12th Century Games

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Old French literature mentions the games chess, and to a lesser extent tables as very typical knightly pursuits. Noble ladies also might play these games.

Guingamor is spending a day at home being indisposed. He seeks out a companion and: "After chatting a while, they went to a game table (tablier) to amuse themselves" where they play chess (l'eschequier) Later he approaches a castle where people have been "playing at backgammon or chess" ("As tables, as esch�s jouant" line 518, trans weingartner)

Game Boards

Game boards were usually much larger than modern boards. Boards were a square piece of wood, probably approximately 1m square, which was supported by a pair of trestle legs.(Holmes 1952, 43) Players would sit in chairs or benches at the board and might knock the board over if suddenly surprised.


12th Century Chess is not so dissimilar from modern chess that the game would be unrecocognised. A few rules differ however.....

  • The queen moved one square on the diagonal.
  • The bishop moved exactly two squares on the diagonal.
  • The pawn moved as in modern chess, except did not have a double move opening, and only promoted to a queen (which was a week piece).
  • Removing all of the oponents pieces except the king, called a 'bare king', was a victory.
  • There was no castling (combined move of the king and rook). (Alfonso)
  • It was often played with dice used to select which pieces were allowed to move.


Tables is one a group of games which are predecessors to the modern game backgammon. This version is played on a board with dice. (Holmes 1952, p43)

Other games

  • Draughts - similar to modern checkers (Holmes 1952 p43)

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