The second part in the 1284 Book of Games of Alfonso X. contains the description of twelve medieval games of dice. Certain information on the amount and timing of bets of the players are only very briefly displayed and are completely missing in several games. The exact course of such games is therefore unknown. What did the players know about their chances of rolling dice and how they could use them when playing the dice? In order to imagine the process of betting for gain, the characteristics of these games of dice are examined and compared with contemporary games of chance.
A note by A. Chernevski in the 1877 Shakhmatny Listok described two chess variants played in Samarkand, present-day Uzbekistan. One, the “Bukharan game”, is a slightly modified version of shatranj, similar to Rumi chess as described in Murray’s History of Chess. The other, the “Persian game with a queen” resembles to some extent the Persian chess described in 1846 in the Chess Player’s Chronicle but differs from it in several important aspects. Chernevski’s information, which includes recorded games by native players, is absent from later sources on chess history. A summary of Chernevski’s report is provided, with a discussion of several other historical chess variants, and various errors that have crept into their description in the literature.
A great deal of the literary evidence surrounding the ancient Greek board game pente grammai has to do with its central and proverbial ‘holy line’. Although it seems that the goal of the game was to reach this holy line, the proverb always refers to ‘moving away from’ this holy line not toward it. But why would players move away from the line which is the goal? This paper argues that there was a strategic element to the game: just like in modern backgammon and in Zeno’s ‘table’ game from late antiquity, in pente grammai a player could knock an opponent’s ‘blots’ (azuges) off the board. This explains why a player might make the odd move of leaving the holy line: the aggressive and risky act might bring an advantage if the opponent has left a number of vulnerable pieces exposed. At the end, a possible reconstruction of the game is offered.
In 2010 a Roman token was discovered in the mud of the Thames near Putney Bridge in London. When the token was discovered to have an erotic image on one side and a Roman numeral on the other, and was identified in a Museum of London press release as a rare Roman “brothel token”, the press reported on the story in the expected manner, for example: “A Roman coin that was probably used by soldiers to pay for sex in brothels has been discovered on the banks of the River Thames” (Daily Telegraph, 4 Jan 2012) and “Bronze discs depicting sex acts, like the one discovered in London, were used to hire prostitutes-and directly led to the birth of pornography during the Renaissance” (The Guardian, 4 Jan 2012). Even before this particular spate of media interest, these curious tokens have generated confusion, speculation and prurience-often simultaneously. They are of interest to games scholars because the speculation often includes the suggestion these objects may have had a ludic function, and were used as game counters. This paper will look at some of the proposals that have been offered by way of explanation of these peculiar objects.
Native American Antecedents of Two Proprietary Board Games
Philip M. Winkelman
The ways new games typically develop might be viewed as a continuum ranging from very gradual “evolution” based on mutations introduced to a single progenitor during play or recall, to sudden “intelligent design” based on a purposeful and original combination — or even invention — of ludemes independent of any particular lines of transmission.
This paper argues that two proprietary 20th-century games, C.A. Neves’s Fang den Hut! and Lizzie Magie’s The Landlord’s Game, were developed in a different way, a bit outside the typical continuum. It analyzes the games’ general typologies, and specific ludemes, concluding that both games are modern adaptations of traditional Native American games encountered, not through play or even contact with players, but through the seminal ethnographic publications of Stewart Culin. Specifically, Fang den Hut! derives from Boolik via Games of the North American Indians, and The Landlord’s Game derives from Zohn Ahl via Chess and Playing-Cards.
Die Geschichte des Dominospiels in Europa ist bisher wissenschaftlich nicht bearbeitet worden. Die ältesten Nachweise stammen aus China. Frühe archäologische Funde aus Nordwesteuropa reichen bis an die Grenze des Mittelalters zurück, sind aber außerordentlich selten. Ein Import über den Seeweg aus China kommt aus chronologischen Gründen nicht mehr in Betracht. Etwa ab 1760 gibt es schriftliche Belege aus Frankreich und Deutschland. Während sich aber in Frankreich darin ein Interesse der Oberschichten an wettkampfmäßigem Spiel manifestiert, handeln die deutschen Belege zunächst von einem Kinder-spiel. Erst mit den militärischen Erfolgen Frankreichs um die Jahrhundertwende steigt die Reputation des Spiels in den europäischen Oberschichten. In dieser Zeit sind neben Spielsätzen aus Hartgeweben auch Kartenspielsätze geläufig. Der Name leitet sich vermutlich von dem französischen Wort für Buntpapierherstellung ab, unter dem auch die Kartenmacher zu subsumieren sind.
Kauṭilya’s maṇḍala model has intrigued indologists and political scientists for some time. It deals with friendship and enmity between countries that are direct or indirect neighbours. (Ghosh; 1936) suggests a close relationship between this model and Indian four-king chess. We try to corroborate his claim by presenting a stylized game-theory model of both Indian four-king chess and Kauṭilya’s maṇḍala theory. Within that game model, we can deal with Kauṭilya’s conjecture according to which an enemy’s enemy is likely to be one’s friend. Arguably, this conjecture is reflected in the ally structure of four-king chess. We also comment on the widespread disapproval of dice in (four-king) chess.