Posted by: internationalroutier | February 7, 2012

Sharp Period Dressed Men

apropos of nothing but the editor’s folly…

Stay tuned for the exciting report of the ‘unpacking of the trailer, looking at the stuff and putting it back in again’working bee. Coming soon!

Posted by: Wayne Robinson | February 6, 2012

Games – Tables or Backgammon

Adriaen van Ostade, Backgammon 1630-60


A Backgammon boards consist of four tables each with six thin triangles or points. A bar usually bisects the board and the two tables on one side are designated the “inner tables” or “home tables”, the others being referred to as the “outer tables”. Traditionally, the inner tables should be positioned facing the greatest light source. There are fifteen white pieces, fifteen black pieces, two dice and a dice cup.

Preparation and Objective

Each player attempts to move all their pieces into their home table and then to move the pieces off the board. The first player to do so wins.


Pieces can only move in one direction – from the opponent’s home table through the opponent’s outer table, back through the player’s outer table and finishing in the player’s home table. White pieces move in a clockwise direction, black move in an anti-clockwise direction.

The players each roll a die and the player with the highest throw then uses the dice throw from both players to take the first turn and also chooses to play white or black.

Basic Play

Each turn consists of the opportunity to move counters towards the player’s inner table according to the roll of the two dice. Unless a double is thrown, two moves are allowed, one for each number on the dice. When a double is thrown, four moves are allowed, two of each number on the dice. Players are not allowed to pass – as many moves as possible must be made each turn.

A point with two or more pieces of the same colour on it is safe – the opponent cannot land a piece on such a point.

A point hosting only one piece is called a “blot”. If the opponent lands on this point the piece is captured and moved to the bar.

Captured pieces re-enter opponent’s inner table. A throw of 1 allows the piece to move from the bar to point one of the opponent’s inner tables. A throw of 5 allows the piece to enter at point 5 of the opponent’s home table.

If a player has one or more pieces on the bar, no other pieces can be moved until all pieces on the bar have re-entered play. So if the dice throw and position of enemy pieces prevents a player from re-entering a piece onto the board from the bar, the player cannot move any other piece and play passes to the opponent.

A point hosting two or more of the opponent’s pieces is said to be “blocked”. If six points in a row are blocked, the opponent is said to have formed a “prime”. A prime cannot be traversed by an opponent but is completely free to be traversed by the player who created it.

Bearing Off

Once all pieces are present in a player’s inner table, that player can start “bearing off”. A throw of 1 allows a player to bear off a piece from point 1 of his inner table, a throw of 2 allows a player to bear off a piece from point 2 of his inner table and so on. Pieces borne off are simply removed from the board. Players do not have to bear off – if available, they can choose to move a piece within their inner table instead. This is often done to pair up singlets in order to protect them from capture.

When a player rolls a number that is higher than the highest point of the inner table upon which that player has pieces, the player is allowed to bear off the next highest piece. For example, with a roll of double 5, if the player has a piece on point 5, two pieces on point 3, one piece on point 2 and one piece on point 1, the player would bear off the four highest placed pieces and be left with just one piece on point 1.

If after starting to bear off, a player’s piece is captured, that piece must re-enter at the other side of the board and bearing off cannot continue until all pieces are once again residing in the inner table.


The first player to bear off all pieces wins the game.

If the opponent has borne off at least one piece, a single game is won and the current stake is forfeited.

If the opponent has not borne off any pieces, this is a “gammon” and worth double the current stake.

If the opponent has a piece left on the bar or within the opponent’s inner table, this is a “backgammon” and worth triple the current stake.

Other forms of the game

Dutch Backgammon

This is played in the same way as Backgammon but the pieces all start off the board and each one must be entered on the opponent’s inner table before proceeding around to the home inner table.

Irish Backgammon

Place five of your men on your 6 point; three on your 8 point; five on your opponent’s 1 point; and two on your opponent’s 12 point, way deep in your opponent’s territory.


All your men are set on your opponent’s 1 point in five piles of three, and moved forward in the normal way. An unbound man hit by one of your opponent’s men is moved to the bar. The first player to fill all the points of the player’s home table wins.

