hist-games: Freq. Asked Questions -- Part II

Mark Waks justin at intermetrics.com
Fri Oct 17 10:33:04 PDT 1997


David Salley wrote:
>         1) Backgammon
>                 Medievally known as "tables", ancient in origin.

Careful with the phrasing here; many people believe exactly that, and
it's mildly inaccurate. Backgammon is a just-post-period variant of an
ancient family of games called Tables. A close relative (Irish in
late-period England, and similar or identical games in other countries
and times) dates back to the middle ages (I believe). You might
specifically mention that Irish is Backgammon, except that it has:

-- no doubling cube (a very late innovation);
-- no special movement for rolling doubles;
-- no gammons or other "higher" wins.

(According to Willoughby, there was also a special rule about what
happens when you bind up your home table, but I suspect that that wasn't
common in most forms of the game.)

You should also emphasize that there were many interesting variations on
the game known in period.

>         2) Bowling (nine-pins)
>                 I haven't a clue!

Mentioned in Willoughby (post-period), as I recall, but I don't know how
far back into period it goes.

>         3) Cathedral
>                 Strictly 20th century in origin.  Anyone have an exact date?

Nope; a search through the obvious sites on the Web doesn't turn much
up.

>         4) Checkers (draughts)
>                 Brought back from the crusades as a variant of Al Querques

Sounds about right. As I recall, the modern version is late-period, but
I'm not sure of that off the top of my head...

>         5) Chess
>                 Ancient in origin.  See "A History of Chess" by H.R.Murray

The correct concise answer. More specifically, modern chess is
late-period, but is close to versions known throughout the middle ages
and renaissance. (Differences are mainly different movement for bishop
and queen.) Probably originated in India before 1000AD, and spread
everywhere from there. (First to Muslim, then Christian countries.) Many
variants known in period. It might be very useful to point people at the
historical chess variants pages (don't remember the URL offhand, but
it's available from my rules page) -- those pages give many of the
period variations clearly and concisely.

				-- Justin

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