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Early Irish Board Games

Games with capture by enclosure belong to chase games and battle games. The interrelations between the groups in this series is not clear, but it is hardly likely that they are totally unrelated.

Belonging to the battle game group we have the Greek poleis (cities). [32] The pieces are of two colours. The number of men used, however, is not known, but seems to have varied with the size of the board. Photius gives the number as 60, presumeably 30 on each side. The Rook's move was probably used and backward moves may have been allowed.

Probably related to poleis was Roman ludus latrunculorum. [33] It was played on a board with lines and spaces. The pieces were of glass of different colours. Backward moves were allowed. The game was won by the player who succeeded in removing the most pieces. Stone "boards" have been found in Britain, as well as other parts of the Roman Empire and they were probably used for this game. These are generally 8 x 8, but the measurements vary. Eighteen counters, of which some differed in design from the rest, were found near one of these "boards".

Another game probably belonging to this series, a Persian game, which was invented by Buzurjmihr, is mentioned in Firdausi's Shahnama. [34] The opposing sides consisted of an equal number of men led by a king, and they are arranged somewhat like chessmen. Japanese Hasamu-shogi [35] is played on a 9 x 9 board. The Rook's move is used and play is as in draughts until one side is annihilated. Siga, [36] the national game of Egypt at present, is also related to this series but not so closely as the others. It is played on a board which varies in size, being 5 x 5, 7 x 7, or 9 x 9, the usual being 7 x 7. Play is in two stages; the first stage consists of placing the men into strategic positions on the board. When all the men are on the board play begins with the object of annihilating one's opponent's pieces. This game may have considerable antiquity.

The second series form a fairly clear family, which will be referred to as the tablut group after the best known member of the family. Tablut was played by the Laplanders of Northern Sweden during the eighteenth century and was described by the botanist, Linnaeus. As this is the game of which we have the most knowledge I quote H.J.R. Murray's account of it in extensio: [37]



NOTES

32. R.G. Austin, Antiquity, 1940, pp. 263-5.
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33. Id. "Roman Board Games," Greece and Rome, iv, 1934-5, pp. 25-30; v. also Antiquity, xiv, 1940, p. 264n.
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34. Murray, op. cit., p. 157. There is also a Siamese game, maak-yek, in which the enclosed piece captures the two enclosing pieces, ibid., p. 114n.
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35. Murray, op. cit., p. 147.
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36. Petrie, Objects of Daily Use, British School of Archaeology in Egypt, 1927, pp. 56-7.
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37. op. cit., pp. 445-6; see also J.E. Smith, Lachesis Lapponica, 1811, ii, pp. 55-8.
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