English Backgammon

All your men are set on your opponent’s 1 point in five piles of three, and proceeding around to the home inner table before being borne off. Three dice or two dice and a permanent imaginary six are used.


This is an easie and childish play and performed by haueing all the 15 men set double on the six points, the 6, 5, 4 haueing three apeece: what is throwne is layd downe, and if one throws and hath it not, the other lays downe for him, and thus they do till all be downe: and then they beare: now dubblets in this game, is as many to be layd downe and borne as the dubblets are.

Randle Holme’s Academy of Armory, 1688

Number of Players: 2


This game is played on half a backgammon board. This works, because there isn’t actually any movement in this game. Each player has 15 men. There is a cup and two dice.


Each player should place two men each on his 1, 2, and 3 points, and three men on the 4, 5, and 6. These men should be stacked, not laid out in a row as is normal in Backgammon.


There are two phases to this game: Playing Down and Bearing Off.

Playing Down — Players take turns rolling two dice. With each roll, you “play down” the men on the points indicated by the dice. Playing down a point means unstacking the pieces. For example, you begin with three pieces stacked on the 4-point, and two on the 1. If you throw a 4 and a 1, you unstack the man that is stacked on the 1, and one of the men stacked on the four. When you play down a man, place it in a row along the point. If you roll the number for a point that is already entirely played down, the roll is wasted and your opponent uses it instead. You are finished playing down the men when all of your pieces are unstacked.

Bearing Off — Once you have played down all of your men, you begin to bear off. This is much as it is in Backgammon: you roll two dice, and take men off the corresponding points. Thus, if you roll a 5 and a 2, you take one man each from the five point and the two point. Again, if you roll the number for a point that is now empty, the roll is wasted. You are finished bearing off when all your men are off the board; the first player to bear off wins.

When a double is thrown, you play down or bear off as many men as there are spots. That is, if you are playing down, and you roll double fours, you may play down any eight men. Dublets are, obviously, very powerful, and hence the game is named after them.


Number of Players: 2-5

Each player takes six pieces and places them on their side of the board. Two dice are rolled by each player and the individual scores reckoned as:

1: A piece is handed to the player on the left and added to their pieces

6: A piece is borne off the table and laid aside

5: A piece is put into the central pool between the points

2: A piece is taken from the pool and added to the player’s pieces. The player must drink and throw again.

3 and 4: are discounted.

If doubles are thrown, each die counts separately and the player has another throw, unless the throw is 2,2, in which case, the player takes two pieces from the pool and does not throw again. The last player on the board pays for the drinks.


Cotton, C, The Compleat Gamester all editions from 1674. Google Books has the 1725 edition for free.

Francis Willughby Volume of Plaies, c. 1665 republished in 2003 as Cram et al. Francis Willughby’s book of games: a seventeenth- century treatise on sports with the obligatory free limited preview copy at Google Books.

Randle Holme Academy of Armory 1688. Extracts here

Posted by: Wayne Robinson | January 26, 2012

Games – Gluckshaus

This group of European dice games is generically called “Merry Seven” (from the French: Jeu du Sept). The regional variations of the game take their names from a distinctive feature of the game board. In Germany, it is called Das Glückshaus (the house of fortune); Game of the Harlequin in Holland and; Game of the Skiff in Italy. Normally played on using board with ten equal sized circles around a larger circle in the centre. You could as easily draw the circles on a piece of paper or vandalise a tabletop with a knife.

Basic Play

Two dice are thrown. If the score is a 3, 5, 6, 8, 9,10 or 11, the player who rolls the dice places a coin on the corresponding place on the board. If there is a coin on the place, the player takes the coin. If the throw is a four, the player makes no move and passes the dice to the next player.

If the throw is a seven, the player puts a coin in the square marked with the cup. The player does not remove the coins from this square. A throw of two entitles the player to remove the coins from all the squares except the seven. A throw of twelve entitles the player to collect all the stakes from the board.

Variations: A variation that increases the stakes is the “lottery” game. On any roll but a 2 or 12, the player places that number of coins in the corresponding square.

Slightly later German variation: Essentially the same as the version above, except that the board is illustrated and had the following explanations:

2 is the Pig – the Pig eats all, but is not invited to the Wedding

7 is the Wedding – everyone must bring a gift to the Wedding

12 is the King – the King takes all, and is of course, invited to the Wedding

I rather like these colourful space-names.

