Which are the best properties to buy when playing Monopoly, and how many houses should you build on them? Which continent should you aim to take over first in Risk? And what is the best strategy when using the doubling cube in backgammon? These are some of the questions considered and answered by Marcus du Sautoy, a British mathematician and Oxford professor, in his sprightly, light-hearted history of games and gaming.
The narrative is organised geographically as a trip around the world, starting with ancient games from the Middle East—backgammon, the Royal Game of Ur, the Egyptian game of senet—and ending up in Europe with modern games such as Pandemic and Dobble. Along the way the author considers many old favourites (Cluedo, Scrabble, Risk), recent arrivals (Wordle, Settlers of Catan) and less familiar games from a wide range of cultures and historical periods, such as the African game of mancala and the Indian card game of ganjifa, whose rules change at night.