The book is a sci-fi novel. Called "A Walk Between Stars." I like to describe it as Alfred Hitchcock's "The Rear Window" in outer space.
A human space technician is marooned in deep space. Floats for a while until picked up by an alien vessel. The alien's can't let him aboard their ship, but are able to transport him on the exterior of the ship. So he basically has to live on the outside of the ship (in his space suit - which is slim futuristic, not bulky like current astronauts) for the remainder of the novel. He spends his time watching the aliens as they go about their lives through their windows. He befriends one of the aliens, and spends time talking with him, and playing a chess like game by watching through the window and telling the friend what piece to move. At a point the main character witnesses a murder, and has to work with the friend to prove the murder.
Here is the description of the aliens:
Then my savior’s bulbous bug-like head and upper torso appeared. I recognized the species immediately. We called their race the Manti, because of the obvious similarities they had with the praying mantis from earth. They had two arms, four thin insect-like legs, and exoskeletons; with a head, thorax, and abdomen. Their heads were slightly more humanoid, with two large eyes broken into five facets each. They had elongated arms, but instead of hands at the end of their arms, they had about a dozen sharp armored digits running up and down each side of the forearms.
It moved its mandibles. Pause, then “Where is your ship?” came through the com system.
-- another description of the aliens, They are brown with lighter brown paterns --
They were unique. The patterns varied greatly, from tiger stripes to leopard spots; from complex starburst, to random chaos. There was even one that resembled a tie-died design.
Here is the description of the game they play:
“This,” he said as he swept an arm over the display, “is a game we learn as children. It is the closest thing we have to your Terran game of chess.”
There were three long flat strips (maybe made of some sort of wood) that laid perpendicular to each other, a few centimeters apart. Steward was carefully placing the small carved stones onto these strips. The width of the strip was just enough to place a single row of stones along its length.
“It is a game of strategy and war,” he continued.
“What’s it called?” I asked.
He made a sound full of clicks and a hum that didn’t translate. I shook my head to indicate that it didn’t come through.
He nodded softly, then said, “You may call it Three Bridges.”
He reached down and with his foremost digit on each arm, touched two of the strips of wood, and said, “These are the bridges. They are the platforms the pieces are placed on. And these—“ he splayed open his digits, and opened his arms in a revealing manner above the game, “—are soldiers.”
The game was extremely complex; much more so than chess. Imagine taking the whole game of chess and compressing it down to be played along a single line, rather than a grid. Now imagine playing three games simultaneously (the three bridges).
The goal of the game was to control both sides of a bridge. Once a player controlled two bridges this way, he could claim victory.
The first time through, the game took over two hours. Steward won of course— but he assured me that once I had the basics down, we could play several games in that same time. He also kept stressing to me that we were playing the game in its most basic form, and that this was the level in which Manti children played.
Way to bring out my confidence. Thanks buddy.