Thursday, May 20, 2010

Two Hundred Best Games

I thought I'd reviewed Hobby Games: The 100 Best here back when I read it, but either I did not, or I simply can't find it now in my archives. In either case, now that I've just finished Family Games: The 100 Best, I'm going to go ahead and review both.

The premise behind both books is to get 100 people involved in the gaming industry to each review one of their favorite games. The first book focuses on the broad category of "hobby games" covering everything from RPGs, to CCGs, to miniatures games, to board games. The second book narrows the focus a bit to cover games that can be enjoyed by the "family" and covers everything from, well, RPGs, to CCGs, to miniatures games, to board games.

The nature of "family" is only vaguely defined, but can be loosely interpreted to mean games that can be enjoyed by casual gamers, while "hobby" games are more geared towards people who consider themselves more serious gamers. Where Hobby Games includes Dungeons & Dragons, Family Games includes Faery's Tale Deluxe. Where Hobby Games includes Magic the Gathering, Family Games includes Pokemon. Where Hobby Games includes Flames of War, Family Games includes HeroScape. Where Hobby Games includes Squad Leader, Family Games includes The Game of Life.

Of course, there's some overlap, and Family Games even has an appendix listing games from Hobby Games that would also fit the criteria for Family Games if they weren't already in the first book.

One interesting thing about the core concept of both books is how the context of who is doing the review can sometimes be as interesting as the review itself. If a designer of a game I really like has chosen to include a game I've previously dismissed, then I will probably take a second look at that game. Also, if someone who I haven't heard of before has included a game I really like, I'll probably at least take a look at what they've designed, as we obviously have at least some sensibilities in common when it comes to games.

Of course, this can work the other way too. The fact that Steve Jackson of Steve Jackson Games chose to include Monopoly as his entry for Family Games just furthers my impression of him as a designer of games I'm unlikely to enjoy.

Both books are good, but if you can only afford one of them, then I'd recommend getting the first one. Hobby Games simply had more entries that I found interesting than Family Games did, and I think this will be the case for most gamers.

Family Games is still a good read, so if you really enjoy Hobby Games and want more, then get a copy of Family Games as well.

I'm pleased to have both books on my shelf.

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