On a throw of 4, the rules say that you pay a coin to the owner of the board, but we Routiered this into the “Friend of the World” rule where you must fill every vacant space.   This has had no bad effect on the game, and makes it more exciting…

Posted by: internationalroutier | January 17, 2012

“Historically Speaking”, a reenactor’s blog

I don’t often write a post just to spruik another blog, though I do try provide handy dandy links down the right hand side of the page to many that I think may be of interest (hint hint). I will make an exception today though and point you in the direction of a great post “Things I Wish Reenactors Would Stop/Start Doing”. The discussion that follows in the comments is also interesting.
The blog itself concentrates on the experiences reenactors have rather than of reenactors from a specific period. It is hosting discussions of many of the topics I thought and hoped I would have seen addressed at Conference (honest, this is not a Con bashing post) but for a variety of reasons, aren’t.

If anyone else has a blog/website reccommendation they think I should include in our liks, please let me know. Share the knowledge!!

Posted by: Wayne Robinson | January 16, 2012

Games – Draughts

Game of Draughts


The game of Draughts is played on a standard Chessboard. Each player has 12 pieces; the board is placed between the two opponents the same way as for Chess.

Preparation and Objective

Black always plays first. Each player’s pieces are placed on the 12 black squares nearest to that player.

The objective of the game is to take all of the opponent’s pieces or to produce a position such that the opponent is unable to move.


Players take turns to move a piece of their own colour. Any piece that reaches the far edge of the board is immediately crowned and is thereafter known as a “King”. The act of crowning is a physical one – another piece of the same shade is placed on top of the piece in order to distinguish it from an ordinary piece.

Until a piece is “crowned”, it can only move and capture in a diagonally forwards direction. Kings are allowed to move and capture diagonally forwards and backwards and are consequently more powerful and valuable than ordinary pieces. However, ordinary pieces can capture Kings.

Whenever a piece has an opponent’s piece adjacent to it and the square immediately beyond the opponent’s piece is vacant, the opponent’s piece can be captured. If the player has the opportunity to capture one or more of the opponent’s pieces, then the player must do so. A piece is taken by simply hopping over it into the vacant square beyond and removing it from the board. Unlike an ordinary move, a capturing move can consist of several such hops – if a piece takes an opponent’s piece and the new position allows it to take another piece, then it must do so straight away. The move finishes only when the position of the capturing piece no longer allows it to taken any more pieces.

If more than one piece can capture, then the player is free to choose which of those pieces to move. Similarly, if a capturing piece is able to capture in more than one direction, the player is free to choose which direction to move in. It is not compulsory to move the piece in a way that will take the maximum number of captures.

If no capturing moves are available, then an ordinary move is made by moving a piece one square diagonally.

If a player notices that the opponent failed to capture when the option was open, that player can huff the offending piece before the next move is made and it is removed from the board (this rule was introduced in France around 1535).


The game is won by the player who first manages to take all his opponent’s pieces or renders them unable to move.

A draw occurs by agreement at any point during the game.

Posted by: internationalroutier | January 10, 2012

A Tudor Feast at Christmas

An immense task, a 1590 feast for 40 guests, gathered and prepared (the food not the guests) using period techniques in the kitchens at Haddon Hall. Several familar faces for those who have seen other BBC living history docos. Christmas in July feast anyone?

Posted by: Wayne Robinson | January 7, 2012

Games – Chess

Arthur Saul's guide to playing chess
Declared illegal by ecclesial lawyers in 1633, modern chess rules fundamentally date from the 15th century.


The game is played on a square chequered board of 64 squares. The pieces for each player consist of eight Pawns, two Rooks, two Knights, two Bishops, a King and a Queen. The board is placed between the two opponents so that the near right-hand corner square is white for both players. The modern chess piece shapes were defined in the mid 19th century, earlier forms can be seen here.

Preparation and Objective

The objective of the game is to capture the opposing player’s King. The King is never actually taken; instead the aim is put the opponent’s King into a position such that the opposing player can do nothing to avoid the King being taken next turn. As soon as this happens, the victorious player who has just moved says, “checkmate” and the game is over.

