Traditional board games

Board games

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Wall drawing from a tomb at Benihassan
Wall drawing from a tomb at Benihassan, c.2000 B.C. (After Bell 1979, Dover Publications, Inc.)

Playing board games has a similar effect as contemplation and prayer. For a while, you are relieved of the worries of the outside world. The board pattern is a door into a spiritual vantage point, a relative liberation from materiality. When players lean over a board game it resembles very much a situation of deep contemplation, something which has always been a religious ideal.

In Eastern meditation practices they sometimes make use of mandala patterns which are meant to sustain inner concentration. Game patterns are, in essence, mandalas. Board games are a threshold between the real world and the world of the gods. Their geometrical and mathematical structure makes them part of the spiritual world, but they exist also in the world of humans. Thus, they transcend both worlds. That’s why board games, especially the common morris patterns, have been carved and painted in many places, also on vertical surfaces where they cannot be played.

The great Swiss psychologist C.G. Jung regarded games as of the utmost importance to the sanity and well-being of men and their societies. “Civilisations at their most complete moments,” he said, “always brought out in man his instinct to play and made it more inventive.” He would point out how in ancient Greece games had a religious origin. “One of the most striking testimonies to the quality of the English spirit,” he once said, “is the English love of sport and games in a classical sense and their genius for inventing games” (cf. van der Post, “Jung and the Story of Our Time”, p.45).

There is a reverse of the medal. Games, especially in connection with gambling, can become the focus of an obsession that leads to ruinous consequences. The Russian chess master Chigorin, at old age, is said to have burnt his chess set, realizing how much valuable life had been wasted on it. Board games are a long-standing part of human culture. As long as we avoid being obsessed with them, board games are capable of fostering our character and intellectual abilities.



Indian War-games – traditional games from India

Asian Leopard games – traditional hunt games from Asia

Tablut – the game of the Viking sagas (Hnefatafl).

Hare games – traditional European hunt games

Bear games – hunt games from the roman era

Chinese Rebels – an antique game from China

Subjugatio Rebellium – a Chinese game (26 Rebels)

Fox and Geese – a classic! (Räv och Gäss, (Rävspel))

Egyptian Siga – the Mother of all board-games

Asalto – the assault game (Belägring, Rävspel)

Monk and Water – a Tibetan game

Nam Dinh – a Vietnamese game   

Zamma – an archaic game from Africa

Frisian draughts – a wild form of checkers (Frisisk dam)

Medieval Alquerque  – Alquerque according to modern research (Medeltida Alquerque)

Kharbaga – African checkers (Afrikanskt damspel)

Italian Dama – Italian checkers with privileged kings (italienskt damspel)

Italian Damone – an unconventional checkers variant (italiensk damone)

Dablot prejjesne – a Laplandish (Lappish) boardgame (ett samiskt brädspel)

Dablo Daares – a boardgame from Lapland (ett lappländskt brädspel)

Buga-shadara – a Tuvan folk game

Gala – a medieval battle game

Choko – a Gambian folk game

Liberian Queah – a Liberian folk game

Asian Tiger games – hunt games from Asia

Permainan-Tabal – between Alquerque and Draughts

Ossetian Checkers – a variant from Ossetia

Tibetan Gundru – a traditional game from Tibet

Vertical Order and Chaos

Halma variants – the peaceful game

Halatafl – a strategical Viking game

Damiano – a new Checkers variant

Quint – a new game for the chess/checkers board (Kvint)

Quad – a challenging new alignment game (Fyra-i-rad)

HopQuad – a relative of Halma.

BattleHalma – a spiced up Halma (Slaghalma)

HexQuint – a new game for the hexagonal board

HopperDame – a strategical checkers variant

Bouncers – a different checkers variant.

BounceQuad – simple and sophisticated.

Platonic Halma – very advanced Halma

Pythagoreic Halma – a relative of Platonic Halma

I Ching – not a game, but a divinatory method

Motti – a solitaire game from the 19th century.

Z-Pente – an advanced five-in-a-row game.

Stratagemo – king of battle games

Codebreaker – solve the secret code

Expert Codebreaker – solve the secret code

Neo-Checkers – checkers on an enlarged board

Checkers Variants - traditional checkers variants

Scandinavian checkers – a reconstruction of the rules

Fianco – a checkers relative

Philosophy Shogi Checkers – a 19th century checkers relative

Killer Draughts – International draughts improved

Modern Draughts – Killer Draughts Light

Le Zug – a French relative of Halma

Fetaix – a Moroccan board game



CHESS VARIANTS   Chess Variants...Hand




  Other sites:


Board and Pieces – Kompendium över brädspel

Mindsports – en brädspelssajt där man kan spela online

Megaglass – massor av spelpjäser av glas

The Variant Chess Website – Brittiska förbundet för schackvarianter.

Halma and Chinese Checkers – om Kinaschack och Halma.

The Checker Maven – Anglo-Saxon checkers

Encyclopedia Mythica – mytologisk encyklopedi.

The Gnostic Society Library – skrifterna från Nag Hammadi bl a Tomasevangeliet.

Theological Journal på CD-ROM, m.m. – diverse teologiska tidskrifter

Encyclopedia.com – engelsk standard-encyklopedi

BrainKing – ytterligare en brädspelssajt där man kan spela online

Palview – Javascript-program för att visa schackpartier

The Chess Variant pages – Schackvarianter

365Chess.com – Chess Games Database Online

Philosophical texts

The Catholic Encyclopedia

The Greek Mythology Link – allt om grekisk mytologi.

Religion, psykologi, filosofi, m.m.

The Franciscan Archive




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(updated 2017-04-27)
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Mats Winther