Writers: Owen Duffy, Matt Thrower, Teri Litorco, Richard Jansen-Parkes Publisher: Clyde & Cart Press Written by Barry
Occasionally I get given items in the realm of board games that are not actually board games. And through this medium of video and articles, I have to transmit as much information about this item from a neutral standpoint as well as a personal point of view. With board games, I have gotten to the point where it is quite a fluid process. But with other items in this realm it can become a little more convoluted. Case in point is this article about a book on board games called “The Board Game Book volume 1” which was published with the support of many backers on Kickstarter.
Off the bat, I cannot claim that I have read the 259 pages of this attractive looking hard book and it’s 146 games, but I have perused over many of the articles from all the different sections. Sections about simple family games, strategy games to roleplaying and app versions of well known titles. Examining articles about those I have played, critiqued, as well as games I know about but I've never played and also those that I know nothing about. And that's a lot of reading for me.
So before I dive into the book itself, I want to take a short moment to talk about the cover of this hard book edition. Eye-popping, it definitely isn't. In fact, it took me a little while to uncover the resemblance of board games from this collage of components. Which worries me about who this book is aimed for. Inside the editor writes that this is a book to help those who have just started to dabble in the Hobby, and for those who want to learn a little bit more. And not to give too much away, it does that job. But when this book is aimed for beginners, how does that target audience know this book is for them when there is no evident clue in the artwork.
Carrying on with Owen Duffy’s editors notes, he says that the creation of the book is to help new hobbyist into the realm of board games while at the same time encouraging existing players to delve into a little deeper. Which this book seems to do and does it well. There are plenty of titles from many different publishers and designers, so don’t worry about it being a Bruno Cathala’s greatest hits. There is also a forward from Ian Livingstone of Games Workshop. But it seems detached from the book, as he just talks about his life and games entwined. Normally I found forwards to be a tip of the hat to the author and his works from renowned professionals, which I deem Ian as (grace of Fantasy Fighting books and HeroQuest that I grew up on). But it seems like I have read this all before and this is just a generic interview. No offence to Ian.
Jumping away from the superficial parts of the book and digging into the real meat and veg, “the articles”, the book is nicely divided into ever increasing levels of gaming. Starting off by talking about what gaming is and how it has grown before jumping into a chapter of games that you may be familiar with from days gone by (or at least in the past 10-20 years). It covers a lot of ground from casual and light strategy games, up to complex and storytelling ones. Role-playing and miniature wargaming is not forgotten. And catching up with the times, there is even a section about board game apps.
Each of the 146 games has a very elegantly written article, reminding me of all the wonderful words in our gaming vocabulary. They are all a very light dusting of about 500-600 words per game that give you a rundown of a little history, as well as some of the rules and some of the experiences you might feel while playing. Some of the bigger games like Gloomhaven or Twilight Imperium have double the amount of words said about them. But they are big games and deserve it. This works well with the family and casual party games sections as it covers all the bases about the game. But in the medium weight and higher level types of game, it barely reaches all of the interesting details within. When I say this, I'm talking about the games that I have played and know very well. The authors of each article, and there are no names connected to each giving a monotone continuity, do a good job of keeping things short and concise, touching on key points. Each of the four critics writing for this novelization, blur into one another with their systematic work, leaving a one note tone. And that one note tone, is to be informative. Reading these wonderfully crafted words remind me of the goal that I set myself as a critic (one day I will be as good as they are).
(I was born there too Alan)
Talking about the word critic, there is very little negativity in any of the articles. Which is not a bad thing because the book is trying to promote the Hobby and not scare people away from a particular title. Some of the harshest comments that you will find are things like “this game plays good with four but not with two”. Or it may mention the amount of luck in the game as a way to tell players that the game is very much “take that.” With a handful of images and information like playing times and number of players, each article gives you a rounded vision of the game. And to connect with that, most of the articles have an interesting, but short interview with the designer as well. Pointing out some of the design aspects and choices that they made while making the title, as well as some small facts about the designers themselves. Each interview that I read, left me wanting more questions answered, but maybe that's just my curious self. Well-known names and first-time designers are all in here, making a nice conglomerate of creative people.
The book includes and finishes with a lovely glossary on gaming terms, like worker placement or card drafting. Reminding me that this book has been designed as an entry-level for people who want to learn more about board games and not necessarily for people like myself. And for that, I think it's done it's job. The book covers a good portion of new releases and does so in a very friendly and well-mannered way. Each game can be read about very quickly and although the images used are sometimes not the images I would have assigned to a game, give a good representation of the basics of each title. Therefore I'd recommend this book to anyone who has 20 or less boxes of joy sat on their shelf. But for the vast majority of you reading this, who probably have hundreds of games stacked nicely on your IKEA shelves, you're probably better off reading someone's blog or watching a Dice Tower video. Reading this has not enlightened me or persuaded me to go out and find these wonderful new titles. Although some of the interesting back stories of how a game was designed are a delight to read. As not what all the board game designers are cut from the same cloth.
In the title of this book are those infinite words “volume 1.” Because this is going to be an annual release. Every year, another book will hit the shelves with more new titles and more friendly advice on what to seek out at your game store. Personally, I believe the Talent behind these words, printed on those pages, should be producing a monthly magazine, as well as producing a helpful beginners book like this once a year. Or even a “best of the year” book. There are very few magazines (Tabletop Gaming & Plato Magazine & Ravage) in this genre and I feel that they're writing could be put to good use in a more regular format and allowing each author to dig their teeth in, telling us more about these games
Technical score 9.5/10 A nice chunky read with eloquent and and helpful authors. Laid out in a gently progressive way. A great introduction into the world of board gaming with plenty to read about. More of a catalogue then a book. A little disconnect between the cover and the subject.
My BGG score (if this was a game) 7/10 A nice light read, but there is no meat in the articles about the game to keep me reading more. Although the interviews are very interesting and amusing, there is nothing to keep me or the avid gamer hooked.
Combined score 8.25/10 and now it's over to you, what do you think...?