This is an English translation of the
Introduction to the book Diez Juegos.

Bob Abbott, that unknown man     

When the Spanish moviemaker Fernando Trueba was awarded the 1993 Oscar for his film Belle Époque, he began his gratitude speech with the following words: “I’d like to believe in God to thank Him, but I just believe in Billy Wilder. Thank you, Mr. Wilder.” Next day, Billy Wilder called Trueba and said: “Fernando, God speaking.” In the scorching heat of August 2005, while flying from New York to Palm Beach to meet Bob Abbott, the author of this book, I remembered the words of Fernando Trueba. I, too, was going to meet God.

Abbott is a well-known man in some gaming circles. He appears in every encyclopaedia and book about 20th century games, from the essential A Gamut of Games by Sid Sackson (also published in this series) until the latest edition of Hoyle’s Rules of Games by Albert H. Morehead, Geoffrey Mott-Smith, and Philip D. Morehead, in which Abbott is the sole designer with two games.

But, on the other hand, Abbott is almost unknown to the great majority of gamers. It’s hard to understand that even gamers who easily identify the style of the best game designers, know nothing about Bob Abbott. Although he was a good friend and associate of Sid Sackson and Alex Randolph, although Martin Gardner wrote some unforgettable articles about him in his books, almost nobody plays Abbott’s games. He is also an unknown man as far as the gaming industry is concerned; his games have been badly marketed and nowadays it is almost impossible to find his games in the market, not even in second-hand deals. Why?

His biography will give us some hints. He was born in 1933 and his great creative burst came by the end of the 50s, when he was some twenty years old. He was a friend of Sackson and Claude Soucie (another great and lesser-known designer, the creator of Lines of Action); all of them enjoyed themselves in playing and designing games. Martin Gardner immediately noticed that bold young man who had invented a revolutionary gaming idea. He enshrines him when in 1959 he publishes, with all due honor, the rules of Eleusis (without doubt, Abbott’s best game) in Scientific American. That article establishes Bob’s fame. But something goes wrong, the recently acquired fame does not result in publishing contracts nor games being published. In 1963 he manages to edit the rules of nine of his games in a book which has become a rare jewel: Abbott’s New Card Games, now rescued from oblivion and published in a careful translation by Marc Figueras and Marià Pitarque with the title Diez juegos que no se parecen a nada (“Ten games that look like none other”). In 1969 comes the first edition of another of his most famous games, Epaminondas, in which he sets up a completely new and beautifully perfect mechanics for the movement of the pieces. Even more fame, even more recognition, but no money. He finds a job as a computer programmer and drifts away from games.

As the reader of this book will see, in each one of his games Abbott suggests a new idea in relation to what has already been known. Besides Eleusis, he is the designer of a dozen games, each as innovative as the other. In Ultima, his own version of chess, all kinds of capture in the history of games are condensed: the chess capture, of course, but also that of checkers, tablut or fanorona, as well as some other captures invented by him. In Babel we find a simultaneous action mechanics, later seen in so many games. In Auction the goal is to get cards in an auction—also simultaneous, cards that will be used later in the game for obtaining higher valued cards. In Confusion, his last game (that we present here as a novelty, as it has never been published in a book), he sets up a struggle between two players who do not know the movement of their own pieces, but only that of their opponent’s. As they try to move forward, and according to the information provided by the opponent (which sometimes results in captures), the players will deduce what can be done with each of their pieces. A truly wonderful game.

While slowly drifting apart from the world of games, Abbott gets interested by mazes, a field in which he specializes and in which he finally finds the recognition so many times denied to him as a strategy games designer. He publishes some books about mazes and, especially, he creates a new concept: logic mazes, labyrinths with rules, mazes in which, to find the exit, you must apply certain rules. Logic mazes represent a special crossover of two fields: games and mazes, which until the work of Abbott had almost nothing in common. In his webpage,, you’ll find lots of logical challenges in the form of mazes.

More and more isolated from games (in these last years he just plays with his wife Ann), Abbott devotes his time to improving his old creations. Eleusis will see various versions until the present final cut, and until the newly born Eleusis Express. Ultima will be restructured from head to toe to reach a complex and stimulating equilibrium. And finally, while proofreading the final galley proofs of this book, Abbott sent us the latest version of Leopard, which we fortunately managed to include in this edition.

Oriol Comas i Coma
“Games” series Director

Note (from Abbott): That latest version of Leopard is here.
Back to Robert Abbott’s Games.