My BGB (Board Game BOOK) Library
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Books about board games and board gaming have been around a long time. Indeed, Little Wars has been around for over a century now.

Today I received another board game book in the mail (thank you Amazon), and I wanted to add it to my collection here on BGG.

Of course, some books have their own independent entry, but many do not and are consigned to the generic Miscellaneous Game Book entry, and while that's nice, it doesn't really capture the information in a nice and tidy way.

Geeklists are a great way to keep track of things that are related to my gaming hobby, so this is where I am going to start keeping track of them.

This list here of my particular set of books is incomplete, and for that matter may never be. But for those who are interested in the hobby outside of just playing games, and want to perhaps read something to inspire them for their next design or just for the heck of it, here is a list of books.

In no particular order...
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1. Board Game: Miscellaneous Game Book [Average Rating:6.62 Overall Rank:9324]
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Tabletop Gaming Manual - by Matt Thrower

This is the book that inspired this list honestly. It's published by Haynes, a publisher probably best known for its series of car, motorcycle, scooter, and ATV manuals.

I had a Haynes for my Yamaha XS400 motorcycle back in the day.

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The author is a BGG regular you may have seen around.

This book is a great overview of the hobby and not only it is chock full of great photos, but also the writing is excellent. I'm quite impressed with the breadth of topics and a lot of what he wrote in his introduction hit home for me too.
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2. Board Game: Miscellaneous Game Book [Average Rating:6.62 Overall Rank:9324]
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The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses - by Jesse Schell

I picked this book up because Matt Leacock said it was his go to book and that it was always nearby when he was working on a new project.

I'm like many board game hobbyists in that I feel like there might be a board game design or two inside me, and it's a great reference tool. It's less a how to design a game and more of a "well, if you're thinking of doing X, have you thought about ___?" kind of reference manual.

Highly recommended, although it appears to be out of print and is not necessarily inexpensive to acquire.
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3. Board Game: Miscellaneous Game Book [Average Rating:6.62 Overall Rank:9324]
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Zones of Control: Perspectives on Wargaming - a collection of essays published by MIT Press

I've been playing wargames (or at least dabbled at them) for several decades now, although my interests have definitely moved away from classic hex and counter games and more to holistic conflict simulation games that include political elements (the GMT COIN Series being but one example).

An academic book from an academic publisher = not cheap.

But here's the list of contributors: Jeremy Antley, Richard Barbrook, Elizabeth M. Bartels, Ed Beach, Larry Bond, Larry Brom, Lee Brimmicombe-Wood, Rex Brynen, Matthew B. Caffrey, Jr., Luke Caldwell, Catherine Cavagnaro, Robert M. Citino, Laurent Closier, Stephen V. Cole, Brian Conley, Greg Costikyan, Patrick Crogan, John Curry, James F. Dunnigan, Robert J. Elder, Lisa Faden, Mary Flanagan, John A. Foley, Alexander R. Galloway, Sharon Ghamari-Tabrizi, Don R. Gilman, A. Scott Glancy, Troy Goodfellow, Jack Greene, Mark Herman, Kacper Kwiatkowski, Tim Lenoir, David Levinthal, Alexander H. Levis, Henry Lowood, Elizabeth Losh, Esther MacCallum-Stewart, Rob MacDougall, Mark Mahaffey, Bill McDonald, Brien J. Miller, Joseph Miranda, Soraya Murray, Tetsuya Nakamura, Michael Peck, Peter P. Perla, Jon Peterson, John Prados, Ted S. Raicer, Volko Ruhnke, Philip Sabin, Thomas C. Schelling, Marcus Schulzke, Miguel Sicart, Rachel Simmons, Ian Sturrock, Jenny Thompson, John Tiller, J. R. Tracy, Brian Train, Russell Vane, Charles Vasey, Andrew Wackerfuss, James Wallis, James Wallman, Yuna Huh Wong

Many of the above have some of the best known and best loved wargames in the BGG database.
 
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4. Board Game: Miscellaneous Game Book [Average Rating:6.62 Overall Rank:9324]
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Playing at the World: A History of Simulating Wars, People and Fantastic Adventures, from Chess to Role-Playing Games by Jon Peterson

I don't know where to begin with this one. This is truly a magnum opus of the modern history and evolution and transition of modern gaming. It beautifully draws a direct line from Little Wars through the wargaming of the 1950s and 1960s (including some great sand table photos) to board wargames and the linkages to what would become the phenomenon of D&D.

I knew before reading this that Gary Gygax was hugely influential, but I didn't realize quite what an iconic titan of gaming he was.

My praise comes with a caveat though. The book is a very dry read. Knäckebröd dry and you have no beer to wash it down and the Smörgåsbord table has already been cleared.

And you'll get tired of the word explicate in a hurry. robot

But you'll find no better reference book.
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5. Board Game: Dice Games Properly Explained [Average Rating:6.65 Unranked] [Average Rating:6.65 Unranked]
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Dice Games Properly Explained - by Reiner Knizia

We all know what a brilliant and iconic designer Reiner Knizia is. This book is a fabulous addition to any gamer library, if only to read about some of the really interesting historical dice games that have fallen out of fashion, and also to understand how to use dice in a game well.

