Traditional Board Games

Games from the Libro de los Juegos

Alquerque in the mediaeval Book of Games
Alquerque in the mediaeval Book of Games

Libro de los Juegos (The Book of Games) was commissioned in 1283 by Alfonso X of Castille, Galicia and León. Its 97 leaves of parchment are divided into games of skill like chess, games of pure chance like dice, and games which combine both, like backgammon. It contains many illustrations, and gives us some information about mediaeval games not recorded elsewhere.



Alquerque is a war game, in which two sides of twelve pieces face each other on a board of 25 points. These are joined by horizontal, vertical and diagonal lines, though not every point has diagonal connections. The aim of the game is to capture all of the opponent's pieces. Movement is to adjacent points along a marked line, and one piece can capture another by leaping over it to land on the empty point beyond. One of alquerque's ... (read more...)



There is a large family of games called tables, played on a board of twenty-four points arranged in two rows of twelve, each row split into two "tables" of six points. These date back at least to the Romans, who had a game of this type called "tabula". The games are usually played with fifteen pieces and either two or three dice. Backgammon is the most common of these in the English speaking world. The rules are as follows: ... (read more...)

Catch the Hare


Catch the Hare is an early European hunt game from Spain. One side controls an unusually agressive hare, which can move around the board at will and jump over the hunters to capture them. The hunters cannot capture in the same way, but move so as to block the hare from moving or jumping. If the hare is immobilised, the hunters win; if the hunters are reduced to untenable numbers, the hare wins. History of Catch the Hare Hunt ... (read more...)

Four Seasons Chess


Four seasons chess is a version of chess for four players, dating back to at least 1283. It was featured in a book of games commissioned by Alfonso X of Castille. It uses a standard chess board and splits to usual two forces into four, giving each player four pieces and four pawns. It is unusual in that the pawns are split, two going in each direction from the corner in which their player starts. A cross is marked ... (read more...)

Nine Men's Morris


Nine men's morris is a classic game of pure strategy. It has been described as "noughts and crosses for adults", as it shares the simpler game's aim for forming rows of three, but weaves that aim into a much more sophisticated game of wits. The rows of three, called "mills", are not the main aim of the game, they are a means to an end. The board starts empty, and players place their pieces in turn; forming a row ... (read more...)



In Arabic, chess is called shatranj. In English language texts, shatranj refers to the particular form of mediaeval chess brought to Europe from the middle east. It has major variations from the modern western game, making it of much different character. Shatranj gives much shorter moves to some of the pieces. The pawns only move one square forwards, even on their first turn. The long move of the bishop, called the elephant in shatranj, is instead a short diagonal ... (read more...)

Six Men's Morris

This is a smaller counterpart to the better-known nine men's morris. Each player has six pieces to be placed, then moved, on a lined board. Forming a row of three along a marked line allows an enemy piece to be taken. The player who is reduced to two pieces loses the game. History of Five and Six Men's Morris Six men's morris was popular in mediaeval Europe. It is mentioned in a French source from 1412, and a sixteenth ... (read more...)

Three Men's Morris


One of the simplest board games in the world is three men's morris. Each player has three pieces, and the board is a grid of nine points, in three rows of three. Players enter their pieces one at a time, in turn, trying to form a row of three. Once all pieces are on the board, players move their pieces along the marked lines until one player or other has a row of three, that player winning the game. ... (read more...)


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