Justin du Coeur (jducoeur) wrote,
Justin du Coeur

A Book for the Game Geeks

A quick review, while I think of it. I'm currently in the middle of a book I picked up, purely on whim, at Quantum Books a couple of weeks ago. It's Connection Games, by Cameron Browne (2005, AK Peters, Wellesley, MA). It turns out to be well worthwhile.

Most books on games fall into one of a few categories, usually to their detriment. Some are simply catalogues of rules -- useful for reference, but usually pretty shallow and not something you really *read*. Others are books of theory, written by academics and often eye-glazingly abstruse. Most of both are overly broad in nature; on the flip side, the focused ones usually talk about a single game in far more detail than is interesting to anyone but a specialist.

This one, by contrast, dances between all of those extremes quite nicely. It takes a category of games that isn't so often studied: Connection Games, where the point has something to do with making paths of pieces. It spends just the right amount of time in the early chapters, working up some reasonably precise definitions of what makes a "connection game", what the various subtypes and relatives are, how the games work and how they can be examined from a graph-theory perspective. And then the bulk of the book, now bolstered by that precision, goes into the obligatory catalogue of games of this type, showing that there are *lot* more such games than one might think, briefly giving Rules, Notes, Strategy and Tactics, and History as appropriate and available for each.

This is really good stuff, and I commend it to all of my friends who are into game theory. (In particular, I suspect that mindways, alexx_kay and fairdice are all likely to appreciate it.) Even those who are simply into abstract games in the practical sense ought to give it a look -- the catalogue at the back gives a load of real but under-recognized games to add to one's repertoire, and many of them can be played on a simple hex grid or Go board...
Tags: reviews

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