Friday, March 23, 2007

Download the Rules

One of the more useful miracles that the internet has wrought in the gaming hobby is the ability to download the rules of games you have not yet played, and indeed games that have not been published yet. Some smart publishers post the rules on their websites shortly before their games are available, and this can be a fine advertising tool. If the game company is willing to show me their rules before I buy, I feel certain that the company is confident about their product. And reading the rules has turned some of my considers into must-buys.

Here are some recent games that have offered downloadable rules and my responses to them.

Age of Empires III

Because of positive reports from people who had played the prototype, I was already interested in this Glenn Drover game before I read the rules. After reading the rules, this game soared to the top of my must-buy list. It has a lot of elements I like: it is a Euro-wargame hybrid, it features the agonizingly-fun worker-placement mechanism, and it has special ability tiles (another favorite design element).

The Pillars of the Earth

This game seems to send people into two camps: those who think it is Caylus Lite, and those who don’t. But most people in both camps seem to have positive things to say about the game. After reading the rules, I’m tending toward the Caylus Lite camp. And for me, that is a very good thing. I hope this is available soon so I can get a copy.

Caylus Magna Carta

The real Caylus Lite. Before reading the rules, I was wondering if I really needed a simplified version of Caylus. I love the regular version, but how many versions do I need? After reading the rules, I began to have visions of playing something other than Ticket to Ride with my in-laws. This version may be quick and simple enough to appeal to non-gamers.


This is the one case when reading the rules made me not want to buy the game. It’s not that Days of Wonder’s new auction and set-collecting game won’t be fun. It looks like a quality game, and seems to have the wonderful physical production that we’ve come to expect from Days of Wonder. But if I am going to buy a set-collection game, I’d prefer it to have a touch of the wargame about it (as Age of Empires III does). One of the Appalachian Gamers will probably pick this up at some point, and I will probably play it and enjoy it. I just don’t feel I have to own it ASAP.

Owner’s Choice

This stock market game from Z-Man Games seems easy-to-learn and quick-to-play (the rules were only about six pages long). This looks to be another game that may appeal to non-gamers. I’m not going to pre-order this immediately, but I will be watching out for reviews.

If you’ve seen those announcements on Boardgamenews or the Geek that rules downloads are available, but you have never taken the trouble to actually click on them, I would advise you to reconsider. Especially if you buy several games a year that disappoint you. Research and rule-reading saves money and heart-ache.

I could belabor this point, but you get the idea. And besides, the rules for Guatemala Café are waiting to be read.

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