Friday, March 30, 2007


My beautiful Scrabblette is a book person who visits libraries more often than I cook dinner for her. In fact, a quiet weekend getaway for us will often involve driving to some nearby town and looking in all of the secondhand and new book stores. We have a lot of books in our house, even though most of hers are still overseas.

I like books about games. I particularly like how-to-play books, strategy guides and books that give me an insight into the mathematical underpinnings of games. Here are some that I've encountered recently:

Connection Games: Variations on a Theme by Cameron Browne - Scrabblette found this at a library and I liked it so much my copy is on its way from Amazon. It describes hundreds of games and the maths behind them.

Oxford History of Board Games by David Parlett - David Parlett is the designer of Hare and Tortoise, the first winner of the Spiel des Jahre, so the man has some credibility. Amazon can't sell me this book and Scrabblette's research indicates there is no copy in any library in Australia (the nearest is Singapore) and the cheapest copy she can find for sale is $300. I don't think I'll be getting it soon.

A Gamut of Games by Sid Sackson - I found a copy of this in a secondhand book store in Bundaberg when we visited baby sister. I found it not as exciting as the connection games book, but it's interesting.

The Complete Mancala Games Book: How to Play the World's Oldest Board Games by Larry Russ - Mancala is one of those games that I've been trying to ignore, but since niece flogged me (using the wrong rules!) I've had to pay some attention. After I read this book I will make niece cry.

100 Strategic Games for Pen and Paper by Walter Joris - I've also been trying to ignore pen and paper games, but Kropki is such a cool game I have to pay attention. We'll see what else is out there when Scrabblette brings it back.

Board and Table Games from Many Civilizations by R. C. Bell - Scrabblette borrowed this and its sequel from the library, and they're interesting reading about the history of board games, but most of the games are SO DULL. The Game of Goose. PLUGH. I don't know how many parcheesi variants the world needs, but it's fewer than already exist.

I also ordered a book about the game called Boxes, or Dots and Dashes. Why would such a dull game need a book, you ask? I asked that too. I'll report back.


Stewart Woods said...

Hey John,

Parlett's book is available in the Aus uni library system - I got it via intra-library loan last year. If you know anyone who's at uni, they should be able to get hold of it for a nominal fee.
If you're really keen, he sells it on CD on his website:

Having said all this, the book is largely taxonomical and descriptive and isn't that much more interesting than Bell's IMHO. There's a chapter on modern board games which takes in Scrabble, Monopoly, maybe even Cluedo and Risk if I recall correctly, but the info there is no more than a casual websearch would get you


mikey said...

Geez John, a bad case of blogging constipation there. Nuthin' for days and then BAM a huge output.

All interesting stuff of course. I think that I have pushed the faecal metaphor as far as I can though.

Ken Lee said...

Where in Singapore did she see the book by Dave Parlett?

I might go and check it out.

Friendless said...

Hmm... Scrabblette has some system which allows her to search for a book in libraries all over the world. I presume it includes university libraries, but she's on a plane so I can't ask her. Ken, she's busy for a few days but when she gets a chance to find out where in Singapore I hope she'll tell me.

Mikey... I admit, I was full of it, but I'm feeling much better now. I'm sure an educated man like yourself can push a metaphor beyond the bounds of good taste.

Coldfoot said...

Didn't care for Parlett's book myself. Wouldn't recommend paying too much for it.

He has a good knowledge of gaming history, but a rather inflated ego concerning his own game. I may be remembering incorrectly, but it sure seemed like he could barely go 2 pages without mentioning Hare and Tortoise. As I recall he even created a category of race games in order to spotlight his own.

Jonathan said...

That Connection Games is a bear to find and always seems expensive.

A few others that I enjoy having/reading:

Playing with Pyramids (Looney et al.)

New Rules for Classic Games (Schmittberger)

Botticelli and Beyond (Parlett)

Abbott's New Card Games (Abbott)

Many of the authors can be reached online and are very helpful.

Parlett's website is a goldmine:

- Jonathan