Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Oddities From my Library - Games!

Sid Sackson is arguably the first great American game designer. In the decades when board games were stuck with simple roll-and-move mechanics he created games like Acquire and Can't Stop which hold up even in comparison with modern designs. Over the course of his life he designed nearly a thousand games and had a collection of over fifteen thousand board games. Sadly he died in 2002 just as his hobby was undergoing a modern renaissance.

Sackson also wrote extensively about board games and A Gamut of Games is considered his best work. At its heart it is a collection of over thirty board games the majority of which are Sackson's own creations. Few of the games require any specialized equipment (one does utilize four colors of stackable tokens) and Sackson breaks down each chapter according to materials that would be needed: cards, traditional six sided dice, a chess board, paper and pencil, and so on.

While I haven't played every single game in the book the ones I have played have been very good; I suspect Sackson saved his best efforts for this collection. Even the games by other designers that Sackson included are very good; particularly impressive is Origins of WWI where they managed to put a complete negotiating wargame (albeit without direct conflict) ala Diplomacy into five pages. Almost all of the games include both a walk through of a few turns (which sometimes amounts to a full game) and variations to increase the complexity.

Sackson rounds out the book with capsule reviews of every major game that was widely available at the time. It's badly out of date at this point but it is interesting to see what Avalon Hill had available in 1969 for the discriminating consumer.

A Gamut of Games has been out of print for nearly twenty years at this point. It is worth seeking out a copy though since it contains so many unique games that were never published anywhere else.