31 August 2018
A beautiful celebration of games from a bygone age
There aren’t many books about the history of games, and most of them focus on traditional folk games, so when a book like this comes along it’s worth paying attention.
Georgian and Victorian Board Games is a coffee-table book of games from the collection of Arthur and Elizabeth Liman, and it’s gorgeous. The board games of 200 years ago, mostly British, were lavishly engraved and coloured by hand, and the book captures 50 of them with full images, close-ups on the boards and, in many cases, the rules too. Several of the games are on foldout sheets large enough to play on, if you want to.
It’s not an exhaustive collection, and there isn’t a lot of information alongside the pictures. On the other hand, original copies of games from this period sell for thousands of pounds, good-quality reproductions are rare and the last decent book on this subject came out in 1971.
As games they’re not hugely interesting. Most are roll-and-move, modelled on the Game of the Goose, and many were designed to teach children academic or moral lessons. There are a few outliers: some imaginative and quirky like The Combat with the Giant, and some best left in the 19th century like The New Game of the Jew. But as artistic artefacts – as links in the chain that leads from pachisi and other ancient games to the present – they’re fascinating and delightful, and Georgian and Victorian Board Games does true justice to them.
If you take games seriously then, unless you have access to a major museum’s collection or you know Elizabeth Liman personally, this is the closest you’re likely to get to these antiques. A wonderful book.
Publisher: Pointed Leaf Press
This review originally appeared in the May 2018 issue of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here – or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.
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