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Games: Early Vs. Modern


The Royal Game of Goose

The game of Goose was Invented by Francesco de Medici and was taken quite seriously amoung adult players. Now it is seen as a classic children’s race game, you throw the dice and move gradually into the centre of the board with various ‘miss a turn’ obstacles along the way. the first one to the middle is the winner. The game is very good for younger children, this is all about luck rather than strategy. The game is easy game to learn, yet is immensely fun for all ages. Certain special-marked spaces add either a bonus or a penalty to a player’s move. Any number of players can play. Each player needs a uniquely marked, colored or shaped playing piece. Each player places their single playing piece on the starting area. Play is commenced by each player, in turn, advancing his piece by the throw of two 6-sided dice to space number 63. Scattered throughout the board are a number of spaces on which a goose is depicted; landing on a goose allows the player to move again by the same distance. Additional shortcuts, such as spaces marked with a bridge, move the player to some other specified position. There are also a few penalty spaces which force the player to move backwards or lose one or more turns, the most recognizable being the one marked with a skull and symbolizing death; landing on this space results in the player being sent back to start.



The Game of Life

The modern game consists of a track on which players travel by spinning a small wheel (in the center of the board) with spaces numbered 1 through 10. The board also contains small mountains, buildings, and other three-dimensional objects. Playing pieces are small, colored, plastic automobiles which come in red, blue, white, yellow, orange, and green; each car has six holes in the top in which blue and/or pink “people pegs” are placed throughout the game as the player “gets married” and has or adopts “child”. The Game of Life, copyrighted by the Milton Bradley Company in 1963, had some differences from later versions. For example, once a player reached the Day of Reckoning, they could end up at the “Poor Farm”, or become a Millionaire Tycoon, moving on to Millionaire Acres. Today, there are 26 international language editions of Life produced in 59 different countries. The only localized version is the Japanese edition (Jinsei Ge-mu), which makes references to current events and customs unique to Japanese life, such as New Year’s celebrations, an imperial wedding, going on a hot-spring tour, holding a concert at the Tokyo Dome, even buying a nuclear bomb shelter on sale. The Takara Tomy Company, which distributes the game today, speculates that the original popularity of the game grew from its representation of the American Dream – in the 1960s, American life was idolized among the Japanese as symbolic of wealth and success. Life has been re-invented many times, reshaped to fit cultural peculiarities and changing attitudes towards success. Drastic changes have been made to the Game of Life over the years, unlike Monopoly, whose iconography and overarching goal has remained consistent since 1935

Author: Gavin Johnston

catch me on Twitch for more walkthroughs, comedy, and discussions



What defines a Game?

“What is a Game?”

            Creating an all-encompassing definition for the elusive nature of a game can be daunting task, but I believe I have developed a definition that can help shed illumination on this shrouded topic. Most people can agree that we play games because they are fun. But what is fun? Raph Koster veteran game designer and author of “A Theory of Fun“ wrote: “Fun arises out of mastery. It arises out of comprehension. It is the act of solving puzzles that make games fun. With games, learning is the drug.”  Our brains have the ability to grow in learning and that is what drives us to play games. Learning supplies us with tools to overcome the challenges that are part of life, and overcoming challenges gives us a sense of achievement. The best game is a game that constantly challenges the player and forces them to learn. So part of the definition of a game must include that learning is at the core of why we play. Albert Einstein even once noted that play is the highest form of research, so who is going to argue with Einstein?

Another key element of games is rules and components. In most games the rules are usually more significant than the components, but there are some games where the roles are reversed. An example of the components being more important than the rules is trading card games like Pokémon and Magic the Gathering. Additionally all game rules are defined by goal conditions which can be described in two major principles. The victory condition requirements and the strategy needed to win the game. There are thousands of games, but only a small number of game goals. That means that most games share the same goal. The goal should be relatively simple to measure, and easily depicted.

There is a plethora of other elements that could be described but for the sake of this paper I will end on competition and equality. All games demonstrate competition; there are winners and losers. Even in cooperative games or when players work as a team, competition exists. The competition and the measurement of the game results are limits on how a game can convey certain feelings of emotion. This is one of the big differences between games and their media counter parts books, movies, and music. For example, love, freedom, harmony, pain, sorrow, etc. The criteria “competition” is also the reason why it is so difficult to develop games that are not aggressive or violent in nature. As I digress it is important to note that all games treat the players as equals in having the same chance to win. This is one of the reasons children love to play games, because in a game with adults, they are equal partners.

Author: Gavin Johnston

catch me on Twitch for more walkthroughs, comedy, and discussions


Works Cited

Raph Koster “A Theory of Fun” O’Reilly Media, December 2 2013

Nils Pettersson “What is a game and why do we play?” Gamasutra, January 16 2013

Wolfgang Kramer “What is a Game?” The game Journal, December 2000

Go (Wei Ch’i) Vs. Tafl (Hnafatafl)


Go (Wei Ch’i) and Tafl (Hnaffatafl) were both games established before 400 AD in entirely different regions of the world. While both share some rules and qualities like capturing units by surround them, they are considered in essence entirely different in their strategy and purpose. I will try and give a brief recap highlighting some of the reasons why these games are similar and contrasting, and perhaps we can all obtain a greater understanding of the meaning and purpose behind these ancient chess variants.


