Pages from the Alfonsine Book of Games.
Alfonso X the Learned. V.

His Libro de los Juegos (Book of Games) is not only one of the most important sources for researching board games but also the first known codification of the rules for many of them. It employs a very interesting visual technique whereby the games are portrayed from overhead but the players are viewed from the side.

On chess, it is the very first mention of the pawn’s double step on its first move. Most of the text concerns commentaries on the moves, and there seems to have been no race or creed or gender discrimination, nor restrictions on where it was played. There are illustrations of the court, a tent, a pharmacy and a tavern. “Great Chess” games, on a 12 square board, are also shown. Alquerque, (quirkat in Arabic) posited to have orignated in Ancient Egypt circa 600 BC, is the origin of draughts or checkers, and is still played in Spanish bars today.

Backgammon or tabulae is thought to have spread with the Roman Legion and is still known as Roman Tables when played with three dice, being further popularised by the returning Crusaders, although another variation nard was played by the Moors at the time of Alfonso X. Some illustrations show round boards and the game being played by seven players.

As for Mill or Morris in English, Mérelles in French, Morels in Spanish, Mühle in German, it is internationally known. Possibly of Phoenician origin, and played on a square within a square within a square wherever Man found a flat piece of ground, truly dating from thousands of years BC, if not from time immemorial.

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