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Pairing Books And Tabletop Games

Image by Ella's Dad via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
Image by Ella’s Dad via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
This year while attending PAX East, Penny Arcade’s annual gaming convention in Boston, I started thinking about how certain games would be perfect for the fans of certain books. Some are obvious and intentional. More and more tabletop games are being created based on books or series, though often only after the books have been made into a movie or TV series. Recent examples include Harry Potter (which has spawned several board games including Hogwarts: House Cup Challenge), The Hunger Games, Twilight, The Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, and The Walking Dead. In preparing this post, I even discovered that there is a Princess Bride board game.

While these are great for fans of these stories, I am even more interested in thinking about what books and games pair perfectly even though they are completely unrelated.

For example, if you are a fan of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes mysteries or perhaps Secret Letters, Leah Scheier’s recent story about a girl who believes that the great Holmes is her father, you will love 221B Baker Street, a board game that puts you in Holmes’s shoes to solve a mystery through deductive reasoning.

The Name of the StarFor mystery fans who are fascinated by Jack the Ripper, there are a number of books — and games — to check out. The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson offers a great modern-day story of Jack the Ripper’s exploits in London and it works perfectly with Mr. Jack, a two-player game where one player is Jack the Ripper and the other is an investigator trying to determine his true identity.

If you still can’t get enough of Jack, follow him to New York with Ripper by Stefan Petrucha, which is about an orphan in search of his father who is caught up in the search for a serial killer who may be the famous Jack the Ripper in the heart of New York City. Then play the Mr. Jack in New York board game, which adds complexity to the original game and moves the action to Manhattan.

warm bodies isaac marion coverIf mysteries aren’t your speed, how about zombies? Try reading Warm Bodies, a zombie/romance mashup by Isaac Marion, and pair it with Zombie Fluxx, a crazy card game in the Fluxx series where the rules are always changing, a theme that will likely resonate after finishing Warm Bodies.

If you’ve read Robin Benway’s Also Known As, you might instead prefer to try out your spying and deception skills, and there is a game for that too! Check out Spy Alley, where players must collect their key, disguise, codebook, and secret password all while bluffing about their true identity so that their opponents won’t guess their true loyalty.

trinity_coverNonfiction fans and history buffs aren’t left out of the fun either. You can’t go wrong with Trinity: A Graphic History of the First Atomic Bomb, Jonathan Fetter-Vorm’s graphic novel history of the Manhattan Project and one of YALSA’s 2013 Great Graphic Novels for Teens Top 10. Oonce you’ve finished it, play the Manhattan Project board game, where you are the leader of a nation that is building atomic weapons. You must balance your resources between military might, engineering infrastructure, and foreign espionage to achieve your nation’s goals.

Are you a fan of both books and board games? Did I miss one of your favorite book/game pairs? Let me know about it in the comments! I’m always looking for new books to read and games to play!

— Carli Spina, currently reading Spies and Prejudice by Talia Vance

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Carli Spina

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  1. Erin Daly Erin Daly

    This is a great idea for a post! Cross-platform advisory! I love it. I just had an idea for a book/game pairing yesterday: Loki’s Wolves by M.A. Marr & K.L. Armstrong (that’s Melissa Marr and Kelley Armstrong in their middle grade author naming convention mode) with Yggdrasil A cooperative game about stopping Ragnarok. It’s also available as an app game:

  2. Tamara Tamara

    Great idea! Would never have occurred to me to pair these types of things together. For younger kids, The Westing Game and Clue might make a fun pairing. :)

    • Carli Carli

      It is so funny you suggested that because that is one of the other pairings I was considering! I think it would be perfect for middle schoolers.

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