I read this story 8-15 years ago in German. I'm not sure but I think the book had 2 short, totally different stories in it.

The story was about a man who was sent (I think kinda forced to go) to a planet where he should play a game everyone on that planet plays. I think the goal was to beat their leader and conquer the world like this?

The better you are at the game, the higher is your position in the society. I remember that at the end he was playing against the leader and they had a long back and forth game, but I'm not sure who won.

They played the game on a different planet that had only one stripe of forest around the whole planet and a fire that goes around it. But thats only the location they were playing.

The man was chosen because he was the best player in every game if I remember correctly.

The game was a board like game where you have troops or armies that you move around. It was not an easy game everyone just could play.

2 Answers 2


That is certainly The Player of Games by Iain M Banks, the second of his Culture books, which has all the elements you describe.

To quote Wikipedia:

Gurgeh lands on the Empire's home planet of Eä, accompanied by another drone, Flere-Imsaho. As a Culture citizen, he naturally plays with a style markedly different from his opponents, many of whom stack the odds against him one way or another, such as forming backroom agreements to cooperate against him (which is allowed by the game's rules). As he advances through the tournament he is matched against increasingly powerful Azad politicians, and ultimately the Emperor himself in the final round. The final contests take place on Echronedal, the Fire Planet, which undergoes a natural conflagration fueled by native plants that produce huge amounts of oxygen. The final game is timed to end when the flames engulf the castle where the event takes place, symbolically renewing the Empire by fire. However, faced with defeat, the Emperor orders his men to kill all the spectators, and then attempts to kill Gurgeh, but he is himself killed by a shot from his own weapon, deflected by Flere-Imsaho (who later refuses to tell Gurgeh if it was coincidental).

It's a novel not a short story, but it's a relatively short novel by modern standards and could have been in an omnibus volume with some other work.

  • 1
    One of a select list of books for which own multiple copies :)
    – Sobrique
    Jun 9, 2017 at 14:08
  • 4
    Awesome book - together with almost all other books of Ian M. Banks. I don't personally care so much for the books of Ian Banks (with M. = SciFi, without M = thriller/horror(ish), but it's the same guy), but can wholeheartedly recommend to check other books of the "M." guy. :)
    – AnoE
    Jun 9, 2017 at 17:28
  • @AnoE -- you should reconsider some of the Iain Banks books. I don't know how your tastes run, exactly, but at least Song of Stone and The Business are SF-ish (but not "space opera") and worth reading.
    – Jules
    Jun 10, 2017 at 0:58

For completeness I'll put this in.

Given the short story comment - or rather the appearance of 2 stories in one - there's an outside chance this is one of the Apprentice Adept books by Piers Anthony. Synopsis - its 2 worlds portal fantasy - A fantasy world and a SciFi world. The in the SciFi world you are ranked according to how well you play a set of game to escape Indentured Serfdom....


My money is on Player of Games tho...

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.