This page contains families of games. Some games are part of larger families, such as chess, merels and hnefatafl, each of which have many variants different enough from one another to be considered games in their own right. These differ from the genres in that there is a real relationship between the games, not just a resemblance.
Also on this page are other groupings, such as games that have appeared together in a particular book, place or event. The mediaeval Libro de los Juegos is a magnificent example of this, but other groupings include games played by a particular civilisation.
Merels, or Morris Games
This is an old name for nine men's morris and three men's morris. In fact, it was used for many games with similar looking boards, including Fox & Geese! Nowadays merels refers to games in the nine men's morris family. In these games, one has to form rows of three which, according to the rules, allows the capture of enemy pieces. The game is won when the enemy is reduced to two pieces and can no longer form a ... (read more...)
In the western world, we tend to think of one particular game as "chess" - played with sixteen pieces per side on a chequered board of 8x8 squares. But the original chess, chaturanga, was somewhat different, and modern western chess is just one of a number of games which are descended from it. Known as "chess variants", this page contains a selection of them. (read more...)
Halma has given its mechanics to a small family of games, here called halma games for convenience. These are games of skill in which each player must get their pieces to the opposite end of the board. Movement is to adjacent spaces, with a non-capturing, multiple jump move which can be used to move pieces over longer distances in a single move. (read more...)
Hnefatafl is a varied family of games originating in Scandinavia, and played in northern Europe and across the Atlantic Ocean. Particulars of rules varied from place to place, as did the size of the board and the number of pieces employed. Many of these variants had no name of their own, but were simply termed "hnefatafl", or "tafl" for short. An archetypal example is included in the list. (read more...)
An ancestor of modern draughts is alquerque, first recorded in mediaeval Spain. As well as draughts, alquerque spawned a whole family of games which resemble it more closely than draughts, games that were spread around the world. Alquerque games have a lined board, with pieces that sit on the intersections rather than in the spaces. Pieces can move in any direction on a marked line to an adjacent intersection. A piece is captured by jumping over it to land ... (read more...)
Mancala games originated in Africa, but were historically taken to many different parts of the world. They are characterised by a grid of holes, into which seeds or similar pieces are dropped. Movement in a mancala game is by lifting all the pieces from a given hole, and dropping them one in each succeeding hole along a predetermined track, usually anticlockwise around the board. The ownership of pieces is determined by which part of the board they currently occupy. ... (read more...)
Petteia Game Family
These games were popular in Greek and Roman times, and were spread throughout the classical world. They went beyond the borders too, and were played in the Persian domains as late as the tenth century. They seem to have inspired the hnefatafl games played in northern Europe. Petteia games have pieces on a rectangular board divided into rows of undifferentiated squares. Movement was along rows and columns, and a piece was captured by surrounding it on two opposite sides ... (read more...)
Games from the Libro de los Juegos
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. (read more...)
From A Book of Historic Board Games
In November 2014 A Book of Historic Games was published in hardback and paperback formats. It contains twelve games, each of which is treated in more depth than you see on this web site. The format is similar, with a history, rules and strategy for each game, spanning between twelve and 24 pages. The twelve games are listed on this page. Owners of the book can bookmark this as a handy reference for support material (print-and-play sets, links ... (read more...)