hist-games: please more game details

Jane & Mark Waks waks at ne.mediaone.net
Sat Dec 1 19:25:53 PST 2001

David Baines wrote:
> Reading this post reminded me of Chess playing in the SCA.  From time to
> time, I get called upon to run a gaming tournament.  Often, I will use
> Byzantine Chess as one of the tourny games.  It seems to work well because
> the irregular board is a constant reminder to the players that they are not
> playing modern chess and that the pieces move differenly.
> I have also tried running period chess variants which use the modern board
> but that seems to confuse people since they keep thinking of modern chess.
> I want to go on record as suggesting that Byzantine Chess be used as SCA
> chess!

Well, the problem with this is that the evidence for Byzantine Chess is
kinda weak. IIRC, we basically have the game from the Alfonso MS, saying
"this is how the game is played in Byzantium". But Byzantium was more or
less on the other side of the world, so hearsay evidence about it has to
be considered a little bit suspect. Did they play something on a
circular board? Probably, but I'd keep in mind that the game was at
*most* pretty rare in period (since there's little other evidence of its
existence), and it's entirely likely that there were other rule
differences that the folks writing the book didn't know about. So taking
it as the *main* SCA variant seems problematic.

Personally, I haven't found it all that hard to teach chess variants;
the bigger problem is *motivating* people to play with one of the older
variants instead of the modern game. Since the modern game is
approximately period, I don't lose too much sleep over that, but I try
to teach period versions when I can, and those who are really interested
in games usually pick up on that. 

I've found that Four Seasons Chess tends to be pretty popular, and
Tamurlane's Chess catches the attention of those who like complex games.
Basic shatranj is easy to teach, but tends to not be all that popular
since it's rather slower than the modern game. Dice chess is sometimes
popular among those who aren't so serious about the game, since the
element of luck tends to even the game up a bit.

Personally, I'm very fond of the forced game -- it's a sick little
variant that tends to make for a quick (if slightly chaotic) game...

				-- Justin

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