I think the use of color and fancy pages are definitely being overused. Plain white pages for me! Using color to make the pages look like parchment or what ever fancy background that has been picked out just add an unnecessary addition to the final cost. My extreme example of this is the SAGA rulebook which costs $40 for 70 pages of rules primarily because of unnecessary graphics that are there for presentation but do not add functionally to the rules. Now a color graphic the clearly shows how to resolve a complex situation is a different story, I'm willing to pay for that type of color usage (Fire and Fury comes to mind, Warhammer Ancients as well). And while I respect the use of color photos (Blitzkrieg Commander) please don't turn it into an expensive catalog with rules wrapped around it (GW, Battlefront are probably the worst offenders).
You know what I really like? A well organized, functional rule book with a good table of contents, a good index, clearly labeled charts and includes everything I need to play. GDW's Command Decision (2nd edition, not the obnoxious 3rd edition with the green printing on a tan paper) or Test of Battle (essentially Command Decision 4th edition), Spearhead, LaSalle, Fire and Fury, Napoleon's Battles (AH edition) and Through the Mud and Blood are all rule sets which don't require me to buy anything else to play, beyond my miniatures, and they include all or most of the features I like. I don't want to be buying "splat" books every couple of months to get the latest and greatest army or that include "updates" or "special" rules that I must have if I'm going to be able to use my army.
Now there are certainly rule sets that use "splat" books that I don't have an objection to. Ambush Ally's Force on Force or Osprey's Field of Glory series come to mind. In these cases the "splat" books are covering different periods, so if I'm not interested in that period I don't need that book. As opposed to the GW style of army books, or Battlefront's army books with all their special rules.
Granted you can't go strictly by page count when you are evaluating a set of rules. So I'm going to use SAGA as an example again. As I said before this is a pricey set of rules $40 for a 70 page rulebook and the four battle boards on heavy card stock. These are good rules, they are fast, fun and they include everything I need to play so they seem to fit all my qualifications. But this is a set that I wouldn't just buy if they showed up on the shelf. Seriously $40 for a thin book like that? So the sticker shot kept me from buying it till I was able to play a game with someone that had sucked it up and bought it. So it took a game to convince me that it was worth the $40.
On the flip side Test of Battle (Command Decision 4th edition, WWII) costs $30 is a 240 page tome and contains everything I need to play as well. The biggest difference it is primarily printed in black ink on white paper and includes maybe 8 pages of color photos. Just about the perfect balance as far as I'm concerned.
In the end it boils down to this; I like to play miniatures games but like everyone else I have a budget. That budget has to cover rules, miniatures and painting supplies. I'm going to lean towards rules that provide me a good game for my money, I want value not bling. I don't need fancy page graphics, I don't need a full color catalog of your miniatures line and I don't want to have to continually buy new "splat" books because the rules edition changed! With the advent of tablet type devices I don't even mind using PDF based rules anymore. Too Fat Lardies certainly has the right idea with their PDF rules, Through the Mud and Blood only costs me $12.80!
Ultimately I don't know if removing the extra bling will reduce the cost or not, but it certainly used to be more expensive to print. I can certainly see my preferences as I go down the list of rules that I enjoy playing. While there are certainly exceptions for the most part they pretty much cover my basic requirements for a useful set of rules.
Test of Battle (Command Decision, 4th Edition)
Fire and Fury (1st edition)
Regimental Fire and Fury (this one is pushing the envelope and the scenario books are very expensive)
Napoleon's Battles (AH edition)
Through the Mud and Blood
Force on Force
SAGA (had to play it first before I broke down)
And because pictures say things better than I can here are examples of rules with "Bling" and those that are purely functional.
|SAGA, I like these rules I don't like the price|
|And my biggest brief, serious page bling along with examples that could have easily been done in B&W or grayscale.|
|Spearhead Rule Book and Order of Battle Book|
|Easy to use organizational charts|
|Black and white and straight forward charts|
|The Old West, Another set with way to much page bling|
|Like this, give me a nice white background.|
|Blitzkrieg Commander - Essentially Warmaster for WWII|
|I like the white page, the pictures really do a nice job emphasizing the concept. They could have been in B&W though.|
|Now there is a page I like!|
|Command Decision 2nd Edition, plane but functional, gotta like that.|
|White page, black print, well done illustration|
|The organization of a Panzer division, again, black print, white paper and easy to use.|
|Command Decision 3rd Edition|
|You certainly get a lot of stuff|
|No idea who thought this was a good idea. Parchment colored paper, with green and gold lettering. Packer Fan I guess. I find this difficult to read in good light.|
|This pick shows the color of the paper a bit better|
|Command Decision, Test of Battle (4th Editon), Charts, counters to cut out, fog of war gods.|
|Field of Glory (Renaisance) Small size hardback, lots of pages|
|Lot's of bling, all of which could have been done in B&W|
|A splat book for Field of Glory. I only need the book for the period I'm interested in and it contains all the armies involved. So a good value from that perspective|
|Do I need all this though?|
|Regimental Fire and Fury. I love these rules, wish it was a paperback instead of hardback the $35 price tag was hard to swallof|
|Color where black and white would have served quite nicely or even just the brown and dark brown that the chart is printed in|
|This page has even more bling|
|Force on Force, I really like these rules. Another smaller sized hardback|
|Page Bling, white would have been just fine, I don't need to pay for the subtle camo pattern on every page|
|Nice artwork, I like nice artwork|
|A splat book for Force on Force|
|Page Bling again|
|LaSalle, another hardback. One of my biggest issues with the hardbacks is the bindings are often poor and soon you have a book that is falling apart|
|Page Bling! No! Nor were all the colors required in the chart|
|The examples could have been done in B&W. I'm on the fence about this one. Especially since I'm not over fond of the rules.|
|Warmaster. Despite the rather garrish cover this is a nearly perfect as far as functionality vs bling|
|All the printing in your classic black & white and gray scale. There are 8 pages of color pictures which is fine.|