hist-games: FW: A game question

Thierry Depaulis thierry.depaulis at freesbee.fr
Sat Mar 11 00:33:47 PST 2000

On Fri, 10 Mar 2000 13:23:43 James Masters forwarded the following question:

>Subject: A game question
>Dear Mr. Masters,
>Recently I have encountered a piece of old game at a fair, and nobody
>could tell me what game it is and how it is played. I wonder if you can
>enlighten me on it. A JPEG image is being attached herewith.
>Best regards, William Woo - Chicago, U.S.A.

and asked:

>Does anyone have any idea about the attached game picture? I've looked and
>drawn a blank.
>Apparently it came with some pegs and that's the reason that William
>assumes it is a game and not just some arty design thing.

Yes, it's a game. The object is not a soccer-ball design, but it is a game
board, where the pieces are placed on the intersections... I know two games
that can be played on this board (nothing to do with a circular
hnefatafl/brandubh, sorry Lex!):

1. "Il gioco dell'orso" (Italian for "the game of the bear") is played at
Forgnengo (Piedmont, Northern Italy). It is a rare example of an
"Asymmetric Blockade Game", a category that I have recently discovered and
presented in a talk given at the IIIrd "Board Games in Academia" Colloquium
in Florence (Italy too, but that was a happy coincidence). In these games
one player has one piece (with no capturing power) while the other has
between three and five and tries to block his opponent; the single piece
tries to escape (as long as it is possible: the "hunters" always win).

Actually the game had been previously published by Carlo & Luca Gavazzi in
their book 'Giocare sulla pietra' ("Playing on rock" - Ivrea, 1997). Carlo
and I have afterwards published an article, in Italian, in Rivista
Biellese, October 1999 ("L'orso e i suoi fratelli" = The Bear and his

2. "Sz' kwa" ("Four Directions") is a Chinese game played in South Taiwan.
It is shown in R.C. Bell & M. Cornelius, Board Games round the World,
Cambridge, 1988, pp. 14-5. It is a "war-game" (in Murray's sense of the
words), with the interception captures, where each player has 20 pebbles.

Finally Fred Horn, of Holland, sent me a photocopy of a paper board game
called "Het nieuwe spel 'Wu-Lu'" (The New Game Wu-lu), a game used to
advertise oil stoves ("met twee echt Engelsche branders") manufactured by
Perry & Co. (late 19th century) where the design has an extra concentric
circle; it is also a "war-game" with the interception captures, but here
the players use 6 gamesmen each. (I suspect 'Wul-lu' to have some Chinese
origin too...)

William, where did you find it? How is it like? Is it carved in wood?
Silver inlaid? Hammered on gold?? Or simply printed on a piece of paper?
Did you get pieces with it? Any detail can be important.

Thierry Depaulis

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