The Books of Sid Sackson

Compiled (with Commentary) by Nick Sauer and Herb Levy

A Gamut of Games


gamutgThis was first published by Castle Books in 1969 (the copy on the left). It has been through a number of publishers over the years both in this country as well as in Germany. The most recent English edition was put out by Dover books in 1992 in their standard soft cover format (the copy on the right).

The book includes a number of games that Sid found over the years as well as contributions by other designers Sid knew at the time (James Dunnigan of SPI fame even has a game in here). As if that wasn’t enough, a number of Sid’s own designs were included in the book as well. These are listed with commentary below. Also, of equal value, are a number of reviews by Sid of games currently in print at the time of publication (each of the above editions have different sets of reviews in them). While the lists include a number of more famous titles, what is even more interesting are the games that have pretty much vanished. Some of these would make an interesting challenge to acquire even for the veteran board game collector.

Sid’s games from A Gamut of Games:

  • All My Diamonds: One of the stronger games in the book. This game can be much better played by using cards from two Uno decks (use four each of the 1 through 4 cards in all four colors). I’m surprised that this hasn’t been published yet.
  • Bowling Solitaire: A neat little solitaire game for fans of bowling. I used to bowl fairly regularly so, I found it enjoyable.
  • Card Baseball: Not being a baseball fan probably hampered my appreciation of this game. It looks like a fairly reasonable card based simulation of baseball. This game was not published in the original German edition of the book for obvious reasons.
  • Change Change: A solitaire game that resembles one of those annoying puzzles where you slide the pieces to assemble a picture. I was never a big fan of those puzzles so, this game didn’t do much for me.
  • Color Gin: An alternate scoring system Gin where you have to track suits in your hand more carefully than normal. While I haven’t had a chance to play it yet, it looks pretty interesting.
  • Cutting Corners: Interesting concept for a two-player game. Unfortunately, it is very easy to solve due to the relatively small number of moves available to each player.
  • Domino Bead Game: A tile laying and pattern matching game that looks like it could induce migraines in some people. What’s surprising is that, given this, it one has actually been professionally published twice. It was published as Connexion by the French company Interlude in 1978 and later as Wu Hsing by the German company Franjos in 1993.
  • Focus: This was actually published by Western Publishing a few years earlier. Great Sid classic that is covered under the entry for Focus and Domination in the games section.
  • Haggle: A party game where players are trying to collect chips as well as information on their relative value. According to my friend Dan Blum, a game named this was published by a company called Stellador in 1970 (one year after A Gamut of Games was first published). It is a watered down version of the game and there is no credit given to Sid anywhere on the product.
  • Hold That Line: A Nim variant two player game that is way too easy to solve.
  • Last Word: An interesting looking word game.
  • Network: A really interesting looking two player abstract. You are trying to connect two sides of a board but the method of doing it is way ahead of its time.
  • Osmosis: A card trading game. It has some interesting ideas but, we found that the game tended to play itself.
  • Paper Boxing: I’m not a boxing fan at all but, this is a really neat little two player pencil and paper game. It didn’t go over as well with my opponents but I still enjoyed it.
  • Patterns: Strange little two player card game that uses a special deck made from a regular deck of cards. It was interesting but, did not inspire us to play it again.
  • Patterns II: A deductive logic game inspired by Bob Abbott’s Eleusis.
  • Property: This game would ultimately be redone as New York by Piatnik in 1995. I like the published version better because you are using money to help you win the game as opposed to just straight victory points.
  • Solitaire Dice: Great solitaire game that bears a lot of similarities to Sid’s classic Can’t Stop. It has been published as Choice by Hexagames in 1989 and Einstein by Fun Connection. Another of my personal favorites from the book.
  • Suit Yourself: A card game that Sid would later expand into Das Superblatt and Buried Treasure.
  • Take it Away: A great multiplayer abstract game with a gambling element attached. It looks like a great game and I am hoping to try it out with one of my groups soon. – NS

Sid’s influence among game player around the world continues to grow.  A recent edition of the book in Japan pays homage to Sid as well as Sid’s groundbreaking design Acquire in its cover art which suggests the classic Acquire box cover art but with Sid as the figure on the box! (See the picture at right!)  – HL 

The term “Gamut of Games” was also the name of a game company which had games designed by Prince Joli Kansil and Phil Orbanes. As game designer and game executive Phil Orbanes tells it:

“Their use of  the name “Gamut Games” was coincidental.  Sid and Joli did not know each other until 1972. I became the link. 

