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Friday, November 24, 2017

Book Review: It's All a Game: The History of Board Games from Monopoly to Settlers of Catan by Tristan Donovan

My family have always been board game players. I have known how to play parcheesi and Chinese checkers and even chess for as long as I can remember. And we'd play Monopoly in the summer, when you have the time for long games. My brother though was obsessed with Monopoly when he was about 4. We had about 8 different versions, all from other countries, and once or twice we tried to play 2- or 4-board versions although those would last days, not just hours, and were quickly abandoned. I remember when my 4-year-old brother would look at a property with 3 hotels and the rents would be something like $1075 each , and he'd say, "You owe me $3225" and I'd say, "You just multiplied a 4-digit number in your head!" Anyway, we still have a lot of games although we don't get to play them as often as we'd like as no one seems to want to do game night with us. Clue was always my favorite, as it's a game of logic, and if you pay close attention, you ought to be able to figure it out long before you test all the cards.

This book goes through the history of board games, from ancient civilizations, up through very modern games like The Settlers of Catan, that I don't even know how to play! It traces precursors of some of the ur-games like Go. And tells the invention stories of much more modern games like Mousetrap and The Game of Life (oh how I hated Life. No strategy--all determined by the spin of the wheel, like a grown-up version of Candyland, but without the candy. Worthless.) As a history it is far-ranging in both centuries and countries, and yet it does in its way tell the history of all of us. Would wars have turned out the way they had without Risk? What do popular games say about our society at different eras? A fun and trivia-filled book that is exactly what it says--a history of board games. If you like games, you'll like this book.

This book is published by St. Martin's Press, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

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