D. B. Pritchard: Brain Games: World's Best Games for Two
Saturday, 22nd October 2011
I'm looking at this book very much from a board gamer's perspective, but the book covers card games and pen-and-paper games equally well. This book isn't one of those that attempts to pack as many games as possible between the covers. It has just 33 games. But for each of these games it goes into much detail about play, and attempts to outline strategy or tactics for each one.
Each chapter starts with an outline of the game's history, amounting to a couple of paragraphs or so. It does not therefore go into the more interesting details of the game's history, but moves quickly on to play. That section is a narrative rather than a bullet point list of rules, so makes easy reading. After the rules have been introduced there follows a discussion of strategy. Finally, variants are discussed (even if there are none!).
The niche that this book fills is not so much the person who wants a vast array of games at their disposal, but the person who wants to play one of the listed games but to avoid the most rudimentary of beginners' mistakes. Pritchard doesn't go into great strategic depth with any of the games, but gives some pointers on good moves at certain stages of the game: moves which are obvious with hindsight but not always thought of by the novice player. Examples include securing the bar point in backgammon, or vacating the back left corner in draughts before any of the other squares on the back row.
This book sells very cheaply at the time of writing. It won't increase the reader's breadth of knowledge of traditional games, nor depth of historical background, but it will be a great help in bringing out the depth of play, particularly in lesser-known games like fanorona and nine men's morris where a deeper examination of strategy will be difficult to find.