game of the goose

Every so often Mr. Peacay of BibliOdyssey exceeds even his high standards, and then one just has to call attention once again to his excellent site. BibliOdyssey is devoted mainly to prints and book illustrations, but for this post on board games he has selected 34 favorites from the British Museum’s Prints Database.It’s a wonderful selection ranging from the 16th through the 20th century.

I’m always partial to late Medieval – Early Renaissance illustrations similar to the one shown above. Well, according to the British Museum, which dates it to the 18th century, this one is actually a fair bit later than that, but to my eye it’s in the style of earlier woodblock illustrations. Peacay describes the board as a “simplistic spiral arrangement of game squares in an anonymous board produced in the 1700s.”

The board was used to play the Game of the Goose, which was the prototype for later racing board games. The game is said to have originated in Italy in the 16th century. You can see on this example several squares containing an illustration of a goose — these entitled the player to advance his or her piece by the amount of the roll of the die (in other words, to double the roll). On square 58 is a skull, which represents death — landing here caused the player to return to start.

In An Eccentric’s Will (Le Testament d’un excentrique, 1899), Jules Verne uses the United States of America as a giant Game of the Goose board, on which seven players race to win a $60,000,000 inheritance.

This is a beautiful, very playable board with great clarity and charm. Please visit BibliOdyssey to see a large and varied range of exceptional Western board games in many styles.