If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to read a commentary and an in-depth analysis on some of your favourite hobby board games, then this book might just appeal to you. Though it’s easy enough for the casual gamer to pick up and get through, some knowledge of the games is required to get through the chapters referring to strategies favoured within the game. However I would advise that you ignore them altogether if you don’t want spoilers, although its a shame because some of the analysis is quite amusing to read.
The author explains the development of this book as having evolved from a simple strategy guide into something much more, and it’s these explanations that make it an interesting read. There is a little bit of background on the five games he has chosen, and the negative review section is quite funny in places. The five games are Carcassonne, Ticket to Ride, Stone Age, Pandemic and Dominion, four of which I have played, and even I found some of the strategies hard to follow in places.
I’m not convinced strategy guides are a good thing anyway. Part of the fun in a game for me is not having everything laid out in front of me, even if it’s obvious. I believe it was exactly when someone did this for a game I used to play called Magic: The Gathering, which it lost all of its fun. You can spoil something with too much exposition, and even the author makes reference to this in the book.
It probably wasn’t worth putting in an entry for every card in the basic set of Dominion, (but he did it anyway), and a bit more maths would have made it more of a worthwhile strategy guide, but I get the feeling that he didn’t want to go into that much detail for fear of spoiling the game for the reader. Aside from all this though, the narrative keeps a conversational tone throughout, and you're happy to read on to the end of each section to get to the 'negative reviews', which I think are one of the highlights.
I think it would make a good gift for someone getting into the hobby, or someone thinking of developing their own game and the self-deprecating anecdotes make it an entertaining book to read. It’s quite up to date, referencing games up to 2016, and I hope the author has time to do another one in the future.
The insight into his world is fascinating and will appeal to young and old gamers alike, but more so for a Midlander of a certain age, as I am.