Thématique N°28 HIM, Games: practise and evolution

The project :

This project of 2012 began one year before, from our need for argumentation to justify the modifications we were submitting on the teaching materials about medieval boardgames for the William-the-Conqueror Castle of Falaise . This brouht us back to the text of some folio on Alphonse X’s Book of Games and their translation.

On the easy case of alquerque, for us, the 13th century text was clear on the fact that eating was not compulsory. What is opposite to almost all materials on this topic. Our aim was to share this source and our point of view on it with other re-enactors and Middle Age lovers that are Histoire et Images Médiévales readers. During this same winter, we met Brigitte Mérigot, founder of The Compagnons d’Alea. As we knew she was working on the Alphonse Xth Book of games, we suggested her to share the writing of this paper. Histoire et Images Médiévales was very interested by this topic and offered us to write a complete special edition on medieval boardgames.

It was with pleasure. Brigitte took historical and symbolical parts on different games : games prohibition, dices, tables, alquerque. We took historical and archaeological parts : Norse games, alquerque and tables. This was completed by a Pierre Mille’s paper about the archaeology of chess pieces. For our part, we aim at presenting a synthesis of the datas we collected, with accuracy on materials and sizes so as to enable medieval boardgames lovers and re-enactors to re-create those boardgames, in link of course with datations and places.

Furthermore, we chose photos of less known game pieces in boardgames materials to make them more accessible to the great majority of people. On this part, We have been supported and helped by the magazine. Papers are lavishly illustrated.

The most natural thing was for us to offer great gameboards historians to share this project.

First we offered to Jean-Louis Cazaux to write a paper about medieval chess variants and rithmomachy. This, because we  have been re-enacting those chess variants for ten years thanks to his books. We are happy he agreed. One occasion more to let you visit his excellent website and his bibliography.

Then, Catherine Breyer, archaeologist, independant researcher on board games history, lecturer,    and scientific consultant of the database, agreed to write with us the paper on Norse games. We thank her for trusting us and her strictness. There was several goals: to research in  network, to share and to compare archaeological sources we had for each of us collected, and that appeared to be complementary. This study enabled us to offer you a synthesis on this Norse games « similar and different » and a new rule for tablut that take account of the recent reexaminations of Linné’s text by C. Ashton and N. Cartier. This rule is also currently rather different of those that are to be found in tablut materials.

After, We knew that Mark Hall, History Officer at Perth Museum & Art Gallery, in Scotland, and co-writer of a great paper on the reexamination of the Lewis hoard, hadn’t been able to present his last paper at the Board Games Studies, 2011 on morris graffiti in English churches. We offered him to join the project. We thank him for trusting us and his welcome.

Finally, we agreed with Brigitte Mérigot and Jean-Louis Cazaux to offer the writing of the two last papers to other members of the Board Games Studies :

  • History of Sáhkku and Daldos to the Dane Peter Michaelsen
  • « a brief history of playing-cards » to Thierry Depaulis, boardgames historian and Chairman of the International Playing-Card Society.

We thank these seven authors to have joined us in this project.

Other estimated and well-known authors can’t have been contacted, in reason of the set number of pages of the magazine.

We also thank :

  • Monica Tielens from Bikkel en Been in Holland for her help about the carving of bone and antler and, of course, for the quality of her work. She carved our Gloucester tableboard and two of the thirty tablemen from this game. (photos p. 48)

  • Christel Franken,   graduated from Oslo and Utrecht Universities in Celtic languages and Old Norse, Norse games lover and in research on this topic, for her always relevant answering about Norse games and her welcome. Visit her blog on this topic

  • Kristin Hoefener for her precious help in German to French translations.

  • Aélys, Brother Jehan, Lady Maël, Marie, Raphaëlle and Héloïse from Aisling-1198 for their patience and their tenacity in board and gaming-pieces handcrafting. Some are in photos pp. 3, 21, 22, 24, 38, 53.

  • The Mayenne castle and its director, Mathieu Grandet, for the transmission gaming-pieces and boardgames photos, pp. 5, 46, 47, 51.

