hist-games: farkle

SEDWilkins at aol.com SEDWilkins at aol.com
Fri May 3 07:43:07 PDT 2002

In my research I never came across any evidence of "Farkle" per se in the 
medieval era. Hasard was *the* premier dicing game of Europe during the 
middle ages (although it didn't peak until the seventeenth century).


Dice games are universal, ancient and notoriously fluid. In the ancient 
world, in addition to astragals in Europe and Africa, there were lulu in the 
South Pacific, smetale and waltes and a thousand other variations in the 
Americas, and dice (of various shapes) and dominos in Asia. 

Game variations developed (and continue to develop) over time and from place 
to place, and spontaneous creation of similar variations is not unusual. 
Games in which the object is to accumulate a particular score without 
exceeding it are not uncommon. (In fact, that is the essence of any race game 
in which you must roll an exact number to exit the board, such as 
Moksha-patamu/Snakes and Ladders.) Games which require a precise roll to 
enter (or to bet) are also common. (Ashtapada, the probably forerunner of 
chaupur, for example.) Games with these characteristics were played 
throughout medieval Asia and Europe AND in the pre-Columban Americas. And the 
notion of "quit now and keep your winnings or play again and chance losing 
them" is found in games from marbles to "Millionaire."

So is it possible that somewhere in medieval Europe people were playing a 
game that involved 1) rolling dice 2) needing a particular roll to begin 3) 
with the object of accumulating the highest score without passing a 
particular number?  Very possible indeed. Was it called Farkle? You can't 
prove it wasn't, but I suspect you can't prove it was, either.

There is some credibility to the suggestion made on one personal website 
whose author says the name means "little pig" in German and that epithet was 
assigned to the loser. I believe the term for piglet in modern German is 

Sally Wilkins

ance/ref=pm_dp_ln_b_1/102-7486696-8176929">Sports and Games of Medieval 
Greenwood Press, 2002

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