Though last semester’s seminar was less than successful, the notion of an Agincourt board game continues to intrigue me.
Other than playing Monopoly for the majority of my pre-teen years, and a few other board games after that, the first game that came to mind as a “model” for ATBG (Agincourt, the Board Game) was an ancient Egyptian game called Senet. Examples have survived in tombs — the recently deceased would need entertainment in the afterlife — but, of course, any Egyptian would already have known how to play, so there was no need to pack a set of rules for the journey. Consequently, the way to play Senet is conjecture. That was the first “model” for ATBG: a prototype design with all the playing pieces, tokens, play money, cards in the spirit of “Community Chest”, etc. Except that the game was never manufactured. Never put into production and its inventor took any unwritten information about the game — thoughts of rules and procedure, even the game’s ultimate objective, hopefully not “winning” — to the grave. To play the game, then, is necessarily to play with the game. To intuit the whole from its parts.
Since I had become fascinated with woodworking, making sets of “William Halsey Wood Blox”, etc for friends, my first sketches concerned the board itself: a grid as basis for designing a town not unlike Agincourt. Game pieces would include city blocks with variations in the “texture” of lot lines and patterns (commercial versus residential, for example, or interrupted by river or railroad), an objective being the ability to “own” blocks and place them as the beginning of real estate developments, not all of which would be in sympathy with one another. Part of the “action” might involve negotiation, the trading of block for cash or other property. Perhaps even bankruptcy or hostile take-over. I recently came across “The fields of Arle” at the website of Board Game Geek.
Now here’s a game to find in someone’s tomb, intact but minus its rules and procedures. I cannot imagine they’d constitute anything less than a small library, cross-referenced and footnoted and interleaved with fold-out flow charts and diagrams — certification from your community college optional but recommended.
Don’t you want to meet Board Game Geek some time — soon.