hist-games: Frequently Asked Questions -- Part I (Monthly Posting)
salley at niktow.canisius.edu
Mon Nov 10 11:00:07 PST 1997
Welcome to the Medieval and Renaissance Games FAQ file! - Part I
Send corrections/updates/suggestions for this file to:
salley at niktow.canisius.edu OR http://www-cs.canisius.edu/~salley
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2.) Can I get "back issues" of the mailing list?
This list is archived. The archive is located at:
3.) What does this mailing list cover?
Medieval and Renaissance games. Although the actual content of the
list will be determined by what people post, we concentrate on
historical games prior to 1650.
4.) Where can I find information on games played AFTER 1650?
There are several games which have their own newsgroups. If you
have a question or want to discuss these games, you have a better
chance of getting your question answered there.
Game : Newsgroup
Abstract games : rec.games.abstract
Backgammon : rec.games.backgammon
Board games : rec.games.board
Bridge : rec.games.bridge
Chess : rec.games.chess....
Chinese Chess : rec.games.chinese-chess
Cosmic Encounter : rec.games.board.ce
Designing your own game : rec.games.design
Dice games : alt.games.dice
Diplomacy : rec.games.diplomacy
Gambling games : rec.gambling.other-games
Games for sale : rec.games.board.marketplace
Go : rec.games.go
Live Action Role Play : rec.games.frp.live-action
Magic: The Gathering : rec.games.trading-card....
Miniatures : rec.games.miniatures.misc
Miniatures, Historical : rec.games.miniatures.historical
Miniatures, Warhammer : rec.games.miniatures.warhammer
Miscellaneous games : alt.games
Play-By-Mail games : rec.games.pbm
Playing cards : rec.games.playing-cards
Fantasy Role Playing : rec.games.frp....
Tiddlywinks : alt.games.tiddlywinks
Trivia games : rec.games.trivia
5.) What are all those strange terms all the regular posters keep using?
SCA : Society for Creative Anachronism, a non-profit, educational,
historical re-creation organization for hobbyists.
period : within the time period discussed, prior to 1650.
OOP : Out-Of-Period, post 1650.
primary documentation : something published/produced concurrent with
the time period being studied, eg. a game board, a painting.
secondary documentation : generally, a 20th century scholastic work
on the subject, the good ones will cite their references.
6.) Where can I find information/rules about period games?
Check out the "Medieval & Renaissance Games Home Page" web site at
"http://www.inmet.com/~justin/game-hist.html". Like this list, it
was started within the SCA, but we hope that it serves a broader
audience. Contact Justin du Coeur (justin at inmet.com) for more
details about the web site.
Also check out "Dagonell's Game of the Month" column on his web site
at "http://www-cs.canisius.edu/~salley/articles.html#games". The
most up to date copy of this FAQ may also be found there.
A Partial Bibliography on Period Games
(Book reviews by Dagonell the Juggler unless otherwise noted.)
_Medieval Games_ by Salaamallah the Corpulent (Jeff DeLuca),
Raymond's Quiet Press ISBN 0-943228-03-4,$10.00. The SCA considers
him to be expert on historical board games. Ordering information is
I've also managed to track down about 3/4 of the books he lists in
the Bibliography. Among them, I'd recommend the following two:
_Traditional Games of England, Scotland and Ireland_ by Alice Gomme,
pub. London 1894. in 2 vol. Thames and London, ISBN 0-500-27316-2,
$18.95 Normally, I avoid Victorian books as the scholarship usually
tends to be nearly non-existant. These books however, are very well
_Board and Table Games from Many Civilizations_ by Richard C. Bell,
Dover Pub., ISBN 0-486-23855-5, $6.50. My edition is "revised
edition - two volumes bound as one" which makes it a bit confusing as
the sequence goes; table of contents, text, bibliography, index,
table of contents, text, bibliography, index.
_Games of the World: How to Make Them, How to Play Them, How They
Came to Be_ edited by Frederic V. Grunfeld, Holt Rinehart & Winston
Pub, ISBN 0-03-015261-5. My copy doesn't have the price listed on it.
Richard Bell (see listing above) is listed as one of the consultants
for the book. The book is documented to the nth degree with
photographs of museum pieces and medieval manuscripts. Instructions
on building boards and playing pieces are well written, well diagrammed
and often photographed in intermediate stages of construction. Games
are categorized into: Board & Table Games, Street & Playground Games,
Field & Forest Games, Party & Festival Games, and Puzzles, Tricks &
Stunts. Additionally the table of contents has cross-indexed each
game for: Indoor or Outdoor; Solo, Pair or Group; Mental, Physical or
Chance; Playing Time - Short, Medium, Long and Prepartion Time - Short,
_Pleasures and Pastimes of Medieval England_ by Compton Reeves
(England; Alan Sutton Pub.; 1995; ISBN 0-7509-0089-X; 228 pgs)
Admittedly hard to get, but well worth the effort. It doesn't cover
rules for specific games, but the documentation is excellent. Very
well illustrated with photos of artifacts and reproductions of
historical manuscripts. The paperback is due out in December 1997.