 Erratum and further informations :

For reasons beyond our control, « Alquerque de doce » and « Archéologie du jeu de tables » papers can’t have been reread. This didn’t enable us to set ad hoc greetings, to check neither photo legends, neither the link between the text and pictures, established by the magazine. This is an erratum and some further informations :

Alquerque de doce :

  • p. 34, The two alquerque graffiti photos copyright are © City of Falaise


  • p.36, the draw of Fig.3 is from Kurna, but is not a alquerque-12 one, it’s four time greater and correspond to zaama. This is the draft of a alquerque-12 from Kurna :

The stone carvings from Kurna, according to  photos and works of Dr Stadelmann and Van Mourik (Van Mourik 2007 et 2009) are rather far from the drawings done for Parker and re-used by Murray and Bell (Murray 1952, 19 ; Bell 1960, vol.1, 47). It’s not sure that those carvings were board games. They also might have been symbols.  Their datation is reconsidered to coptic times (300-600 A.D.). Mr Wim Van Mourik kindly sent us links  (voir bibliographie) toward his papers in the review : Het Damspel from 2007 and 2009, on which he built his communication at the BGS. (Photo from Kurna stone carving on Koninklijke Nederlandse Dam Bond (Fédération Royale Hollandaise du jeu de Dames), pp 34-35)

  • p. 36, le jeu de qirq fut d’abord toléré par Abû Hurayara au VIIe siècle, avant d’être interdit par un hadith de Abū Ḥanīfah au VIIIe siècle. Source : H.J.R. Murray, op.cit.

  • p. 36, Cerne Abbey 13th century manuscript photo is p.26, Fig.3

  • p.39, « Sa thèse de l’existence d’une promotion qui ne serait pas indiquée dans la règle du folio 91 r° ni sur l’existence du jeu de Fierges est intéressante » (2)
    This sentence doesn’t work and the footnote neither. More it makes a misinterpretation on the original text we had transmitted and the respect we have for Arie van der Stoep’s work.

Original text with the right footnote at the right place, and the original information that this is « my point of view »:

Twelve men’s morris is the first game where eating is done by jumping over. Arie van der Stoep has led a lexicographical survey on draught origins. Without following him on the existence of a promotion that wouldn’t be written in the folio 91r rule, neither on the non-existence of the game of Fierges(2) , I find his study noteworthy and very interesting.

(2) For me, the extract of the Philippide (near 1243), « Cis n’estoit mie rois de gas / Ne rois de fierges, ne d’escas… » tells us about a game that has a king and that is not chess, a game of fierges where fierges can be promoted into king.

Archaeology of table game :

  • p.46,  « deux siècles » are missing in : Au castrum d’Andone, tout d’abord, près d’Angoulême, un site abandonné revit pendant deux siècles aux X-XIe siècles avant d’être délaissé de nouveau pour un autre lieu mieux fortifiable et plus confortable.

  •  p.52: three Mayenne tablemen are  p.5, among which is the one with the rosette

  • p.53: Parallèlement, l’extrême régularité des ocelles gravées m’incite à proposer l’utilisation d’un autre outil que le compas, du type trépan comme ceux en métal retrouvés en Europe de l’Est dont le manche semble compatible avec l’utilisation d’une chignolle.tool for ring and dots pattern - draw, Héloïse, Aisling-1198 after Mc Gregor

  • The wording for the Polish tableman is : jeton polonais du HIM n°41, p62

  • p. 53: legend of the photo : reconstruction by Aisling-1198 of a tableboard and tablemen :
    • pyrographed patterns are a reconstruction of those of the Saint Denis tableboard, that, it, has points made of bone panels.
    • Tablemen are choosen white and red according to those of Cologne.
    • Red tablemen are a  reconstruction of the Cluny Museum tableman, showing a knight riding a cock, 2nd half of the  12th century, walrus ivory, D: 5,5 cm, Th.: 1,2 cm
    • The white tablemen are a  reconstruction of a tableman from Munich Museum of game . (Neither of these two original tablemen are red.)
    • The setting up of the game board is the « Seis, dos e as » one, written and drawn on f°75 r and 75v from the Alphonse X ‘s Book of Games , 1283


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