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Mike,

OK, so we won't be playing this game at our next board game night, but it's still interesting to read about.

I certainly agree with your gist that it would be nearly impossible to figure out the rules of a game from relics thereof. There's no way whatsoever that one could infer the initial set-up and rules of the standard version Backgammon (https://bkgm.com/rules.html) from a Backgammon board, fifteen checkers or stones in each of two colors, two pairs of standard six-sided dice, and a doubling cube -- and here, I'm giving you the benefit of a complete game set! Nevertheless, you never know what other archeological finds might reveal clues that would enable archeologists and historians to piece together the rules of a game, and the literature of an era -- even fiction -- is a very important part of that record. Verse is a powerful memory aid that's still widely employed in modern education ("I" before "e" except after "c"...), so rules of games were often set to rhyme in the age of illiteracy, and it would take only one written copy of such a poem in an obscure archive of some medieval monastery to recover the game completely. And even fiction of the era can play a role -- novels or plays of that era might have scenes in which characters play the game, and descriptions of the progress of the game would have to be faithful to the actual rules.

Of course, there's also the reality that many games have several variants -- and, again, Backgammon is a great example. The variant called (American) Acey-Deucy (https://bkgm.com/variants/AceyDeucey-American.html) was most popular in the wardroom of the USS Long Beach (CGN-9) during my tenure aboard that ship, but there are many other variants as well (https://bkgm.com/variants/).

Norm.
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