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Posted on Sep 9, 2008 in Books and Movies

Hobby Games The 100 Best – Book Review

Gerald D. Swick

In addition to editor Lowder’s introduction explaining how the book project was assembled, there is a foreword about the importance of game mechanics, written by Dr. Reiner Knizia, who has designed over 400 games. James Dunnigan, founder of SPI, provided an afterword on why games designed for grown-ups came into being. Bill Bodden, a former retailer, buyer and manufacturer’s rep, wrote an appendix titled "Finding Hobby Games," which is helpful considering many of the games described in this book are out of print.

The 100 titles selected are more diverse than the intergalactic races in a Star Wars cantina. They range from Acquire to Fluxx to Space Hulk to Wiz-War, and include general-subject boardgames, board and miniature wargames, roleplaying games, and card games. Gettysburg is here, one of the earliest offerings from Avalon Hill. So are The Sword and the Flame and Johnny Reb, which have kept miniatures players rolling dice for a decade or two. More recent titles include Puerto Rico and Descent.


The authors, too, range from pioneers of the hobby like Lou Zocchi and the late Gary Gygax to designers whose first titles were published less than a decade ago. The book’s insights into how game designers think almost comprise a mini-course in design.

This is a collection of essays, and as such, its presentations are uneven. Some entries read like masters’ theses on game design—informative, but without any hint of gaming’s fun. Others capture the spirit of what they describe. For example, Scott Haring’s entry on Illuminati is, ah, illuminating and effectively communicates the paranoia and silliness at that game’s treacherous heart.

Of course, every reader will wonder why some personal favorites didn’t make the list, but the games ensconced in this dice-roller’s Valhalla are diverse and innovative. If you love games, Hobby Games: The 100 Best is definitely worth considering. If you are an aspiring game designer, it is a must-have.


Gerald D. Swick has ‘way too many games and far too little time to play them. Now senior Web editor for, in a previous life he wrote for Game News, Model Retailer, Space Gamer, The Games Annual and similar publications.

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1 Comment

  1. Peter Corless here! I contributed to the Top 100. It’s been a long time since we ran into each other doing work for West End Games. What are you up to these days?



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