This is a site about games
and how to play them.
As Alan Ferg says in Playing Cards of the Apaches (p. 35):
In the introductory remarks to her encyclopedic All Cards on the Table, renowned card historian Sylvia Mann talked about researching playing cards as “a limitless source of instruction and pleasure,” her “way into history.” She remarked (1990:Vol. I:9, 10), “Personally, I have acquired, through application and countless reference works and the talents of other collectors, some knowledge about a lot of subjects hitherto outside my interests…” This was equally true for the Waylands for four decades, and then for me, too. We pursued with enthusiasm a host of “peripheral” topics to ensure a complete understanding of the context of card playing in the New World: Copey trees, paper-making in Mexico, laws prohibiting gambling, how to prepare rawhide, the New World origin of Monte, how to date beads and buttons, the history of clothing in northern Mexico, Native American painting techniques and preparation of pigments, World’s Fairs, Papago place names, scanning electron microscope examinations of stubs of hairs on cards, archaeological excavations in New Mexico, Araucanian painted guanaco-hide cloaks from Chile, Santa Anita Race Track, John Wayne movies, and thumbnail sketches of a seemingly endless list of museum curators and U.S. Army personnel.
I was somewhat inspired by (but make no claim to approaching) W. G. Sebald’s Rings of Saturn; games are a foothold for climbing inside other cultures and other times.
In order to form a just estimation of the character of any particular people, it is absolutely necessary to investigate the sports and pastimes most generally prevalent among them. — Joseph Strutt (in Glig-Gamena Angel-Deod, or the Sports and Pastimes of the People of England)
A revolution can destroy cathedrals, but I cannot see how it will deter children from playing with marbles. — Marcel Griaule (as translated in Sarró (2008, p. 191))
Perhaps I am best aligned with Thomas Hyde:
Hæc enim otiando & quaſi ludendo ſcripſi; quamvis aliàs non ſim egregius Luſor, nec eo exercitii genere delecter: quam autem alii voluptatem Ludos exercendo inſectantur eâque fruuntur, eandem ego eorundem Hiſtoriam ſcribendo, & Antiquorum de eis vocabula & ſententias explicando & enucleando, amplector.
I am not an outstanding player, nor do I get much pleasure from this kind of practice; but the enjoyment which others derive from playing games I get from writing their history and from unravelling the name of the Ancients for them and from opinions of them. — Thomas Hyde (as translated in Chess, Jews and History (p. 33))
A note on languages…
Where possible I have tried to supply terms in their original languages, in preference to the romanized forms found in most books. The main reason for doing this is that it’s possible to search using the original terms and find references from the people who are actually playing these games.
However, since I am not fluent in any language other than English, this has been difficult. If you have any corrections to supply then I am happy to update them.
Another reason is that romanization schemes change over time, so as time passes it is increasingly hard to recover the original form. Using the original terms where possible helps with this problem.
… is due to:
- Marcus Richert, without whom most of the information about Japanese cards would not exist
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The site is generated with Eleventy, with a bunch of custom code!
The playing-card font is a custom one that is based upon Chris Aguilar’s open source Vector Playing Cards, which are licensed under the LGPL 3.0. My modifications are also licensed under the same license.
The chess-piece font is NKS30 by Umihotaru. It is a commercial font.
The inline SVG dice images were made by me using NKS02 by Umihotaru.
The font used for ISBN numbers is OCR-B produced by Matthew Skala, and released under GPL version 3 (with an exception for using the font in documents).