Board games have played an important role as research objects in the
sciences of this century. At first, games and board games were studied from
a historical perspective. In 1944, Von Neumann and Morgenstern provided a
basis for using games and board games in the computer sciences and in
economics, such as in the field of game theory. Research on board games
accelerated with research on chess, in particular chess masters, which has
proved fundamental in the cognitive sciences since de Groot (1949), followed
by Newell & Simon and others. Chess is still dominant in most fields but
slowly other championship games enter these fields as examples or tools in
Only recently has research on board games other than chess been possible.
Since Thomas Hyde (1694) there are historical descriptive works on board
games. However, even in 1952 when Murray published A History of Board Games
Other than Chess, research did not suffice to warrant an important shift in
attention in the sciences. These other games had rules, boards, pieces,
players and contexts unknown to the academic world. Sometimes parts were
known but never studied, as shown by the first Ph.D.-thesis on the subject
of draughts (or checkers) only in 1997.
Since 1952, some disciplines of research have started to consider games and
board games other than chess. Studies of sculptured game boards in art
history (Walker 1990) and a contextual analysis of board games in
anthropology (Townshend 1985) are just examples from the field of mancala
games. This interest from art history, anthropology and also archaeology
(Schädler 1995), psychology (Retschitzki 1990) and linguistics (van der
Stoep 1997) has grown rapidly since the 1980s. International colloquia,
scholarly books, research centres and a growing number of articles and
inventories are being produced for which this annual publication will
provide a continuous platform.
Board games are a complex form of games. They consist of boards and various
kinds of pieces (dice, pawns, counters, etc.), a system of rules, and most
importantly players. The context of playing board games includes referees,
interfering and non-interfering spectators, rules of ceremonies or rules of
etiquette, club houses and societies, boards for special occasions, etc.
Playing a board game introduces movement, sound, atmosphere and other
elements which are described by poets rather than academics. If we consider
a context with players, boards and pieces, and rules, it appears that these
elements cannot be separated for a complete understanding of a board game.
The rules may influence the board and vice versa. The players may determine
the shape and kind of boards and the specificity of the rules. They form a
complex 'being' which is a board game.
Board games in their complexity present the researcher with various
questions. For instance, the (inter)relationship of the aspects of a board
game are little understood. Also, the historical development and
distribution of board games has been a point of discussion which was started
in historical works by Murray (1952), Bell (1960), but also by Falkener
(1892) and Hyde (1694) to name a few.
Studies of board games collections (Goodfellow 1997 in bgs) are rare and
hardly ever coincide with fieldwork on context and rules. The results of
fieldwork, collection studies, analyses of rules and the study of players
still need to be studied within their interaction, their dependency and
their consequences for the development and distribution of board games. The
methodology for classification appears fundamental for answering these
questions in a systematic way (Eagle 1997 in BGS).
Each article in Board Games Studies makes a rich source of literature
available to scholars. This literature makes it possible to study board
games with the necessary background knowledge. Area studies appear both in
need of this literature and are at the same time instrumental in adding to
such literature. This is shown by Depaulis (1997 in BGS) and Verbeeck (1997
in BGS) who contribute considerably to the field of Latin American studies.
However, even interdisciplinary area studies are limited in their approach.
Most board games appear to be distributed across the continents and rare
board games in Asia may only be understood with a thorough understanding of
related games in Africa or their relatives in antiquity (Eagle 1997 &
Schädler 1997 in BGS). As such, board games studies are interrelated studies
separate from but dependent on the known disciplines.
A discipline of research prefers to concentrate on one of the elements of a
board game. Archaeologists and art historians tend to study objects, while
computer scientists are more interested in rules and their consequences.
This results in two general problems for which this journal intends to
provide a solution. Firstly, as was stated above, individual disciplines do
not give insight in the complexity of board games. Instead, only aspects are
discussed without the complexity of their interaction. Secondly, research on
board games is presented in many unconnected publications. It is necessary
to create a systematic inventory of board games research in order to get
insight in the complexity of board games as a whole. Colloquia of the past
seven years have already made an attempt in presenting the findings of
various disciplines in one publication. This journal is a direct result of
the success of and need for these publications.
In line with the particularities mentioned I sense an ambition for board
games research. It is my belief that, in the study of board games, the
individual disciplines need to be complemented by a perspective which is
primarily concerned with the board games themselves. Since academic
disciplines cannot provide us with such a viewpoint, it should be the role
of this journal to develop and show the importance of such a perspective
providing academia with an insight unknown to the practitioners of its
Alexander J. de Voogt