Alfonso's Book of Games
Tuesday, 15th July 2014
The serious study of games is thought to be a recent phenomenon. But this is not so: books about games go back centuries, and the oldest that I know of is the Libro de los Juegos ("Book of Games"), commissioned by Alfonso X, king of Castile, Galicia and León. Alfonso left behind an impressive cultural legacy, which gave him his epithet "Alfonso the wise". He commissioned the Libro de los Juegos in 1283.
The book covers three types of games: those of skill, those of luck and those that combine both. The games of skill include Chess, which is covered in a large amount of detail. Chess in those days was Shatranj, the game adopted from the middle east with its slow-moving queen and restricted bishops. But the Libro de los Juegos includes some variations, such as Four Seasons Chess.
The luck games are games of dice, but the games that combine both include Backgammon and other board games. The book includes some unusual games, such as a seven-sided backgammon, and the oldest known European hunt game, Catch the Hare.
Since I can't read mediaeval Spanish, I haven't drawn directly from the book for the information on this site, but many other authors have, including H. J. R. Murray who wrote the impressive History of Chess and History of Board-Games Other Than Chess during the twentieth century.
To read more about this book, see the Wikipedia page. I've gathered together into one page the games from this site that appear in the book: Games from the Libro de los Juegos.