Dynalist for the Win: How a Wargame Rulebook Came to Life


I am a board gamer with a strong legalistic streak. That is, I’m the guy who knows all the rules and will give you a hard time when you try to draw that second locomotive in Ticket to Ride, place a meeple on an already occupied meadow near Carcassonne, or just forget to move the robber on a 7 in Settlers of Catan. But even we uptight legalists have our weaknesses. Mine (quite apart from being an uptight legalist, thank you very much!) was grokking all the rules for a particularly cute, and particularly nasty, tabletop war game called Battleground: Fantasy Warfare.

Now, Battleground comes with a deck of cards that represent your units and a 92-page rules booklet. Yes, you that read right. 92 pages, admittedly pocket-sized, but nonetheless condensed and highly unbrowsable rules. The wargame’s designers, as is their wont, have created a game in a fantasy setting governed by states and conditions that attempt to closely match those of an actual medieval-ish combat. Things like routing, rallying, orderly withdrawal, flanking bonuses, partial occlusion, and several types of morale checks, all have their place.

“Standard fare for a wargame”, the old grognards among you would say. I agree – but a 92-page booklet does not exactly lend itself to in-game browsing. So, what do I do?

I used Dynalist to convert the rulebook into a cross-referenced, interlinked, searchable document. The document makes heavy use of internal links. I found them extremely useful thanks to two of their properties:

  • Internal links are very easy to enter, thanks to autocomplete;
  • they render unobtrusively and do not impose themselves on the reader while scanning the text.

The printed rulebook makes only occasional section references to the terms it defines, assuming you’ve read it once its entirety and have internalized pretty much everything. Worse, sometimes terms are referenced in advance, making it practically a requirement to wrap your head around the whole of the text before you can hope to understand the minutia of unit movement, engagement, and actions.

So what I did was spend a couple of days scanning the rulebook for rules references and turning them into internal links. This might sound dull, but it actually was quite fun with Dynalist’s autocomplete feature!

Another boon inherent in having a rulebook (or any other kind of structured document, really) in Dynalist is that you are given the freedom to create a different, parallel structure, while keeping the original one intact. So once the entire rulebook was in, I was able to quickly select the most important pieces of information – the most salient rules in any Battleground encounter – and pull them up front, as a sort of quick reference. Another direction this could go is to make a gentle quickstart mini-ruleset for the impatient. All the while, the full complement of rules remains intact and can even be perused linearly if one so desires (not that I recommend!)

And here is the document for your entertainment: https://dynalist.io/d/fC1CdQggcJop9T1BQFJj65R9

Feel free to click around, and let me know if you have an idea how to make this even better!


Thanks for the fantastic write-up, @Zoran_Rilak! This is awesome :game_die: