Dazzling & Didactic Board Games of the 19th century
March 21, 2018 10:00 AM   Subscribe

Games serve as curious records of 19th-century British beliefs and prejudices, reflecting the attitudes of a growing empire towards its own society as well as towards those beyond its border 50 examples, mostly from the 1800s, were recently compiled in a lavishly illustrated book published by Pointed Leaf Press, representing a half-century of this early social tradition in England.
posted by MovableBookLady (17 comments total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
Who could resist The Majestic Game of the Asiatic Ostrich?
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:07 AM on March 21, 2018 [4 favorites]

Some of these illustrations are also present in the fantastic book Games of the World.
posted by Jpfed at 10:11 AM on March 21, 2018 [2 favorites]

the 51st game in this book is the game of matching up all the depictions with specific forms of Othering outlined in Said's Orientalism
posted by runt at 10:23 AM on March 21, 2018 [13 favorites]

This reminds me a little bit of current exhibition at The Getty: Outcasts: Prejudice & Persecution in the Medieval World. It uses illustrations from illuminated manuscripts to (literally) illustrate prejudices such as antisemitism.
posted by ElKevbo at 11:38 AM on March 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

An excellent overview of the history of dialectic and ideological board games: do not pass go, do not engage in class warfare.
posted by The Whelk at 11:42 AM on March 21, 2018 [10 favorites]

From The Whelk’s link: Public Assistance was created by Robert Johnson and Ronald Pramschufer, two libertarians from Annapolis, Maryland, who came up with the idea for their game while crabbing in June 1980.

Do you suppose that means catching crabs or complaining?
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:10 PM on March 21, 2018 [2 favorites]

¿Por que no los dos?
posted by soren_lorensen at 12:23 PM on March 21, 2018 [2 favorites]

Games serve as curious records of beliefs and prejudices

Interesting concept. I'm sure this will apply to video games of today. GTA is already an impressive time capsule of how we are as people, for each of its iterations.

(If you don't mind the 20th century tangent)
posted by Peter H at 1:02 PM on March 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

Wow, those are so pretty...

And they look terrible. Need more worker placement, hand management, and these days, miniatures as stretch goals...
posted by Windopaene at 3:11 PM on March 21, 2018 [4 favorites]

Very cool, thank you for posting this! It's always interesting to see the early stages of a familiar developed concept like "board game".
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:42 PM on March 21, 2018

What is the ostrich one about? I thought the ostrich referred to the Regency via the ostrich feathers of the Prince of Wales, but it seems it was published in the year of George IV’s accession and shows him as King. Are the people the members of the government or Cabinet?
posted by Segundus at 11:18 PM on March 21, 2018

miniatures as stretch goals...

I'd say you meant a specific KS if this didn't happen so often.
posted by filtergik at 4:04 AM on March 22, 2018

I have a copy of the book, as it ties into two interests of mine: the history of games; and the history of my family. John and Edward Wallis, games publishers of the late C18th and early C19th century, were forebears of mine--something I only discovered after I'd been a games designer for ten years.

Georgian and Victorian Board Games is gorgeous. It's large-format, and several of the games are printed on fold-out sheets so you could play them if you wanted to. But as other people have observed, you probably don't want to. Games back then were regarded as a childish pursuit (adults played chess, cards or, if they were of low morals, dice) and many were designed to teach school or moral lessons. For the most part their mechanics are rudimentary and their gameplay unsophisticated. There are exceptions: Combat Against the Giant is delightfully bonkers, for example.

There's increasing interest in the importance of historical games like this. The V&A Museum of Childhood had a big exhibition recently, the Bodleian in Oxford had a smaller one including the only known copy of Suffragetto, and with the upswing in modern board-games more and more people are putting serious research into the field. A good thing.
posted by Hogshead at 9:19 AM on March 22, 2018 [3 favorites]

I am terrible at reading olde-timey script, so I can't figure out what the rules are for the few that have rules written on them. They appear to mostly be "roll dice, advance token" type games, or am I missing something? (I'm just thinking that as pretty as these are, they would get old quickly and that the instructional ones would fail heavily, as once a game gets going, the theme is interesting, but tends to fall by the wayside.)
posted by Hactar at 10:33 AM on March 22, 2018

I agree about the typefaces used, particularly the script ones. Most of the games are roll-and-move, many with special rules for particular spaces. Quite a few have a token mechanic as well: certain spaces instruct you to put tokens into a shared pot, take some out, take some from other players, and so on, and that may affect who wins the game. (In Every Man To His Station, which is the only one I have to hand, the winner is the player who finishes first, but anyone who runs out of tokens is out of the game, and the winner gets all the tokens left in the pot. Why that is a good thing, the game does not explain.)
posted by Hogshead at 6:22 PM on March 22, 2018

Game night at Misselthwaite Manor! Sara Crewe's bringing the cakes and jam!
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:59 PM on March 22, 2018

« Older Sally forth and tally-ho with Wes Anderson   |   All about the ballast Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments