Monday, August 06, 2012

13 Game Books You Must Own

A couple of years ago, I blogged about how every gamer should own a copy of Rick Swan's Complete Guide to Role Playing Games.  I still agree with this sentiment, but I would like to share another 13 books that every gamer should add to their library.  I'll be blogging about these books over the next few weeks, but I thought it would be good to point them out as a group now.  That way, we can hopefully talk more specifics later as I hope some of you will add a couple of these titles to your library if you haven't already.  These will by no means be the last books I mention, they just happen to be the handful that I grabbed off the shelf today.

Every gamer has an aspiration to design, and to design one must know what has gone before and get some sense of place within the hobby.  The following books are a great place to start:

  1. Thirty Years of Adventure: A Celebration of Dungeons & Dragons: If you want a good glimpse of the game that launched our hobby, or at least the market for our hobby, this is a great place to start.  It is a "propaganda" piece, but it's still quite good.  I'll talk more about the strengths and weaknesses of this book when I get around to its post.
  2. 40 Years of Gen Con: Robin Laws and Michelle Nephew give us a good collection that discusses the biggest gaming con in America.
  3. The Complete Book of Wargames: Jon Freeman (aka John Jackson) gives an excellent overview of the War Game hobby at a time when that hobby was in an early transition.  By the late 80s, this hobby was nearly dead.  Today?  It likely has more players than ever, but its marketplace is very different.
  4. The Fantasy Role Playing Gamer's Bible: Sean Patrick Fannon's excellent entry into the "so this is role playing and you should love it" library.  Try to get the purple 1st edition, the stick figure cartoons make the book.
  5. Game Design -- Theory and Practice vol. 1:  There is no volume 2 to this book by Steve Jackson Games, but this is an essential addition to anyone's library.
  6. Wargame Design: If you want to know the history of the gaming hobby, from its early Wargaming roots, this is a must own book.  The staff of SPI give a great overview of the hobby's founding, and present some good design guidelines.
  7. A Player's Guide to Table Games: This is a great book to get your friends to bridge the gap from "mass market" games into "hobby games."  John Jackson (aka Jon Freeman) reviews and discusses everything from Monopoly to Sniper and the Sid Sackson revolution.  This book helps to demonstrate the Sackson/Euro link. 
  8. Family Games -- The 100 Best:  This is one of two books that end up with 200 recommendations that every gamer should have in their library.  Trust me, these books provide a great "core" collection.
  9. Hobby Games -- The 100 Best:  This is the second of the 100 Best books, and it contains titles that are less mainstream than in Family.  You should own every game in this book.
  10. Heroic Worlds:  This book is a very good overview of the role playing game hobby as of the early 90s.  It is a vital research resource, and a good checklist for completists.
  11. The Comprehensive Guide to Board Wargaming: Nicholas Palmer's essential introduction to the war game hobby.  It includes an overview of systems, and some puzzles to work out.
  12. The Best of Board Wargaming:  A second book by Palmer.  This one contains more detailed reviews of games, and a good discussion of Simulation vs. Playability.
  13. The Playboy Winner's Guide to Boardgames: Jon Freeman's reprint of John Jackson's book, and why I believe they are the same person.  You'll definitely read this one for the prose, as there are no pictures.  This book extends the discussion in Player's Guide to include RPGs and Squad Leader -- thus includes essay regarding Playability vs. Simulation.


Anonymous said...

Been a gamer for over 17 years and don't own a single one of those :(

Ah well, as long it doesn't hurt my geek cred.

Christian Lindke said...

With 17 years of gaming behind you, you've got geek cred surplus. ;-)

I would recommend a couple of these books though, with one warning. Once you buy one, you might find yourself frequenting eBay looking for oop games.

SESchend said...

22+ years as a professional in the gaming industries and at least another decade before that as a gamer...where does that leave my geek cred, Christian? ;)

I've read 8 of your list, still own 5 of them, and I contributed pieces for the Family/Hobby Games 100 books. Good list, that; if I think of any other recommends, I'll pop back here, but Green Elf needs sleep badly due to toddler wrangling and cannot think at present.


Christian Lindke said...

Between "Blood Enemies" for Birthright, Marvel SAGA, and the "Avengers Archive," I really need to do a Steven Schend appreciation post.