Monday, July 20, 2009

James Lowder Adding Another Must Buy Gaming Book to Book Shelves Everywhere

In the summer of 2007 Green Ronin released the most important book in the gaming hobby since David Parlett's The Oxford History of Board Games. The book, entitled Hobby Games: The 100 Best, was edited by industry luminary James Lowder and contained essays about 100 of the best -- and most important -- hobby games that had ever been released on the market.



Some of the games in the book have been out of print for some time. Avalon Hill's Gettysburg -- which was the first themed commercial wargame and following in the footsteps of Avalon Hill's Tactics and Tactics II created the modern commercial wargaming industry -- gets a brilliant write up by one of the founding fathers of the modern gaming industry Lou Zocchi. It is a game that is particularly difficult for collectors who like to play games as well as own them. Gettysburg went through numerous editions, each with major changes to the rules of the game. The original game featured a square grid overlaying the map used during play, the second edition replaced the square grid with hexagons, the third edition brought back the squares and added new rules, the fourth edition...you get the point. Adding to the dilemma is the fact that, while different, many of the editions are fun for their very differences.

Other games, which like Gettysburg were games that spawned genres of game play, are still in print -- though usually in a new edition that is often very different from the original game. Richard Garfield praises Dungeons and Dragons, the game that created the role playing game hobby. Jordan Weisman praises Magic the Gathering, the game that spawned the Collectible Card Game industry and paved the way for the Pokemon craze.

Even when the games aren't responsible for creating a new genre, they are still great games. Ogre, reviewed by the late Erick Wujcik, wasn't the first tactical wargame featuring tanks. But it is, to date, one of the most accessible tactical wargames and highlights the struggle of humanity against a murderous machine that echoes the "Butlerian Jihad" and predates the Terminator franchise. It is a shame that Steve Jackson Games doesn't continue to keep this game in print...even as a pdf download. It's the game that launched the company, and it is a wonderful introduction to "map, counter, and CRT" wargaming.

All 100 of the games written about are worth playing, and all 100 entries of the book are worth reading. Whether you want a glimpse in to the variety of experience the hobby offers, a look into the history of the hobby, or a peak to see if anything in the hobby is "for you," Hobby Games: The 100 Best is a must have for any book shelf.

Given the high praise above, you can imagine how much I am looking forward to the release of James Lowder's second collection Family Games: The 100 Best. The book will be released in late August, sadly not in time for Gen Con, and once again has an awe inspiring list of designers who contribute their thoughts on some of the best family games from the past 100 years.



Here is the list of confirmed authors, according to the Green Ronin website:

FAMILY GAMES: THE 100 BEST

Mike Gray: Foreword
James Lowder: Introduction
Wil Wheaton: Afterword
David Millians: Appendix (Games and Education)

ESSAYISTS:
Andrea Angiolino
Keith Baker
Wolfgang Baur
Carrie Bebris
Uli Blennemann
Bill Bodden
Mike Breault
Richard Breese
Todd Breitenstein
Alessio Cavatore
Leo Colovini
William W. Connors
David “Zeb” Cook
Monte Cook
Luke Crane
Dominic Crapuchettes
Elaine Cunningham
Richard Dansky
Karl Deckard
Dale Donovan
James Ernest
Matt Forbeck
Anthony J. Gallela
Richard Garfield
Marc Gascoigne
Stephen Glenn
Eric Goldberg
Andrew Greenberg
Ed Greenwood
Jeff Grubb
Scott Haring
Bruce Harlick
Jess Hartley
Fred Hicks
Will Hindmarch
Kenneth Hite
Joshua Howard
Steve Jackson (GW)
Steve Jackson (SJG)
Paul Jaquays
Seth Johnson
Matthew Kirby
Corey Konieczka
John Kovalic
Robin D. Laws
Matt Leacock
Jess Lebow
Jon Leitheusser
Ken Levine
Nicole Lindroos
Ian Livingstone
Michelle Lyons
Hal Mangold
Jason Matthews
Erik Mona
Alan R. Moon
Colin Moulder-McComb
Bruce Nesmith
Kevin Nunn
Peter Olotka
Phil Orbanes
Andrew Parks
David Parlett
Sébastien Pauchon
jim pinto
Mike Pondsmith
Chris Pramas
Lewis Pulsipher
John D. Rateliff
Sheri Graner Ray
Philip Reed
Thomas M. Reid
Susan McKinley Ross
Charles Ryan
Steven Schend
Robert J. Schwalb
Emiliano Sciarra
Jesse Scoble
Mike Selinker
Bruce Shelley
John Smedley
Lester Smith
Jared Sorensen
Warren Spector
Stan!
Gav Thorpe
Dan Tibbles
Jeff Tidball
John Scott Tynes
Monica Valentinelli
James Wallis
James M. Ward
Darren Watts
Tom Wham
Bruce Whitehill
John Wick
Kevin Wilson
Ray Winninger
Teeuwynn Woodruff
John Yianni


Like the list of authors in Hobby Games, this is a list of some of the best and brightest game designers working today from a variety of gaming genres. The inclusion of some of the leading game historians (the aforementioned David Parlett and the as yet unmentioned Phil Orbanes) speaks to James Lowder's knowledge of the field and his desire to create a product that is important to hobbyists and useful to those outside the hobby. The designers selected range from the old guard to the exciting young turks.

Sadly, some of the designers who had articles in the prior book in the series are no longer with us. One would give a lot to read Gary Gygax's or Erick Wujcik's thoughts on the subject. I am also disappointed to see that Ken St. Andre and Rick Loomis, both featured in the prior book, are absent from the list of contributors. But an editor's job is no easy and this is a wonderful list indeed.

I am particularly interested in seeing what longtime Cinerati friend Matt Forbeck wrote in his entry as well as what relative newcomer in the industry Jess Hartley chooses for her entry. Forbeck has worked on a number of the classics of the hobby and Jess' work on the excellent Scion by White Wolf (as well as numerous World of Darkness titles by the same publisher) makes hers a voice I'd like to hear from.

Of all the names on the list, I would only remove one -- Wil Wheaton. His removal would have provided less geek celebrity appeal, but would have allowed Lowder to invite me to write the afterword.
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