Luckily I hadn't read TALISMAN, so I was spared the unpleasant surprise of discovering that THE MASTER GAME is a new version or edition (maybe revised a bit? maybe not??) of that book. Unhappily, though, I found TMG to be, overall, the least interesting and least well organized or argued of Hancock's and Bauval's books.
The authors say -- although they wait until midway through to say it -- "In this book we are tracing the course through history of two interrelated underground religions, Gnosticism and Hermeticism." In the Prologue, Hancock and Bauval make a case for extensive Masonic influences and involvement in the American and French revolutions. Then for around 130 pages, they switch to the Cathars of Occitania, connecting the Cathar/Bogomil/Paulician/Messalian religious ideas back to the earliest Christian gnostics and Manicheism, and detailing the Catholic church's genocidal ferocity in wiping out the Cathars through the Albigensian crusades and the Inquisition. Then, for the balance of the book, they focus on the writings attributed to "Hermes Trismegistus" and follow the Hermetic school of thought and belief from its apparent origins up through -- for example -- Cosimo Medici, John Dee, Giordano Bruno, the Templars, the Rosicrucians, and finally Freemasonry.
The Cathar section is interesting, but it -- like the Cathars -- comes to a dead end. In the longer Hermetic portion of the book, Bauval and Hancock launch the reader into a wearying slog through a seemingly endless swamp of historical detail. After pages and pages about Alexander the Great, the founding of Alexandria, the Apis bull cult and a lot else, I yearned to be able to grab the authors by their collars and demand "What's your point here?" And I still do. And when the story arrives again at the French Revolution, everything that was already said in the 22-page Prologue gets repeated in much greater detail.
So after several hundred pages of "The Duke's grandfather, also named Philippe d'Orleans, was the second son of Louis XIII and thus younger brother to the Sun King Louis XIV. In 1661 he married Henrietta of England, daughter of Charles I, and in 1671 he married again..." and so on and so on and on, where do we end up? The book seems to conclude that Freemasons have maybe misunderstood their own doctrines in relation to the creation of Israel; regardless of that, paranoid Muslims have misunderstood Freemasonry; and Hancock and Bauval want to debunk "harebrained conspiracy theories" without actually getting into the specifics of them -- which is kind of comically ironic, because they've just spent a good portion of their book documenting an ongoing centuries-long international conspiracy. I say the book "seems to" conclude these things, because there isn't really any summing up, clarifying, and drawing of conclusions -- the narrative just grinds to a halt on an ambiguous note. The closest things to conclusions are stated in the Introduction; and when, after finishing TMG, I went back and reread the Introduction, it seemed to be for a different book than the one I just read.
Despite my griping about excessive detail, there are a few places where I wish the authors had gone into *more* detail: for example, at one point they assert that the ancient Egyptians -- despite their pantheon of gods and goddesses, obsession with the afterlife, mythology, temples, priests etc. -- did not have or practice a "religion" in the sense we use the word today. This intriguing statement is not really explained or elaborated -- and it seems like it should have been, since repeatedly in this book 'everything comes back to Egypt' and that 'religion that's not a religion' sounds like a particularly significant key to understanding ancient Egypt.
As a last note -- it's becoming a litany in my reviews, but I see that TMG's publisher is another who evidently runs a spellcheck on their manuscripts but doesn't employ proofreaders -- and if you think feel that's just grate and knot a problem you the they won't mined this kind of garbled text ... and I have to conclude that schools no longer teach future typesetters the difference between "its" and "it's"...