Osprey Publishing has been a major player in wargame publishing since 2008, when they published Field of Glory, an ancients miniatures rule set from Slitherine. During that time, I’ve seen more than one reference to PDF versions of their rules online, and they might be legal, but I’m kind of doubting it as they all seem to be listed on torrent download sites. Heck, I may be wrong, but it just seems not on the up and up– Amazon doesn’t sell a commercial PDF of Field of Glory, for instance. Since 2008, Osprey has overseen a small explosion of wargaming titles, publishing several high quality hardcover color illustrated rulebooks and expansions– including Ambush Alley, Bolt Action, Tomorrow’s War and several flavors of Field of Glory, including the latest Napoleonic version. Some of these, depending on Osprey’s relationship with the original company, may be available as PDFs (Tomorrow’s War, for instance, is available as a PDF version). On another front, there is an even newer line of small, “quirky subject” wargames that appear to be one-offs, and these are starting to hit Amazon as 9.99 Kindle books. The latest being Dux Bellorum, wargaming in Arthurian England, and The World Aflame, an Interwar Period rules set. That’s great news. Why? Well, mostly a personal preference kind of thing. PDFs are great for retaining layout and color photographs and the original intent of the author.. but they are bulky beasts when it comes to storage. I much prefer EPUB when I can get it, as .epub appears to be a platform independent standard these days. It’s also a very lean standard of publishing. Most epubs on my Ipad 2 are 1 meg or less. Most PDFs on my Ipad (the ones with lots of pictures, anyway) are 12 megs or more. Do the math. Aha! you say.. Kindle IS a standard. It uses MOBI files! Well, yes, certainly. But anybody with Calibre and Kindle for the PC on their computer can get around that in about five minutes, and load the file as an EPUB, most of the time.
Now, why would we want an electronic version of a rule set on a tablet or E-reader instead of good old dependable paper? Clearly, the answer depends on the rules. For something large, hardbound with lots and lots of charts and more importantly, lots and lots of rules exceptions, I probably wouldn’t go paperless for a rule set like that. For a short, relatively non-complex rules set like the new paperback trade versions being published by Osprey, I embrace the change wholeheartedly. I ran two games of my own design at Gaming Camp last summer with just the Ipad and some paper roster tables.. I had everything I needed to make the game happen at hand, easy to find and hyperlinked for lookup. I’d much rather have an Ipad handy for a straightforward, simple game (maybe printing out some cheat sheets for everyone concerned in advance) then toting the rule book around everywhere. Besides, it makes for some fun reading in the off hours.
Osprey, by the by, double tapped me. I bought both of Dux Bellorum and The World Aflame from them, directly, as paper books first and now just purchased the Kindle/eventually Epub version– and I’ve pre-ordered In Her Majesty’s Name in paper, which will probably have a Kindle version as well. Great trend, Osprey! I applaud this.
A little bit of a follow-up: As luck would have it, my PRINTED copy of Dux Bellorum arrived in the mail last night. A couple of points: Much as I would like to convert my legally purchased copy of the Kindle version of DB to Epub for use on my Ipad, I can’t. Wargames published by Osprey appear to be DRM protected. And, no, I have no intention of doing anything illegal, so it looks like I’ll be reading these rules on the Kindle app on my Ipad henceforth. Secondly, there are some limitations to the Kindle version of the rules. As any wargamer can attest to, a wargame has plenty of tables. The conversion has to do tables right to be useful as a resource for GMs. My reaction is. yeahhhhhh sorta. The alignment was a bit messed up and the tables in the DB rules overran the margin a few times. Still, it was readable and I didn’t lose any information, per se, I just had to swipe left and right to see the stuff outside the margins. The DB rules are primarily black and white (printed) with some color plates and minis photos. The printed layout was not replicated like it could be in a PDF, but it was still readable and useful. So overall I’m not unhappy about purchasing rules via Kindle.