This post was originally published on internationalroutier.wordpress.com on January 26, 2012 but now features a supplementary section at the end.
This group of European dice games is generically called “Merry Seven” (from the French: Jeu du Sept). The regional variations of the game take their names from a distinctive feature of the game board. In Germany, it is called Das Glückshaus (the house of fortune); Game of the Harlequin in Holland and; Game of the Skiff in Italy. Normally played on using board with ten equal sized circles around a larger circle in the centre. You could as easily draw the circles on a piece of paper or vandalise a tabletop with a knife.
Two dice are thrown. If the score is a 3, 5, 6, 8, 9,10 or 11, the player who rolls the dice places a coin on the corresponding place on the board. If there is a coin on the place, the player takes the coin. If the throw is a four, the player makes no move and passes the dice to the next player.
If the throw is a seven, the player puts a coin in the square marked with the cup. The player does not remove the coins from this square. A throw of two entitles the player to remove the coins from all the squares except the seven. A throw of twelve entitles the player to collect all the stakes from the board.
Variations: A variation that increases the stakes is the “lottery” game. On any roll but a 2 or 12, the player places that number of coins in the corresponding square.
Slightly later German variation: Essentially the same as the version above, except that the board is illustrated and had the following explanations:
2 is the Pig – the Pig eats all, but is not invited to the Wedding
7 is the Wedding – everyone must bring a gift to the Wedding
12 is the King – the King takes all, and is of course, invited to the Wedding
I rather like these colourful space-names.
On a throw of 4, the rules say that you pay a coin to the owner of the board, but we Routiered this into the “Friend of the World” rule where you must fill every vacant space. This has had no bad effect on the game, and makes it more exciting…
The main English reference I have for this particular board is in a coffee-table book on Games of the World. The emphasis of the book is on playing the games, with the historical and technical detail provided as an overview. The board and frame are spruce, the frame is held together with half-lap joints. The edges of the frame appear slightly bevelled. The decoration is painted on with tempera.
There are two eights and no seven, and the arrangement of the spots on the two-die in the five-circle is not consistent with the two-die in any of the other circles.
When I started work I didn’t have the dimensions available, and had no hope of getting them. I made an educated guess based on the size of the dice (I assumed them to be same size as a bone die of the same period in the same collection), the width of the lines and the size of the wood grain. As often happens, a few weeks after I had finished the board a chance contact on the Internet was able to send me the full catalogue entry for this board from an exhibition in Nuremberg in 1988.
A slab of pine was chosen, based on its size and a superficial similarity to the grain of the original. Although not necessarily strictly correct, western red cedar was used for the frame, again for likeness to the original grain. Being high in tannin, I was unable to use iron fasteners on the cedar. The frame was therefore designed to support the board without needing any supplementary fastening—a tongue was cut into the board, and a corresponding groove was cut in the frame. The board was then gently force-fitted to the frame.
The corner lap joints were glued and the entire surface sanded. PVA glue was used on the joints of the frame instead of glue made from animal hide. The frame was then slightly bevelled, a feature which is apparent in the photograph of the original but not in the picture below. The bevelling is only apparent on the outside edge and is regular, which probably means that it is deliberate, not a result of wear.
The board was then taken inside and marked up in front of the television. When scaled up from the photograph, the circle diameters and spaces came up in whole numbers, which disturbed me a little. The circles were marked with a pair of compasses, the original board has a small hole at the centre of each circle, which is not readily apparent in the scanned image in Appendix 1.
The detail was painted with gouache . Again, I cheated and used commercially prepared paint. The pigments used were: Lamp Black; Chinese White and; Madder. The original board had two eights which, according to the game rules, is not correct. I changed the centre circle to a seven, which is more likely to be correct.
The original is unfinished, but I was expecting the board to see a fair amount of travel and use, so I decided to finish it with an appropriate finish for the period. It was usual to seal a piece with shellac or milk varnish before applying a wax polish; I used a thin coat of modern polyurethane varnish as shellac discolours when it gets wet and I was concerned about spills in tavern brawls .
A beeswax polish was made using beeswax, turpentine and a few drops of linseed oil and was rubbed into the surface of the board. This was repeated a few times until the surface was properly sealed and all cracks were filled.
|Material||Spruce||Kauri Pine/Western Red Cedar|
|Finish||Unknown||Wax over varnish|
Grunfeild, F. V.; Games of the World, Holt, Reinhart and Winston, 1975
Himmelheber, Georg (Ed); Spiele. Gesellschaftspiele aus einem Jahrtausend, Munich 1972 (Katalog des Bayrischen Nationalmuseums, 14)
Jennings, A.S.; Paint and Colour Mixing, 6th Ed. Spon, 1921
Schönes Schach, Nuremberg, 1988 (Catalogue of a joint exhibition by the Bavarian National Museum and the Germanisches Nationalmuseum Nuremberg)