Colonial Gaming: In Review

Several months ago, I started writing this series about games played in Colonial America after a family trip to Williamsburg, Virginia. I picked up a number of games while I was there, but noticed that very little had actually been written about what our ancestors were playing on the eve of Revolution.

In doing research, I learned that some areas of the country (such as Virginia and the south in general) were utterly mad about their games, while others (much of New England) were less so. I probably could have added one more piece on Whist (and still may), since this was one of the few games to find a foothold in New England. Whist is the mother of Bridge, so if you know Bridge already, then you have a fair sense of Whist.

It was fascinating to see the way games migrated from the old world to the new, building variations along the way. It was also interesting to see the way game materials intersected with the Revolution itself, in the form of the hated tax stamps placed on every deck of playing cards.

I’ve gathered much of my material into a long article that will run as the lead feature for the March 2011 issue of Games Magazine. This was an interesting test of the blogging process for me, as I researched and posted things in real time over a period of months, allowing me to learn and write at the same time. It worked pretty well, and I intended to do it again. In the future, I will be doing separate series about boardgame-to-app conversions and games played with European decks, such as French, Italian, Swiss, Spanish, and Tarot cards. (Tarot decks were invented for playing games, not for dubious fortune-telling practices.) If you have any thoughts about how all this came together, good or bad, please feel free to share.

Here’s the entire series at a glance:
A Card Game for the Lower Classes: Put
A Card Game for the Upper Classes: Loo and How to Play Loo
A Pair of Abstract Strategy Games: Fox & Geese and Nine Men’s Morris
Early Playing Cards from I. Kirk and I. Hardy
The Game of Goose: An Early Board Game
Chess, Checkers, Backgammon, and Other Board Games
“I catch you without green!”
Hazard: Colonial Craps
Introductions are here and here

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