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It’s All a Game: The History of Board Games from Monopoly to Settlers of Catan


Author: Tristan Donovan
ISBN: 978-1250082725
Publication date: 2017
Pages: 304
Format: Hardcover

It’s All a Game comprehensively covers the history, psychology, and cultural impact of board games.

Over the course of 304 pages, author Tristan Donovan covers broad ground, tracing the evolution of various board games through 4,000 years of game history. Early chapters focus on the social history of ancient games, but the majority of the book’s 16 chapters explore classic board games from the past 200 years, including Monopoly, Clue, Scrabble, and Trivial Pursuit.

Each chapter can stand alone and is devoted to either a specific game or theme. Donovan’s thorough research and well-crafted prose makes for an easy read. For example, chapter 5, “The Forgotten Message of Monopoly”, highlights that popular game’s oft-misrepresented origin story to illustrate its migration from “anti-landlord tirade to celebration of cutthroat capitalism.” Chapter 8, “Clue’s Billion-Dollar Crime Spree”, delivers fascinating insight into how the game’s humble beginnings led to a “world of armchair sleuths.”

Finally, no book on the history of games would be complete with mention of famous toy inventor, Marvin Glass. Chapter 10, “Plastic Fantastic: Mouse Trap, Operation, and the Willy Wonka of Toys”, explores the toy-industry-wide impact of the Chicago-based Glass and his company, Marvin Glass & Associates.

It’s All a Game’s final two chapters tackle the modern board game renaissance of the past 20 years.

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