Thursday, June 7, 2012

Book Review- The Theory and Practice of Gamesmanship

Last weekend I ate in my town's finest restaurant and as usual they delivered the check protruding from the pages on an old book. I suspect this is wrong in several ways although it's also a sort of hillbilly fortune cookie since you can try and find some hidden meaning in whatever book you've been given. Anyway, my book of the day was The Theory and Practice of Gamesmanship, or the Art of Winning Games Without Actually Cheating. Bravo indeed for life's little ironies and within the week my wife had a nice new copy Amazon'ing its way to me.

Gamesmanship is copyright 1948 but reads a bit older than that. If you can make your way through some pretty archaic text it is, however, a darn funny book. The author attempts to teach "gamesmanship," the skill of using clothes, language, and circumstance to completely distract and demoralize your opponent. For example, the "second rule of gamesmanship" is:

     "If the opponent wears, or attempts to wear, clothes correct and suitable for the game, by as much as his clothes succeed in this function, by so much should the gamesman's clothes fail."

     "Or if you can't volley, wear velvet socks."

The rest of the book discusses being late for events, how to buy lunches and drinks, incorporating conversations with angry spouses (who need not actually be on the phone, or even exist at all) and gives a variety of scenarios set in popular games like chess, tennis, and golf. It's all quite funny in a dry as a bone kind of way. Ironically, after reading several chapters I got to watch ultra-competitive board gamer R________ put several of the tricks into play that night at boardgame club. I don't know if he's studied the book or is a natural.

I'd recommend The Theory and Practice of Gamesmanship, or the Art of Winning Games Without Actually Cheating as a funny book for gamers and also as an instructive book for gamers. It's written in an older style but worth the effort to translate.

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