Hnefatafl meaning “the king’s board” was a precursor to modern day chess and was played throughout northern Europe. The main player base were Scandinavian Norsemen but the game also gained popularity in Iceland, Britain, Ireland and Wales. Like Go it has a variety of board sizes ranging from beginner to expert, the typical sizes are 7×7, 13×13, and traditionally 19×19. Also like Go the pieces are depicted by black (attacking) and white (defending). The game represents the mentality of the Viking people in spirit. Starting positions reflect the technique favored by Viking sailors of northern Europe, a sudden assault to overcome outnumbered enemies. Players take turns moving individual pieces across the board but each player’s goal is different. Each player is required too decided at the start whether they will play the role of attacker or defender unlike Go in which each players goal is the same. Defender is defined by the King piece that starts in the center of the board and is surrounded by eight defenders. The goal of the defender is to get the king to safety off the edge of the board. Attacker is defined by the sixteen outside surrounding units placed along the edge of the board. The attackers goal is to stop the king by surrounding him on all sides. It is important to note that while attacker and defender play pieces amounts may vary, fare games are considered to have a 2:1 ratio of attackers to defenders. The main gameplay elements include movement like pawns and rooks from classic chess, and piece capture which happens by trapping units between two enemy pieces in a straight line. There is a plethora of other strategies as well that include safe placements, multiple piece capture, and kiting techniques. Tafl is nearly extinct in modern times as it was replaced by chess during the 11th and 12th century.

go-game-1-360x240            Wei Ch’i is considered by most Oriental game experts to be the greatest strategic skill game, far surpassing Chess in its complexity and scope. Most people who have played it would agree with this conclusion and, unlike chess no computer program has yet been written which as been able to compete with the best Go players. Originating in ancient China more than 2,500 years ago it is considered one of the four essential arts of a cultured Chinese scholar in antiquity. The Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans all have dedicated schools where people devote their entire lives to the game and a grading system similar to martial arts. At first the game was played only by upper class but it gradually filtered down to the educated lower classes over time. The pieces are white and black lens shaped stones and the wood boards are made from Kaya, a wood that is very expensive and comes from trees in Miyazaki Japan and can age over 700 years. Like Tafl the traditional board size is 19×19 with smaller boards used for beginners. It is a game based on territorial capture where the goal is to capture the most territory by the end of the game. Players take turns starting with black placing stones on the intersecting lines of the board, creating “groups” and “liberty” the core mechanics of the game. Go has very few rules and yet the game itself is extremely challenging. A group is a set of stones in the same color that connect orthogonally, empty points adjacent to a group of stones is a liberty of that group. Single stones alone form four liberties around them by the nature of the board. Groups that no longer have liberties are considered captured. There are many strategies in Go like using squared groups to create eyes in the middle to prevent capture, having a group with two eyes can make large groups that are invulnerable to capture. Other tactical plays include the ko, seki, sente, atari, and dame along with other special local situations. Go also uses a handicapping scheme for weaker players, awarding starting stones based on the level of handicap, which goes up to nine levels. The initial starting phases of Go are considered the most important because players must scope out territory for development and spread out while keeping a balance of nearby groups that can be used as defense against attacks. Eventually the players agree that no more stones can be played since all territory is claimed and all local battles have been concluded. Most professional games are decided from two games with players taking turns using black because of the first turn advantage and counting total territory collected from both games to decide the winner.


Go and Tafl have many similarities for example they both use the same color orientation of black and white pieces along with turn based playing. Both games also use the same size board and capturing technique of surrounding units. While Go is considered universally more strategic than Tafl, both contain simple rules yet complicated structure and tactics. They both originated in completely different areas of the world but it is easy to see how they are somewhat derivative of each other in concept. The main difference between the two is the philosophy in which the games are presented. Tafl has two unique playing styles of attacker and defender and characterizes the emotional brute force enjoyment of battle and conquest. Tafl also has an equality imbalance due to the separate play positions, and while Go may seem more balanced in essence the vast difference in experience can create very imbalanced play sessions hence the handicap system. Go uses much more subtle messages of expansion and deceit to lure enemies into submission. Go also prioritizes territory expansion and treasure hording as its main reward elements while Tafl uses obvious domination of opponents as a means of reward. Out of both games Wei Ch’i has stood the test of time and continues to be played competitively around the world today, while Hnaffatafl lives only in memory through the modern iteration of classic Chess made popular through the European countries after its creation in India.

Author: Gavin Johnston

catch me on Twitch for more walkthroughs, comedy, and discussions

Works Cited

Michael Wolffauer “Introduction to GO” Masters Games, 1999

Parlett David “The Oxford History of Board Games” Oxford University Press, 1999

Luk “The Viking Game of Tafl” Games for Your Mind, 2009

James Masters “Go Information and History” The Online Guide to Traditional Games, 1997

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