This gambling dice game was popular from the 16th to 18th centuries, especially in France, where it was called Quinque-nove.A[p. 173] In English sources it is sometimes simply called Novum, otherwise Novum Quinque, or Quinque Nove.
The name of the game comes from the Latin words for five (quinque) and nine (novem), which are the losing throws in the game. It is mentioned as “Nouem Quinque” in a list of games from 1579,B[p. 56] and referenced by Shakespeare as “Novum” in Love’s Labour’s Lost (c. 1598):
Lord Berowne: The pedant, the braggart, the hedge-priest, the fool, and the boy.
Abate throw at novum, and the whole world again
Cannot pick out five such, take each one in his vein.
Puis qu’il est dies veneris,
Je quite les jeux et les ris,
Le Piquet, Prime et Quinque-nove,
Et vais rimer dans mon Alcove.
Since it is dies veneris [Friday],
I quit games and laughter,
Piquet, Prime, and Quinque-nove,
And will rhyme in my Alcove.
The game was expressly prohibited in France by Louis XIV, on the 21st April 1665.D[p. 272] Despite this ban, in January 1741 Louis XV gifted a box with a depiction of the game on it to the 15-year-old Madame d’Antin (who would later be his mistress for a short period);E this game and cavagnole were apparently her favourites.F[p. 298]Marie-François is now most famous for her portrait painted by Jean-Marc Nattier.
A type of false die called a “langret” or “barred cater-trey” was used to cheat at the game;I this die would turn up or less often than a normal die, making it less likely to roll 5 or 9 as a result.
One player is chosen to be the first thrower, the other players place their bets (which will be matched 1:1 by the thrower), and the thrower rolls two dice. The thrower loses the bets on a dice total of 5 or 9 (8 of the 36 possible combinations), and wins on 3, 11, or a doublet (10 of 36).
On any other result (non-doublet 4, 6, 7, 8, or 10), a target number or chance is established. The roller then rolls repeatedly until they roll the chance number, in which case they win, or they roll 5 or 9, in which case they lose.
The tricky part of the game is that, after the first roll, other players may propose additional bets (which the thrower may accept or refuse): in effect, the second roll forms the start of a new game, which is played simultaneously. Thus, if a player proposes a new bet on the second roll, this new bet is won by the thrower on a 3, 11, or doublet, but the original bet is not, since the chance has not been rolled. On the other hand, a 5 or 9 will always lose all outstanding bets. If the new bet is not won or lost on the next roll, then a second chance is established, and so on.
Example: The bettor places their initial bet, and the thrower rolls a 7 on their first roll, establishing their chance. The first bet will now be won by the thrower if they throw a 7 again, and lost if they throw 5 or 9. The bettor places a new bet on the next roll. The thrower comes up with a (non-doublet) 8, and the bettor places a third bet. On their third roll, the thrower rolls 11, which wins the third bet, but the bets on the chances of 7 and 8 still stand.
The thrower has a slight advantage on the first roll, but their chances of winning continue to get worse the longer the game continues.
Once a particular round is resolved, the dice pass to the next player anti-clockwise.
The game was analyzed by Leibniz in 1678. He also proposed a Quinquenove reformé (reformed Quinquenove), which proposed some rules alterations to make the game more fair.J
The alterations were:
- on the first roll, a double wins, and 3, 5, 9, or 11 loses
- if the chance is 4 or 10, the game is won by the same number, or by 2 or 12
- if the chance is 6, 7, or 8, the game is won by the same number, or by 12
Unfortunately, due to errors in his analysis, the reformed game was not fair.
Hazard is a very similar game, and seems to have been invented later than Novum Quinque.
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Walker, Gilbert (). A manifest detection of the moste vyle and detestable vse of Diceplay, and other practises lyke the same, a Myrrour very necessary for all yonge Gentilmen & others sodenly enabled by worldly abūdace, to loke in. Newly set forth for their behoufe.. London.
Leroux, Vincent (). Le jeu dans la pensée de Leibniz. Master’s thesis, Université Paris-Diderot: Paris, France.