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The Book of Games: Strategy, Tactics & History Hardcover – 2008

3.3 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Some 65 international games are described and demonstrated in this colorful book. Ranging from dominoes to mancala and shogi to Yut, each entry highlights the game’s origins, versions, and playing rules. Additionally, culture and history are explored through games, as in the entry for “The Royal Game of Ur,” one of the oldest board games ever found. Color illustrations and diagrams are used liberally to illustrate strategic moves and the variations of game boards and pieces, while photographs show the games being played.  The index lists the games, with subheadings for history, moving pieces, opening moves, etc., but does not index all of the volume’s content. A geographic index, time line, and world map showing the development of games would have made this a much more useful reference source. However, the illustrations and histories make for interesting browsing and reading. Libraries should consider this for their circulating collections. --Sue Polanka

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 736 pages
  • Publisher: Sterling Publishing; 1St Edition edition (2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1402742215
  • ISBN-13: 978-1402742217
  • Product Dimensions: 11.3 x 8.7 x 1.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #337,025 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I really wanted to like this book. No, that's not entirely correct. I really wanted to LOVE this book. So it's with a bit of remorse that I rate it at only three stars.

I bought this book just after Christmas and got 30% off the already very low cover price, for such a large book. I flipped through it in the store and was blown away by the apparent depth (background, rules, strategies etc.) for a wide variety of games.

But as I read more and more of it I became a bit confused about some of the language/writing in the book. It seemed, at times, a bit disjointed and awkward. It wasn't until I really took a close look at the publishing information in the front that I realized this is a translated text... from Spanish into English.

Perhaps the clearest example of where things went wonky is the chapter on poker. Well, the introduction to the chapter talks about the history of card-based poker. But the chapter itself is really about dice poker. The two games are not (at least in my mind) related in any way other than the goal of making certain matches (pairs, flushes, etc.) I can only surmise that the Spanish version was a bit more accurate and that (as my title suggests) the good stuff got lost in translation.

The real problem is that sometimes some of the game suggestions don't make the most sense. And again, I suspect this is because the translator was probably more fluent in the two languages than in the context of the games being written about.

Visually this is a stunning work. There are wonderful pictures from the past of actual games being played and examples of some colorful and beautiful game boards and pieces. But ultimately, this text is really just for those seriously interested in the history of games and with the ability to pull the odd bit of strategy out of the jumble of words that surround the pictures.
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Format: Hardcover
I must agree with the other reviewers. I read the reviews before ordering the book, and I used a gift certificate so I'm not out any money, but I still managed to have mixed feeling about this book. I was prepared for the poor translation and I figured the lovely illustrations would make up for that. They do, I guess, but the book's weaknesses go far beyond clumsy translation (for example, repeatedly translating the name of the game "Mill" as "Windmill"; it reads like translation by computer).

The much greater problems are a complete lack of references that would allow further reading and glaring inaccuracies in game descriptions and rules. As to references, there are absolutely none, not even a preface or acknowledgments, no footnotes, no "suggestions for further reading." This book wants to live in a vacuum. Perhaps that's because if the reader were to look at any other references, he or she would find out how poorly researched this book is. (Occasionally there are oblique references to other works embedded in the text. Many of these turn out to be inaccurate or just plain wrong.)

Here are two examples of inaccuracies:

The author has written several books on games and repeatedly gives the wrong rules for Chinese Chess; he clearly has never played with or spoken to anyone who actually plays the game (there are well over a billion such people in the world) or read even one of the many excellent manuals on this game published in most European languages. Instead he continues to publish the incorrect rules and give extensive examples of play using these useless rules. Two people completely ignorant of the game could indeed play each other by these rules and probably enjoy themselves, but they could never play with anyone who actually knows the game.
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Format: Hardcover
This is one of those books you see on the bargain shelf and are amazed that such a nice looking book can go for only about 20 bucks. The visual layout is very nice. I agree with some of the other posted reviews that it is not well written. However, my primary complaint is that the book is so incomplete. How can a book with this title make no mention of Chess or Pente!?
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Format: Hardcover
I agree that not only are the rules and variations poorly researched, as suggested in previous reviews, but the historical background is undocumented, unverifiable, and often completely invented. For example, in all my 25 years of games research, I have never seen a reference to Pachisi played in medieval Spain, as this book suggests, but there is no reference included to validate this claim. This makes the work useless not only for learning the play, but for anyone interested in the historical basis of the games. It does have very good illustrative examples of the games, which makes it nothing more than a games picture book - the text is completely unreliable.
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Format: Hardcover
I had not read any reviews of this book, but had seen it at a local book store and thought it would be a nice addition to my game book library. Fortunately, I actually sat down and read through this before buying.

Everything the other reviewers here have said about the problems with translations and the problems with rules are quite accurate. I am used to seeing the author associated with products from Netherlands and nearby areas - so I am not sure why this is a translation from the Spanish, but it reads like it was written in one language, translated into Spanish for publication, and then translated again for this English-language edition.

As to the rules, many are downright wrong. As far as I can tell, none are complete. Even the chapter on Backgammon doesn't include all the rules necessary to play. (for example, no mention of the need to use as much of your roll as possible.) As to history, I would have hoped for this to provide the latest views on who created a game and when - but I find stuff that just seems made up, at least in the areas where I know the relatively recent research.

Unlike other reviewers, I think the artwork/design also fails. Yes there are some pretty pictures scattered through, and the whole thing is printed nicely and colorfully on good paper. But it appears that the developers skimped on the graphic design budget, creating a situation where they, early on, hired someone competent to design a basic template for the pages and then required everything to stick with that. The templates were designed for what that artist thought of as games - square boards.

This emphasis on the square leads to a number of problems.
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