Jul 192012

An Introduction To Games Played During the Renaissance

When I think of games that were played during the renaissance time one thing seems to pop into my head. Jousting. I imagine two valiant knights charging at each other on their steeds. As I started doing some research I was surprised that there are a lot more games that were played back then. And some, I must admit were quite challenging.
One thing I have also noticed is that the renaissance games used a players wits more than the games we currently play. Most games were person versus person. It also seems that here were not that may games that were played by oneself. Imagine how boring Hide and go Seek would be with just one person.

sword combat

Armored knights in combat using swords

Games can be broken down into 5 basic categories

  • Sporting Games
  • Children’s games
  • Card Games
  • Board Games
  • Dice Games

Sporting Renaissance Games

Sporting Games played during the renaissance are typically games where the physical prowess of an individual or a specialized skill of a person is required. It almost seems like if an object could be pulled, lifted, pushed, moved, or thrown, there was some sort of game attached to it. For instance there is a game called Skittles, which is the ancestor of 10 pin bowling. There were also games like archery and wrestling. A few other favorite sporting games of the renaissance are jousting and mock combat. There was also a game called Football back then, though it is not quick the same as the modern sport. They played with 25 people on each side and the ball was made up from leather and the blabber of an animal.

“Children’s Games” By Pieter Brueghel the Elder. Oil on Panel 1560

Children’s Renaissance Games

Ah these are sometimes the most simplest of games, but they are some of the most fun you can have with your children. The creativity of a child’s mind to create games can never be matched As you can see in the attached picture. In that pictures there is probably 25 to 50 different games that are being played it seems. Some examples of renaissance games you can play with your children in the picture are marbles, tag, hide and go seek, walking on stilts, climbing over things, and swimming. The one I am wondering about is the kid hanging out the window with a basket in his hand. Could that be the equivalent of dropping a water balloon on someone?

Board Games played during the Renaissance

These are games played on some sort of board or matt. The board or matt can be made from cloth, wood, or stone. Some examples are chess, mancala, Fox & Geese, and Backgammon. During the renaissance time chess and checkers were very popular. It has been theorized that the version of chees we play in moderm times has the same rules and the version of chess that was played when Queen Elizabeth ruled.

Roman dice made of bone

Renaissance Era Dice Games

The history of dice games is quite interesting. It is thought that the dice were invented by the Egyptians as far back as 6000 BC. The original dice were made from animal bones, hence the term “roll the bones.”

Dice games are also known as games of chance and have pretty well be banned throughout history in one form or another.

In dice a player throw one of more dice and based on what symbols come up the player then has to make some sort of choice.

Some examples of dice games from the renaissance time are Kuncklebones, which eventually became jacks, and Hazard which eventually became the dice game called Craps./

A Spanish Deck of Cards (1495-1518)

Card Games from the Renaissance

These games are played with a set of cards. This can be from a traditional 52 card deck or from a Tarot deck. Some examples are All Four’s, One and Thirty, which is a precursor to blackjack, and Noddy, which is the ancestor to cribbage.,

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