Dice Games

A Dice GameDice games have a long and detailed history. Perhaps the first "dice-like" games were played at the dawn of history by people using pebbles. Nevertheless, in Alfonso's Book of Games, a number of pages concern dice games in the 13th century. The ones on this Webpage are only a few of the pages on the subject of dice in Alfonso's book.

The graphic to the left illustrates a game of dice in progress, and the text in the upper left of the picture explains who is playing the game and how it is played.

Note the overhead view of the playing surface, while the players are viewed from the side - this is the special graphic technique employed throughout the book to illustrate each game. From the flora in this graphic, the viewer is aware of the sub-tropical nature of the climate. Also, one can not assume that all of the people in the drawing were involved in playing this game, but rather much like modern dice games, there are often numbers of others watching the players - or awaiting their turn at the table.

A varity of dice

To the right, is a detail from a larger drawing. This graphic is intended to illustrate a workshop in which dice are made. Note that a variety of different sizes of dice are pictured on the table.

It might be assumed that different dice were used for specific dice games as they are today.

The person on the left in the workshop appears to be “stamping” a die, while the other people are shaping, measuring, and inspecting each die.

A game in progress

In the illustration to the left, the player on the right is holding a cup. In many games that require dice, a cup is used in which dice are shook. This is preferred, rather than permitting a player to shake dice in a hand. A cup is intended to prevent a player from "palming" loaded dice, a solution which appears to have a long history. Loaded dice are dice that have been tampered with so that they provide an unfair or non-chance advantage for the thrower.

Cheating seems to have been an issue in Alfonso’s time, as it had been in the past and still continues to be today. Nevertheless, in many modern casinos, players are permitted to shake a pair of dice in their hands.

An Argument

The graphic above appears to illustrate that some people don’t know when to stop. Apparently, not only have some people lost all of their money in this dice game, but they have also lost their clothes!

The two players on the right appear to feel that one or the other was not playing honestly - thus they are slugging it out - yet the other players don’t really seem to be concerned and are continuing the game.

The notion of a casino is not a modern concept. It has its roots in Roman times, and the detail below from The Book of Games indicates that the concept was just as well known in 13th century Spain. Here we see more than one group playing dice games while others look on. Note that the game they play seems to require three dice!

Two Tables

Last update February 11, 2010