#BGS2015 Board game studies colloquium
Day two: Tuesday
Breakfast at the hotel is served from 8.15 - 10.30. After enjoying cereal, orange juice, bread and cheese and coffee on the terrace with beautiful views of Lake Geneva and the French Alps, I send the students a message to remind them the dining room will soon be cleared and they arrive as if by magic.
Most of the morning is taken up with blogging and communicating with the missing member of the party who, by now, has obtained a visa and is en route to Switzerland. In the afternoon I take advantage of the Montreux Riviera Card and get the bus to Chillon to visit the stunning lake-side castle where, in 1816, Lord Byron carved his name on a column in the dungeon after learning of the story of a priest who spent six years there in chains. The tale is commemorated in Byron's 392-line poem, "The Prisoner of Chillon".
As the welcome event winds down, one delegate asks people to check their conference packs because she has put her phone, purse and other personal possessions in her bag, but it seems someone has taken it. To make matters worse, she isn't able to contact her Air BnB hostess in Montreux. I suggest she joins us to access her email and then travel to Montreux (half an hour on the bus) or, if the worse comes to the worst, stay in the student dorm. The worst comes and she stays. However, by the time things have been worked out, supermarkets have closed, and other eateries are closing too but, luckily, our unexpected guest has several bags of noodles in her luggage and is able to feed us all in an impromptu dinner party in the hostel kitchen!
Day three: Wednesday
After breakfast the situation is explained to the receptionist who reasons that, as one member of the party did not stay on the first night, the interloper had not caused the capacity of the room to be exceeded, and no additional charges are incurred.
The first session is "From modern times to present day". The day starts with a paper by Wim van Mourik on the representation of merels games in art since the mediaeval period. Another of the morning talks, by Rainer Buland, discusses rhetoric in text and image in representations of board, dice and card games. Buland's presentation includes some fascinating and amusing imagery, including a guide to decorum for the English gentleman, with examples of behavior to avoid when winning or losing. Buland also shows some examples of chamber scenes and “erotic encounters”.
Ulrich Schadler presented an investigation into a rosewood mancala board housed in the Ethnographic Museum, Geneva. The board was once the property of the owner of the Chateau du La Tour, which is now the home of the Swiss Museum of Games. The baroque decoration suggests the board was made in Europe, and the mask-style motif, which fell out of fashion in the first two decades of C18th, suggest it would probably have been carved in the late C17th, making this the oldest known wooden mancala board. The presentation prompted a lot of discussion about the introduction of mancala to Europe through coffee houses opened by immigrants (primarily Levantines and Jews) in Paris, London and Amsterdam.
The coffee house theme continues with a presentation by Thierry Depaulis about Manoury, the author of the first book on Polish draughts (1770) [Polish draughts is played on a 10x10 board and is now known as International Draughts]. Manoury also devised a notation system that is still used for International Draughts. Manoury was the proprietor of Café Manoury, a Parisian coffee shop on La Place de l’Ecole, near Pont Neuf. Depaulis managed to construct a brief biography of Manoury, based on records retrieved from the Bibliotheque Nationale. He also showed several images of Manoury’s coffee house (interior and exterior views) including, remarkably, delineations of Manouray himself, and Manoury's sister who co-managed the business.
By now the students have arrived. I am the chairman for the next session, “Games and Mathematics” which proves to be a mixed bag of “passatempo aritmetico”, combinatorial games, and algorithms. But at least I get to use the cowbell to call delegates to order! The session concludes with a poster session by Frank Berthold Rordorf on cube assemblies and ball-pyramid assemblies.
There is just enough time for delegates to return to their hotels to change before making their way to Montreux for the colloquium dinner at the casino. I’m sure everyone has an interesting table, but we are lucky enough to share ours with, inter alia, playing-card historian Thierry Depaulis, Spiel des Jarhes founder Tom Werneck and next year’s colloquium organiser, Stefanie Kuschill. After a round of introductions and brief biographical sketches over the first course, one of our table-mates is introduced as the evening’s guest speaker, Renee Proyer, who takes to the floor to give a very entertaining talk, without notes or slides, on “the playful personality”.
After a welcome and introduction from Professor Veronique Dasen, the day’s theme “Playing with Antiquity” gets underway. Anne-Elizabeth Dunn-Vaturi gives the first paper, on a double sided board from Tell Afis. After tea, Mark Hall gives an interesting presentation on knucklebones and Veronique Dasen offers a fascinating reading of the iconography of Achilles and Ajax at play.
Following a break for lunch, Babara Carè shows some remarkable examples of the use of knucklebones in a funerary context. I give the last presentation of the day, a comparison of bone astragals with CT-scanned and 3D printed copies, which we found demonstrate the same probablility in use with regard to the likelihood of throwing a narrow or a broad face.
Delegates board the coach for the journey to the “Veni Vidi Ludique” exhibition at The Roman Museum at Vallon where we have the opportunity to view the museum and to play some of the ancient games set out for the exhibition. The museum preserves two Roman mosaics, one of which is the largest in Switzerland. A local television crew is on hand to record a short piece about the visit. The coach then takes us back to The Swiss Museum of Games where, after dinner, we assemble for an enjoyable games evening.
Day six: Saturday
The final session, “Theory and Education” starts at 9.00 on the last day of the colloquium. David King gives the first paper on “choice, random-ness and interaction” an exploration of what King called the “building blocks” of the game space, which developed and extended the paper he presented at last year’s colloquium in Ipswich. I give my presentation on pervasive games and, after a break, Cesco Real talks about “4D” games. Reale uses Quarto, Set, 4D tic-tac-toe and Ana Kvataro as examples of 4D games, the latter being an Esperanto name for a four-player version of Connect 4 (Reale is a representative of the Universal Esperanto Association to the UN).
After the last block of papers, delegates enjoy a farewell lunch, courtesy of The Swiss Museum of Games. Finally, those who have to leave swap details, make arrangements to keep in touch and set off on their homeward journeys. The remainder board the coach for the post-colloquium excursion to St Maurice.
The town of St Maurice is named for the commander of the Roman legion from Thebes. Around 285AD, Emperor Maximian sent the legion, which had converted to Christianity, to put down a Celtic revolt in Gaul. At Agaunum, the Theban legion was ordered to secure St Bernard’s Pass (or, depending upon the source, to make sacrifices to Roman gods). However, the legion refused to kill other Christians. Maximian had the legion decimated and, when they still refused to comply, the legion was decimated a second time. Finally, Maximian had Maurice and the remainder of the legion slaughtered. A shrine was later built at the site of the slaughter and, in 380AD a church was built nearby at the site of the Roman temple to Mercury, god of travellers. In the early C6th an abbey was founded at the site.
Delegates are given a guided tour of the basilica and the archaeological site, as well as the treasury, which displays artefacts that have recently returned from The Louvre, where they have been on display during the renovation of the Treasury at St Maurice.