In today’s information age the internet can serve as the primary way consumers can preview rules for games they’re considering for purchase.
Most board game companies maintain websites with a host of information for those thinking about buying their games, plus resources and even online communities for gaming enthusiasts. At the very least they provide a page describing the game basics one usually finds on the box: a teaser blurb, summary of gameplay, and a list of components. If they don’t show the retail price, clicking on the “buy it now” button or similar link sends one to an online storefront that shows the price.
Many companies offer PDFs of their game rules as free downloads. This enables consumers considering a game purchase to preview the rules and get a closer look at the components. It’s not always easy to understand the game without all the pieces in front of you, but it’s better than investing in a game only to discover the mechanics aren’t to your liking. Those who already own the game can print out replacement rules for copies lost or otherwise destroyed. Some websites even provide instructional promotional videos featuring a closer look at the components and demonstration of gameplay.
These online PDF rules and video tutorials also allow those hosting game nights to give invitees a chance to familiarize themselves with the rules beforehand, without having to dive into the game unprepared at the event.
Two other notable resources for previewing games include Dr. Scott Nicholson’s Board Games with Scott website -- which provides online videos about games -- and BoardGameGeek.com, a vast, fan-powered encyclopedia of information on tabletop gaming, with reviews, links to resources, and photos.
The online PDF rules model doesn’t work quite as well for roleplaying game companies, which deal in print or PDF books of rules without all the components of a board game. Many roleplaying game companies, though, offer PDF previews or free support materials like scenarios that offer a peek at the game’s atmosphere and mechanics. Like online board game rules, they offer a glimpse at the game without all the necessary components to play.