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The Compleat Strategyst (Complete Strategist): Being A Primer On The Theory Of Games Of Strategy [Hardcover]

J. D. Williams
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)


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Book Description

June 1965 0070703965 978-0070703964 Revised
Classic game theory primer from 1954 that discusses basic concepts of game theory and its applications, and which popularized the subject for amateurs, professionals, and students throughout the world.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.


Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

Classic game theory primer from 1954 that discusses basic concepts of game theory and its applications, and which popularized the subject for amateurs, professionals, and students throughout the world. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 268 pages
  • Publisher: Mcgraw-Hill; Revised edition (June 1965)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0070703965
  • ISBN-13: 978-0070703964
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.2 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,458,370 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
60 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fun Introduction to Game Theory December 19, 2001
Format:Paperback
The Compleat Strategyst by J.D. Williams is a wonderful introduction to the ins and outs of game theory. The pace of the primer I found quite reasonable, and the organization is very natural. The Compleat Strategyst begins with the gist (as it should) regarding game matrices and how to interpret them. Williams's discussion then proceeds through 2 x 2 games, 2 x m games, 3 x 3 games, 3 x m games, and so on. Each section contains clever story problems chosen to both re-enforce basic principles and point to potential pitfalls. Also provided are numerous exercises to build the skills necessary to understand game theory.
One of the most enjoyable facets of The Compleat Strategyst is J.D. Williams's entertaining writing style. He seems to know the kind of people reading his book (non-mathematicians who think they might be able to apply game theory to their own work - in my case anyway), and the text is taylored to that audience. In addition, while making the subject matter of game theory accessible strictly through arithmatic, the author provides fair reminders that a great deal of actual mathmatics is being swept beneath the rug.
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30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Witty Intro to Game Theory and Zero-sum Games June 10, 2005
Format:Paperback
I share the feedback of the other reviewers in that this book is extremely fun to read, very well-written and comprehensively covers (thoroughly teaches the so inclined) a few aspects of game theory. The drawback is that it limits itself, consciously it seems, to zero-sum games played between two players. So after reading this book, you have no excuse for not being able to solve any such games. The narrative, the examples and the exercises take care of this. However, you will learn near nothing about non-zero-sum games, which are in actuality more life-like (hence a probable reason for the complaint of one reviewer who wants more real examples).

Nevertheless, this book is extremely well-written, and truly accomplishes what it aims: giving the reader an appreciation of the basis of game theory and teaching them to solve zero-sum games. And quite a many witty jokes come in extra!
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent June 3, 2001
Format:Paperback
I found this book to be an excellent introduction to game theory that doesn't require much mathamatical background beyond simple algebra. It comes complete with theoretical explainations of the game matrix, problems to help sharpen your skills, and strategic stories that fit with a game matrix, to help show how game theory can be applied to real problems. A definite must for anyone who wants to start learning about game theory.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, entertaining introductory text February 15, 2004
Format:Paperback
This is a superlative introduction to a mathematical concept which, with a lesser writer, could be tedious to learn. Williams includes many entertaining and enjoyable story problems, replete with attractive illustrations. He takes an inherently interesting topic and makes it easy and fun to learn.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars For mechanics not engineers November 7, 2007
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Game theory for the users not for mathematicians.

Write a book on jet engines for engineers and you'll have chapters on the choice of alloy for the turbine blades and casing, formulae for fuel nozzle diameters, air flow and compression ratios, etc. Write a book on jet engines for mechanics, and it might be just as long, but have very different content, with types of failures and their causes, proper tool selections, techniques for cleaning internal components, etc.

"The Compleat Strategyst" is for people who (figuratively) turn wrenches in problems of decision-making. Were it for mathematicians, it would have long, convuluted derivations of axioms, and use sigma notation on 2 out of three pages. As a liberal arts major, it was a relief to find out that calculus appears nowhere in this book, as greek letters mixed in math disturb my digestion, and cause anxiety attacks. You'll need some math, but only what would show up in junior high school pre-algebra. The worst you'll run into are ratios with five or more elements and some long division problems, nothing that requires a recovery period.