Society for Creative Anachronism, Compleat Anachronist pamphlet series
(P.O. Box 360789, Milpitas CA 95036-0789, $4 each)
Compleat Anachronist #04 "Indoor Games or How to While Away a Siege"
Compleat Anachronist #71 "Period Pastimes"
Compleat Anachronist #78 "Non-European Games"
_The Boardgame Book_ by Richard C. Bell. Nothing spectacular, but
rules for most of common board games all conveniently in one volume.
_Games Ancient and Oriental and How to Play Them_ by Edward Falkener
(New York, 1961. Reprint of the original, by Longmans, Green & Co.,
1892) One of the earliest books on the history of games, this has
the usual strengths and weaknesses of Victorian scholarship (no
footnotes, erratic citations). It's a reasonably good account,
although much has been superceded by more recent work. The book has
five major sections:
* Games of the Ancient Egyptians (Tau, Senat, etc.);
* Chess, along with regional and historical variants;
* Draughts and variants
(including Go, which I find inexplicable);
* Backgammon and other race games;
* and Magic Squares and similar intellectual puzzles.
Overall an interesting book (especially the Magic Squares chapter,
which isn't often covered under this subject), but far from
essential at this point. -- Justin du Coeur
_A History of Chess_ by H.J.R. Murray (Oxford University Press, 1913.
Currently in print from Benjamin Press, Northampton, MA) Many books
with this title have been written down the years, but this is the one
that really counts; while the scholarship has advanced a little since
Murray's day, it's still the case that everyone starts here and then
moves forward. If you have only one book on period chess, this is the
one to have. It's an enormous tome (900 pages), and the vast majority
of it is devoted to the pre-1600 history of the game. Once the game
stablizes in the early modern period, Murray seems to mostly lose
interest. Murray goes into minute detail about every aspect of the
game, discussing not only the rules, but also issues like the
literature written in period using chess as a metaphor, three chapters
on period chess problems, and of course, descriptions of every known
early variant of chess (of which there were many). The scholarship is
impeccable; not only does the book discuss pretty much every known
source in detail, it includes great swathes of medieval texts on the
subject, in Latin, Spanish, English and other languages. This is
NOT a book for the casual reader; it is enormous and dense. But for
anyone seriously interested in the subject of period chess, it is the
most vital book on the subject. And now it is back in print. Get it.
-- Justin du Coeur
_A History of Board Games Other Than Chess_ by H.J.R. Murray
(Oxford University Press, London 1952) This is Murray's much later,
more obscure, and far harder to find follow-up to _A History of Chess_.
While not as impressive a work as its predecessor, this is
nonetheless one of the seminal works in the field. This book sets
down the format followed by many of the more recent writers, such as
RC Bell and Jeff DeLuca, encyclopedically categorizing board games and
then listing pretty much all known instances of each type. It does
not confine itself to period games, but tends to be heavy on them;
Murray appears to have had little interest in modern board games. It
is useful to have, not least because pretty much everyone who comes
after cites this particular book. Although usually fairly clear, the
book is very concise in most cases; I definitely don't recommend it
for beginners. In general, it is less clear than Bell, and has a
smaller scope that DeLuca (in that it only covers board games);
however its coverage of board games is unbeatable, including many
games and variants I haven't heard of elsewhere. This book is
extremely difficult to obtain; I had to order a copy from a London
used-book dealer, and it appears that the going price ranges from
$120 to $170 US. It's worth it for the hard-core game history
scholar, probably not for the dillentante. -- Justin du Coeur
7.) Where can I find information/rules about period cards and card games?
"The Official Card Games Webpage" is at "http://www.pagat.com".
A Partial Bibliography on Period Playing Cards
(Book reviews by Dagonell the Juggler unless otherwise noted.)
_A History of Card Games_ by David Parlett (1990; Oxford Univ. Press;
ISBN: 0-19-282905-X; $10.50) Well documented. No bibliography, but
all footnotes are cited.
_The History of Playing Cards: with Anecdotes of Their Use in
Conjuring, Fortune-Telling and Card-Sharping_ edited by Ed S. Taylor
et al. Originally pub. London 1865, my edition is pub. by Charles
Tuttle Co 1973, ISBN 0-8048-1026-5. No price listed on my copy.
It doesn't have a bibliography :-(, but all of the direct quotes are
adequately footnoted. The illustrations are all modern drawings of
medieval cards :-( I would have preferred photographs, warts and all.
_Playing Cards_ by Roger Tilley (1973; Octopus Books Ltd.; $6.00;
ISBN: 0-7064-0049-6) Color photographs of cards from the British
Museum. One deck has as suits: Lions, Peacocks, Monkeys & Parrots.
The photos alone are worth the price of the book.
_Playing Cards, The History and Secrets of the Pack_ by W. Gurney
Benham. Regretfully long out of print, this volume covers not only
the history of standard playing cards, but also devotes chapters to
the history of the Tarot, and the Right Worshipful Guild of Playing
8.) Are there period games played with Tarot cards?
Yes; the Tarot was originally used for a large family of trick-taking
games, from the later Renaissance up to the modern day.
9.) Where can I find information/rules about dice games?
_Scarne on Dice_ by John Scarne. John Scarne was the world's
foremost authority on cards and dice. This book is so well
written, Encyclopedia Britannica uses citations and illustrations
from this book for their articles.
10.) So where's Part II?
Part II of the FAQ list will essentially consist of a long list of
"Is the game [...] period?" followed by citations. It will be
finished in Dagonell's _copious_ spare time. :)
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