It's also really affordable.
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6. Board Game: Blazing Aces! A Fistful of Family Card Games [Average Rating:6.72 Overall Rank:9661]
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Blazing Aces! A Fistful of Family Card Games - by Reiner Knizia

Similar to his book on dice games, this is a set of card games that use normal playing cards.

I picked this up at one of the BGG Cons I went to, I don't remember what year. It's one of those books that you pick up, read about one of the games, think "hey, that's interesting" and put down. Good for ideas, and certainly some of the games look really interesting to try.

I'll admit I haven't done so yet. meeple
 
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7. Board Game: Games of the World [Average Rating:7.79 Unranked]
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Games of the World - edited by Frederic V. Grunfeld

I saw this book on the shelf at a friend's place back in the mid 1990s when I was big into Go (one of the greatest games ever).

This book is not only a set of classic games, but also includes instructions on how to build your own copy. The goban plan they have looks really nice and wasn't ultimately that complicated to make - assuming you had the tools and space to build it.
 
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8. Board Game: Miscellaneous Game Book [Average Rating:6.62 Overall Rank:9324]
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The Go Player's Almanac 2001 - Kiseido Publishing

Go was a passion of mine and was genuinely a lifestyle game for me for a couple of years. I joined the Victoria Go Club, wrote a newsletter for them, went to the Canadian Open Go tournament and the year after to my club's Cherry Blossom Tournament (actually earning a trophy, from the bottom feeder division).

I never got good at the game. At my very best I was about a 10-12kyu player, but let's face it, I'm a Go patzer.

This doesn't alter that I have a fairly large collection of Go books, including all 5 volumes of Janice Kim's Learn to Play Go series.

But if there's one Go book in my collection worth noting here, it's this Almanac.



It's one of those miscellany books that has something for everyone about the game, from its origins, some of the greatest players of the game, historical anecdotes (like the image about about WWII Japanese strategy in the Pacific).
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9. Board Game: Miscellaneous Game Book [Average Rating:6.62 Overall Rank:9324]
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Wizards of the Tabletop - by Douglas Morse

This was a Kickstarter project, a coffee table book with a collection of images of iconic board game designers and publishers, including the now defunct GeekChiq table company.
 
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10. Board Game: The Classified Encyclopedia of Chess Variants [Average Rating:7.96 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.96 Unranked]
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The Classified Encyclopedia of Chess Variants - D.B. Pritchard

One of the first games my dad taught me when I was a little kid was Chess, and when I was in high school we played all kinds of crazy variants we made up at our chess club.

This book is a classic encyclopedia style book with entries much like you'd see in one. Name of the variant, and how it differs from regular chess, and if needed instructions.

But that's about it.

Still, it's highly entertaining to pull it off the shelf, open it to a random page, and read about a few.

And if you think up of a variant on chess, it's probably already been done and in the book.
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11. Board Game: Wargame Design [Average Rating:7.19 Unranked]
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Wargame Design - S&T Publishing

I picked up a copy of this book, oh 20 years ago at least. I had a wargame design idea in my head, and I was persuaded that I would do an old school hex and counter design, and hey, why not go to the experts (because SPI was one of my favourite publishers back in the day).

My design is long lost to the dustbin of bad ideas, but the book is a really interesting take on the design ethos of the day, and still valid in many respects.

The absolutely fascinating part of the book is the section on getting your game published, and talks about unit costs - all assuming your print run will be in the tens of thousands!

wowwowwow

Given the average new wargame seldom sees more than 3-5k copies printed for an initial run, that's a pretty entertaining chapter to read today.
 
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12. Board Game: Miscellaneous Game Book [Average Rating:6.62 Overall Rank:9324]
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Simulating War: Studying Conflict through Simulation Games - by Philip Sabin

Philip A. G. Sabin is a British military historian and Professor of Strategic Studies in the War Studies Department of King's College London.

The book itself has four complete game designs in it, and Victory Point Games actually published a couple of them - Hell's Gate and Angels One Five.

In contrast to Wargame Design, there is no expectation your game will be published in the tens of thousands. Even if you're not a wargamer, there's a lot to commend this book to the average gamer in terms of how to think of conflict simulations away from the battlefield.



I particularly like his Venn diagram above about where wargaming fits into the whole picture. People will of course quibble with his assertion, but it fits my view pretty well.
 
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13. Board Game: Miscellaneous Game Book [Average Rating:6.62 Overall Rank:9324]
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Game Theory: A Nontechnical Introduction - by Morton D. Davis

As the title implies, you don't need to be a mathematician to read and enjoy this book. Indeed, most of the contents of the book are fun to puzzle through and we're remarkably more clever than we might think (although, this is a board gaming site, and we probably think we're a pretty clever lot).

Have you hard of the classic Prisoner's Dilemma? It can be summed up thusly "The prisoner's dilemma is a standard example of a game analyzed in game theory that shows why two completely rational individuals might not cooperate, even if it appears that it is in their best interests to do so." (Wikipedia).

That in a nutshell is what this book is all about.
 
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