rather see perfect-bound, it does makes sense retaining consistency across the range.

The real crime however is the print finish. Mike went for a matt laminated cover, which is a great choice but the printers didn't do a very good job (on this copy at least) on this occasion. You can see in the image above we have bubbles appeared underneath the laminate on the front cover. In the photo below you can see the laminate has started to lift at the edges of the cover. It may just be a one-off in an otherwise perfect batch – I hope so.

As a designer, if I had received this from a printer it would have been rejected and the whole batch sent back to be printed again – it's simply not good enough. The lifting will only continue and in a year it is likely to look a bit of a mess.

As a Kickstarter backer I am disappointed with this end product – though the miniature is excellent – not just for me but because I don't think Mike got value for money from his printer.

The question is, would I even have noticed these things if designing wasn't my day job?


  1. I've got to say that I rather like display font - it rather fits with the world that is trying to be created. As with the cover, I'm with you, that would have bothered me too!.

    1. The problem with display/headline fonts is that they're usually too decorative to be used as body copy as they're illegible when small sizes – they work best as big headlines (not surprisingly!)

  2. I would have picked up on the same issues you did, so much of it falls into rule book designs that I just abhor. My ex-wife and I put together a news letter dedicated to train games a long time ago and we did, on occasion, receive review copies. I hated anything that had a laminated finish like that, it always seem to lift away quite quickly, especially with maps. I once had a lawsuit threatened against me because I pointed out just this kind of lifting from a set of maps that we received and I pointed out in a review. Fun times! Thanks for taking the time to add the little supplement to the rule book design.

    1. I've been having an email conversation with Mike Thorp about my issues and he's been very receptive, so hopefully no lawsuits here. He was able to explain he thinking behind some of the design decisions which were perfectly valid, even if they would not have been my first choice – designer's prerogative. You do have to keep an eye on printers though, some of them do cut corners as they often can't afford to spend the time required on a job else they lose money. It's a very cut throat business.

  3. Nice addition to the series! It would be good to see some examples where you think the rulebook designer and printers 'got it spot on'

    1. Haha – you're right, I need to find a perfect example!
      I just need to find one now ;)



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