I first saw Sid’s book in draft form when I met him during Toy Fair of 1968. (Incidentally, that was also when I also learned that Monopoly had a predecessor, because Sid had dug up Elizabeth Magie Phillips’ first Landlord Game patent).

By 1972, I was working for a game sales agent named  “Reiss Games.” I was managing their line of wooden puzzles, and they also represented a half dozen other game and puzzle companies, one of which was named Bridgette – its 1969 game of this name was invented by English teacher Joel Gaines (AKA Joli Kansil). When Joel/Joli created his second game in 1972 – My Word! which was based on Jotto– the company needed a broader name. Joel organized a meeting with three people he respected and “Gamut of Games” was selected. I informed him of Sid’s book, which did not deter his choice. 

Incidentally, I accepted the offer to join Gamut Games in 1972 as head of their R&D.

To justify the name “Gamut of Games” we needed a line. Joel/Joli and I worked on Montage (his idea), Infinity, Cartel and Realm (my ideas) and we asked Sid to review and edit the rules for each.

Sid would become my main consultant as we expanded the line in the following 3 years (before I became the games leader at Ideal Toy).”

bcompetitionBeyond Competition


Six more Sackson games, most of which require a deck of 24 cards which you can get from a standard deck of cards (although the back cover of the book can be cut up (!) to create the necessary card deck. Games here include and Space Explorer, Peace Conference, Rescue, Resources, Round n Round and Search. – HL





bsolitaireBeyond Solitaire


 Six more games suitable for one player using colored pens or pencils. Games include Pinball Machine, Mountains & Valleys, Four Color, Profit & Loss and Buried Treasure (which has no relation to the the remake of High Spirits which carried the same title) – HL






btictactoegamesofartBeyond Tic Tac Toe


In Beyond Tic Tac Toe (and in keeping with his “Beyond” theme in his titles), Sid devised more games using colored pens and pencils and, in keeping with the “color” theme, Sid named these games after modern artists known for their use of color: Vasarely, Miro, Mondrian, Arp, Delauney and Klee. – HL

In 2015, after a successful Kickstarter campaign, Gryphon Games (already reprinting a bunch of Sid’s earlier releases) reissued this volume under the title Games of Art. – HL




bwordsBeyond Words


The “Beyond” series of books continued as Sid’s enjoyment of word games spilled over in this volume. According to the introduction to this book, Sid was reading Tolstoy’s War & Peace and came up with the idea for a word game based on Napoleon’s invasion of Russia! Inspiration comes from the strangest places. So Sid looked for other literary sources and came up with six games for the book: Tolstoy, Joyce, Dickens, Poe, Carroll and O’Henry. – HL




classicboardgamesbookThe Book of Classic Board Games


Sid served as editor for this volume published in 1991 by Klutz Press. This spiral bound hardcover book contained 15 classic games (ancient games such as Go and Mancala as well as more recent designs such as Hex) selected by Sid. The gimmick to the volume was that the book could lay flat so that the illustrated boards could actually be used to play the games and the book came with all the pieces you needed to play them! Unfortunately, no original Sid Sackson designs were included in the collection. – HL







Sid got his inspiration for this 1979 volume from those little pocket calculators that everyone had back in those pre-electronic revolution days. Every game required use of one of those little machines to do the heavy lifting of bookkeeping. (The games themselves were played on the removable sheets of the books.) Games included Away Across, Invasion, Travels, High Finance, Run for President and Target Number. – HL






cgatwCard Games Around the World


Sid had a voracious appetite for games, learning about them, old and new. His game library was extensive. This book spends most of the time presenting classic card games from around the world (hence the title) which is interesting in itself. The icing on the cake, however, is the final section, aptly titled “Something Extra” where Sid presents a bunch of original games: Buried Treasure (by his friend, Ronald Corn and, despite the title, has nothing to do with the Sackson game of the same name), Divide and Conquer (by another friend Claude Soucie, designer of Big Funeral, Lines of Action and Watch) and Card Football and Card Stock Market (both designed by Sid Sackson) – HL





fcwThe Family Creative Workshop


 This is a 24 volume set of craft books first published by Plenary Publications in 1976. What most people don’t know is that volume 19 in the series features an entry for Tabletop Games that is written by Sid. While it features some fairly standard games (with, of course, sections on how to make them out of craft materials) like Laska and Anagrams, it also features new material by Sid.

The first item is a series of variants he created for Anagrams. The other is a full board game called Quick Trip which is shown In the photograph (note the picture of Sid playing the game in the lower right). The game has never been reprinted anywhere that I am aware of. – NS

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