Basic Play

Players take turns to move a piece of their own colour. White moves first. Each piece is moved according to different rules but no two pieces can occupy the same square. If a piece moves so that its final position is a square occupied by an opposing piece, the opposing piece is “captured” or “taken” and is removed from the board. It is not compulsory to capture. Any square that could be moved into by a piece is said to be “attacked” by that piece. When a piece is moved to a position that attacks the square occupied by the opponent’s King, the King is in “check” and the player who moved the piece must clearly say “check”.

  • King – moves one space in any direction diagonally or orthogonally EXCEPT that the King cannot move onto a square that would put it in to check.
  • Queen – moves any number of spaces in any direction, but cannot jump over another piece (c. 1475)
  • Rook – moves any number of spaces orthogonally but cannot jump over another piece. Note the use of the letter “D” for “Duke” in the woodecutte above.
  • Bishop – moves any number of spaces diagonally but cannot jump over another piece (c. 1500).
  • Knight – moves one square orthogonally and then one square diagonally. The Knight is the only piece that can jump over other pieces (the move is unchanged since its introduction 1500 years ago).
  • Pawn – The first move of a Pawn can be either one square or two squares forward. Thereafter, the standard move of a pawn is to one square forwards. However, the pawn is the only piece that moves differently when capturing: a Pawn takes another piece by moving forward one square diagonally. The Pawn move, advancing two squares on its first move instead of one, was first introduced in Spain in 1280.

Special rules

En Passant (introduced mid 15th C)

If a Pawn in the fifth row is in the situation where an opposing Pawn moves next to it by moving for the first time and opting to move two squares, the Pawn in the fifth row may take the opposing Pawn by moving forward one square diagonally behind the opposing pawn. The Pawn takes as though the opposing Pawn moved only one square instead of two. En Passant is French for “In passing” so, in English, the Pawn is “taken in passing”.

Castling (this version c. 1620)

Once per game, a player may choose to “castle” instead of a playing standard move. Castling is effected by moving both a Rook and the King in the same move so that they cross over each other but this special move can only be done if the following criteria are met:

  • Neither the King nor the Rook have yet moved.
  • There are no pieces between the King and the Rook.
  • The King is not in check.
  • The square that the King moves over is not being attacked by an opposing piece.

If the above are all true, a player can castle by moving the King two places towards the Rook and, in the same move, repositioning the Rook next to the King on the square that the King moved over. Castling is usually done to protect the King behind a row of Pawns and/or to move a Rook into play alongside the other Rook since a pair of Rooks is a powerful combination.

Until 1561, Castling was two moves. You had to play R-KB1 on one move and K-KN1 on the next move. In the 1777 edition of Philidor’s Analysis of Chess, the rule for castling is as we know it now, but with this footnote: “The old way of castling in several countries, and which still subsists in some, was to leave to the player’s disposal, all the interval between the King and the Rook, inclusively, to place there these two pieces”.

Promotion of Pawns (this version c. 1600)

If a Pawn reaches the eighth row, that Pawn is immediately promoted by replacing the Pawn with another piece – Queen, Rook, Bishop or Knight at the player’s discretion. Normally, a player chooses to replace the Pawn with the most powerful piece, the Queen. There is no problem with having more than one Queen or more than two of the other pieces on the board at the same time. Although Pawns rarely do get promoted, the threat posed by a Pawn nearing the other side of the board can be a useful tactical weapon.

In the 15th century, promotion to allow more than one Queen was considered improper because it symbolised adultery. In Spain and Italy in the 17th century, the Pawn could only be promoted to the rank of Queen. In France and Germany, promotion was limited to any piece that had been lost.



When a piece is moved so it puts the opposing King in check, the King must get out of check in the next turn. There are only three ways to do this:

  • The attacking piece may be taken by the King or another piece.
  • Another piece may be moved between the attacking piece and the King (unless the attacking piece is a Knight).
  • The King may move to an adjacent square that is not under attack.

If the King cannot move out of check in one of these ways, the player who puts the King in check says “checkmate” instead of “check” and the game finishes.


