hist-games: Seven-sided backgammon

Christian Joachim Hartmann lukian at Null.net
Wed Jul 29 05:14:59 PDT 1998

At 14:08 27.07.98 -0600, Charles Knutson wrote:
>I'm curious how the illustration of "7-handed backgammon" compares to
>the Alphonso MS illustration of "Zodiac" as it appears in R.C. Bell's
>"The Boardgame Book," (1979, Knapp Press)?

The illustration of the game that Bell calls "Zodiac" (which Murray
calls "Escaque") is the one belonging to the *chess* version of the
astronomical board-game whereas the illustration in "Games of the
world" is the *tables* version of the astronomical board game.

Alfonso's chess-variants come always in pairs. Schädler thinks that
he took the chess-variants from Arab sources and deviced himself their
tables (backgammon) equals to be played with the same kind of dice/same
number of players but not on the same boards.

>It sounds as though both
>games could be played on the "Zodiac" board?? -or are they perhaps the
>same illustration?

No, though both boards are certainly similar. Both are seven-sided and made
to be used by seven players. Both games are said to feature depictions of the
seven planets. [Note, I cannot see any such features on the illustration of
the 7-sided-backgammon. I think the illuminators just cut this out as to
complicated to paint.]

The chess version of the astronomical board-game has got the well-known
chequered pattern. If I'm right, these chess-squares are called "Escaques"
in todays Spanish.

The tables (backgammon) version has got no chess-squares but backgammon-
I cannot give any better description of how Alfonso's backgammon
board looked like than that given in "Games of the World" in the chapter
on backgammon. There is a do-it-yourself instruction for making this style of
backgammon-board that is one of the major merits of this book. I haven't
found this in any other book to-date!

>I could scan the Bell Illustration and post it on my
>web site for a while if people want to compare them.

Yes, please do that. I only got this particular illustration in b/w
and I cannot recognize any men, dice or other smaller features on it.

By the way, I'm curious how you'll get Bell's oversized illustration scanned. ;-)
Have you got an equally oversized scanner?

**       Christian Joachim Hartmann 
**       lukian at Null.net
**       christian.hartmann at uni-duesseldorf.de

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