What it does have is a first rate explaination of decision matrices for economists, historians, and poli-sci majors, along with other essential topics in game theory. The focus is basic, two-player games with only passing mention to anything other than zero-sum games, but within its limits, it is very good. Use of matrices to support decisions, the value of randomness in situations where strategies are of similar risk-benefit, and multiple strategy games are covered very well. Although basic, enough detail and examples are given, that the concepts can be readily applied to real world decisions.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Beware! July 11, 2007
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Warning: This book only tells you how to solve game theory problems, NOT WHY the solutions work! So you actually aren't truly learning game theory at all. It's really more an answer key than a primer on game theory. If that's what you want, fine, but if you're looking for an initial step on the road to UNDERSTANDING game theory, look elsewhere.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Games People Play June 9, 2007
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Funny thing about words: depending on context, they can evoke quite different moods. Take, for example, "matrix": when referring to a certain movie with Keanu Reeves and Carrie Anne Moss, most people react favorably. Used, however, when discussing mathematics, and the majority will feel something different, perhaps akin to fear and repulsion. On the one hand, this is understandable; working with matrices can be tedious grunt work with little of the theoretical beauty that much of math offers; on the other hand, it is the heart and soul of one particularly interesting branch, game theory.

J.D. Williams's The Compleat Strategyst is an introduction to game theory and by the end of the volume you will see your fair share of matrices, but this should not be overly intimidating. Williams knows that they can be unwieldy and does his best to simplify matters. But first, he introduces us to game theory itself.

Essentially, game theory is a mathematical method for calculating strategies. In most games, the theory will be too overly simple, but it does offer a lot of insights with practical implications in fields such as economics (for example, John Nash of "A Beautiful Mind" won his Nobel Prize for work in this field). The classic illustration, not really discussed in this book, involves the Prisoner's Dilemma: two men are held for a crime. If neither confesses, both go free; if only one confesses, he gets a light sentence and the other gets a heavy one; if both confess, they each get a medium sentence. What should the prisoner's strategy be? Silence can result in the best payout (freedom), but also the worst if the other prisoner confesses. Confession guarantees a sentence, but at worst, it will not be as bad as the one that can result from silence.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great intoduction
Math was not too complicated. It also introduces concepts such as dominance, saddle points, mixed strategies though both examples, stories and matrices.
Published 3 months ago by Stephen Battista
3.0 out of 5 stars An introduction to game theory for non-mathematicians
The Compleat Strategyst is an introduction to game theory for non-mathematicians. It is not 'complete' by any means. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Patrick Hung
5.0 out of 5 stars Start Here
Back in 1985 this was one of the first books I ever owned beyond my engineering texts.

The reason to start here is because you'll get a good grasp on the essentials... Read more
Published 17 months ago by Student
4.0 out of 5 stars Ideal for Math Fans
The book offers a nice qualitative overview of zero-sum game theory. My only real complaint is that it was over-billed in terms of depth. Read more
Published on April 10, 2011 by Edmonton Euler
2.0 out of 5 stars Mathematicians Beware
If you're interested in learning a significant amount of game theory, stay away. Williams's writing style is excessively verbose and, frankly, tiring. Read more
Published on July 30, 2009 by Maxwell B. Anselm
3.0 out of 5 stars Dated and Quirky -- not best intro
It's cheap, it's a classic, and it's got a sense of humor. These would
seem good reasons to choose this as your intro to game theory. Read more
Published on July 21, 2007 by Flatfive
4.0 out of 5 stars Good but hasn't changed
I had the original 1954 edition. I thought that this new edition of the book may have been updated in the intervening 28 years. Nope. Not at all. Read more
Published on April 3, 2007 by conscaph
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent introduction but could use more real world example
I majored in political science. Any course on International Relations would have one day were Game Theory was introduced, followed by a brief discription of two common political... Read more
Published on November 22, 2004 by Nathaniel D. Selby
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