Traditional Board Games

Traditional Games Blog

Welcome to the Cyningstan Traditional Games Blog. Here I'll be adding random thoughts about the games. It will complement the news page, which has announcements about the site, as well as information about traditional board game activities elsewhere in the world.

In Summary: a Book Deep But Not Encyclopaedic


3 Jul: Over the past few weeks I have gone through  A Book of Historic Board Games  chapter by chapter, describing the games and the reasons for their inclusion in the book.  I hope that readers have enjoyed the series. Some time ago, I wrote a  blog post  on the difficulty of writing an overall history of board games.  That's why  A Book of Historic Board Games  isn't such and avoids labelling itself as such.  Instead, it's a selection of ... (read more...)

Renju: the Aristocrat of Five-in-a-Row Games


2 Jul: Many people are familiar with games of three, four and five in a row.   Renju  is a five-in-a-row game from Japan, invented at the end of the nineteenth century and refined in the decades since.  Many row games naturally favour the first player, and Renju was an attempt to balance out the game by placing restrictions on what the first player can do.  Twentieth-century refinements include the addition of set opening moves and an elaborate kind of pie ... (read more...)

Asalto: the Game of Siege


1 Jul: Many will notice the resemblance of the  Asalto  board to peg solitaire.  This is because asalto is a development of  Fox & Geese , whose board was used for solitaire.  Asalto is a hunt game with a siege theme.  Two officers defend a fortress against the onslaught of 24 rebels.  The officers have the power to capture the rebels, but the rebels have an overwhelming force of numbers with which they can block in the officers or occupy the ... (read more...)

Tablut: a Curious Hybrid of Battle and Hunt


30 Jun: In  Tablut , a game from Lapland, a king and eight defenders face an invading enemy of sixteen attackers.  The king must escape from the board, while the attackers must capture him.  Tablut is one of a family of  Hnefatafl Games , a Norse invention which was popular in many parts of Northern Europe. In  A Book of Historic Board Games , I wanted a range of game genres.  In ancient board games, these genres generally mimic human activities: ... (read more...)

Xiang Qi: an Interesting Variant of Chess


29 Jun: Xiang Qi  is Chinese chess.  In appearance it is one of the most far removed Chess games from the one familiar to players in the west.  And yet it is the world's most popular board game by number of players.  In its game play it remains truer to the Indian original.  Its pieces, which include catapults and cannons, war elephants and war chariots, are more appropriate to its battle theme than the queens and bishops of western  Chess . ... (read more...)

Konane: a Cultural Gem from Hawaii


28 Jun: Konane  is an easy-to-learn battle game from Hawaii.  It was a popular pastime before the arrival of European explorers.  It plays rather like a two-player peg solitaire.  Players make jumping captures in an attempt not to capture the most pieces but to leave their opponent without a move.  The last player able to move wins the game, regardless of the number of pieces remaining. Part of the reason for including Konane in  A Book of Historic Board Games ... (read more...)

Wari: From a Huge African Family


27 Jun: Wari is a common representative of a large family of African games called  Mancala Games .  These are games of pure skill in which two players, occasionally more, try to capture all the enemy pieces.  Movement and capture is unique to this family of games: the multiple pieces in one playing space are picked up together, and dropped one at a time in succeeding playing spaces around a usually set route.  This mechanism has been picked up by some ... (read more...)

Nine Men's Morris: a Worldwide Classic


26 Jun: Nine Men's Morris is so old that it's impossible to say where it originated.  The earlest boards are estimated to date before 2000 B.C., and were found in Troy.  But boards have been found from Bronze Age Ireland and Egypt to 1st century Sri Lanka.  The Romans took it to various corners of their empire, and it is found in Viking Age Norway, Tudor England, Spanish America and Colonial Era U.S.  While there are older games, there are none ... (read more...)

Fanorona: an Unusual Method of Capture


25 Jun: A few years ago, the video game Assassin's Creed III was published.  It was an adventure game, and among various puzzles and tasks that the player had to undertake was a game of  Fanorona .  This created a wave of popularity in the game while lasted a couple of years. Before Assassin's Creed, fanorona had been a popular choice for game books because of the unusual method of capturing pieces.  Instead of jumping on or over a piece, ... (read more...)

Tâb: a Battle Game That Looks Like a Race


24 Jun: The posts I wrote  yesterday  and  the day before  were about two unusual games: race games without a luck element.  Today I'll flip that around to present another unusual type: a battle game with luck.  Today's battle games often use dice to resolve combat, but in mediaeval times when  Tâb  was invented, this was the exception. As I built up a list of games to include in  A Book of Historic Board Games , I could see that battle games would ... (read more...)

Agon: One of the Earliest Hexagonal Games


23 Jun: Board games played on a hexagonal grid went through a very popular period in the 1970s.  But there were much older examples, and  Agon  is one of them.  Its background is mysterious, and various dates from the 1780s to the 1870s have been claimed for it.  Like  Halma  which I wrote about  yesterday , it is a race game that relies upon strategy rather than luck: each player tries to get their team to the centre of the board, ... (read more...)

Halma: a Race Game Without Luck


22 Jun: In yesterday's blog post , I mentioned a few of the criteria for choosing the games that I put into  A Book of Historic Board Games .  Another one probably goes without saying: that the game should be fun to play.  And Halma certainly fits in there! This is one of those games where one can enjoy it no matter what the level of skill.  The game may be played with concentration and forward planning, or may be ... (read more...)


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