Video Game Manuals and Strategy Guides

We were talking about strategy guides in this thread:

So let’s talk the best guides and manuals!

So I think the most impressive guides I own are Master of Magic and Master of Orion, followed by EF2000. I need the original Civilization guide too. What about you guys?

I don’t even know what makes a good manual. But I loved the manual for Neverwinter Nights, because it was so close to just being a D&D 3rd Edition rulebook.

Also the Starcraft and Brood War manuals. Tons of story and other random information in there.

I don’t remember the NWN manual! I’ll have to look that up!

My favourite manual may have been the Fallout one, for walking you through the displeasant depiction of the real causes of harm during a nuclear attack. It was chilling stuff, and made for a very grim setup to a game that turned out to be quite joyful the deeper you got into it.
I loved all the Microprose glory days manuals: teaching you as much about the game as their subject matter. An unexpected love story with History began with a Microprose manual here: Sid Meier’s Pirates.
Seems I love manual that puts the game into context and gives it flavour, more than those actually explaining the game!

A bit on the side: I remember taking my Close Combat 2 manual with me when I had to go servicing in the army - probably trying to rationalize about what is, in my country, a monolith that has been firmly set into the earth since the Napoleonic days.

On the other end of the spectrum, baring those indecent single “sheet” manuals, my worse find may have been recently Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear. That manual has no plan, just throws random info around, over really poorly laid out 60 pages.
Another manual I hate was Zelda: A link to the past’s. That darn thing was spoiling the whole game over 10 short pages, good job!

Johnny Wilson’s SimCity Planning Commission Handbook is probably my all-time favorite. Wilson and Alan Emrich’s Civ guide is also right up there. As for manuals, I loved most of SSI’s. The background section in Colonial Conquest on the age of imperialism was wonderfully written.

I used to read the Sid Meier’s Pirates manual for fun when I was a kid.

The “Strategy and Notes” booklet in the '80s release of Ogre, was one of the best pieces of supplemental material ever shipped with a game. It’s not due to the flavor text short story (which is neat), or due to the strategy advice (competent but superficial). What really made that special was the long and detailed explanation of exactly how the AI worked.

Can you imagine that in a game released today? Make it easier for people to find the loopholes? Destroy all illusion of there being a real thinking being on the other side of the board? Laughable. But these guys were clearly so proud of their AI that they devoted 10 pages in a manual to making sure all the players understood what a cool thing it was.

(I posted about this in the Ogre thread previously, sorry for the re-run).

I really miss awesome manuals. I am a fan of anything spiral bound. That said, Darklands had a great manual and it was not spiral bound.

Ohhh, I love SimCity and had no idea these existed! So cheap on ebay for both this and the SimCity 2000 edition! Thanks!

God yes, they were all so wonderful.

The Ultima manuals in the '80s were amazing. U3 came with two separate spellbooks (one for mage and one for cleric – both illustrated by Richard Garriott’s mom!) in addition to the manual, reference card, and cloth map. A couple of choice pics below. I responded very strongly to the naive, quasi-medieval quality of these illustrations, and the excessively over-detailed explanation of the necessary rituals to cast the spells (fortunately you didn’t actually have to enact them in-game).

I still have my Dominions 3 spiral-bound manual.

The 3-ring binder manual for Falcon 4 was pretty aces.

Darklands had an epic manual that doubled as a history and geography primer on 15th Century greater Germany.

That is maybe my favorite of all time.

I also enjoyed the manuals for Blizzard’s earlier games. Lots of fun lore and art.

Best manual: Alpha Centauri.

Now that’s a manual.

Best Game.

The only game that comes to mind and hasn’t already been mentioned is Homeworld, whose manual was framed as a historical and technical briefing, chock full of information that had zero in-game relevance but padded out the backstory of the game nicely. It made for an interesting read and was one of my main arguments for not throwing out my collection of game manuals about six years ago. Pic not mine.

The Wizardry game Crusaders of the Dark Savant. That manual was the main reason I got into RPGs.

There are a bunch of great ones already in this thread. The Neverwinter Nights spiral rulebook was really well done. Ultima IV’s lovingly printed manuals hold a special place in my heart.

I’m going to call out DoubleJump’s reverent and obsessive strategy guides to the Disgaea series of games here. I wish I still had them here, but they may have gone into storage, so I won’t be able to show you. But they are written with a an OCD’s eye for detail with the goal not just of getting you through the game but into the tier of power levelers. Did you try piling all of the enemies on 3-2 into one super-cat, and then toss her into your dimensional hole to capture her? In 3 iterations you can have a level 9999 character in your first play-through…