Stalemate can happen in one of three ways:

  • One player proposes a stalemate and the other player agrees to the proposal.
  • A player’s King is not in check but that player cannot move without placing the King in check.
  • The same position of pieces is repeated three times with the same player to move each time.

The 1614 English publication, Saul’s Famous Games of Chesse-Play states: “He that hath put his adversary’s King in a stale, loseth the game, because he hath disturbed the course of the game, which can only end with the grand Check-mate” Holm, writing in 1688[1], agrees. This English interpretation of stale mate persisted in the London Chess Club until 1820.


Once it is believed that the opposing player will inevitably win, a player will normally resign to save time. A player traditionally resigns by tipping over his or her King.

Further Reading

Bird, H E, Chess History and Reminiscences London, 1893. Project Guttenburg ebook 4902
Cotton, C, The Compleat Gamester all editions from 1674. Google Books has the 1725 edition for free.
The Chess Variant Pages
Early Modern Whale – Homo (non-)ludens: a 17th century preacher renounces chess

[1] Randle Holme’s Academy of Armory, 1688

Posted by: internationalroutier | January 6, 2012

Well, well, well…It’s Yames Towne

“Ding, Dong Dell,
Halberd’s in the well,
Who pulled her out?
The archaelogical team at historic Jamestown…”

Doesn’t roll as trippingly off the tongue as the traditional rhyme some may say. But it does serve to illustrate the focus of recent excavations at Jamestown at the suspected site of the original 1607 fort that helped establish the colony.

Many thanks to Steven for bringing the article to our attention!
Read the full article (including additional video)
(embedded links trouble again will mend asap, sorry)

Don’t have the volume up too loud; archaeologists squealing with delight warning.

Posted by: internationalroutier | December 31, 2011

Christmas Party Pics

The New Blue Sue wishes you Merry Christmas!

This Christmas the Routiers turned 1642 on it’s head and partied like it was 2461! As per the invite we came as our best steam punked, dirigible riding, space aged, comic booked selves.
There was, as is becoming an ezy clean and delicious tradition, a keg of (this time a mystery flavour) beer, Sausages, Grande Sallets, wheels of cheese as big as your head and the poshest Pilau in the ‘verse as prepared by Ms Menyhart. There was even a cake stall, which is heckled in the theory and fallen upon with gusto in the practical. Many thanks to all who contributed to a delicious meal providing yet another elephant sufficiency. Also thanks to all financial members and those who contributed to $$ earning shows during the year which allowed such a fest to be supplied at a hugely discounted price. Please note, this is unlikely to happen every year 🙂 but it was felt it was an excellent way to end a kind of quietish year with a bang.
Speeches were made, as is also traditional and many toasts were drunk. In no particular order- a New Blue Sue for new pres; God, King and Parliament (as required by the by-laws); Hardy, the best turtle in the world; Andy as outgoing Pres for services to the Club ; the beermaker and I am sure there were many more.
Also on the night was the much anticipated awarding of the Routier of the Year. This award is decided amongst the committee and when we opened deliberations it became immediately apparent that we were sharing a brain and were in complete agreement as to the recipient for 2011! Usually the Mug is awarded for lots of entusiastic drilling, camping, building of fabulous personal or club gear, organising of spectacular soirees- that kind of guff. This year however, one amongst us had rallied many of the rest of us to help one of our own in a time of great need (still following?). The enthusiasm and selflessness with which this was undertaken was inspirational. And for these reasons the 2011 ROTY is of course, the mighty Spike. This catapaults Spike in to the ROTY double trouble club for multiple winners and at the moment stands as the first and latest winner of the award. Congratulations Spike (sorry about the mug still tasting like Brasso).
Special mention should also be made of the lovely Monica celebrating her 21st birthday on the day, and the many wonderful visitors on the day to help make the party such a success especially Elaine and her gorgeous girls as well as fresh meat Bill and Allie.
Gracious thanks to the Menyharts for providing such an amazing venue and my sincere apologies to anyone who needs thanking that I have forgotten! Please remind me if you remember so I can make amends.
Click on the pics to get a close up squiz of all the fun of the fair and Happy New Year!

Posted by: Wayne Robinson | December 15, 2011

Christmas is cancelled

christmasban (1652)

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