In the introduction to Sedentary Board Games of India, published in May 1999, Irving Finkel stated that the Anthropological Survey of India, in a joint venture with the British Museum, was going to carry out an ‘Anthropological Investigation of the Board Games of India’ (subsequently called the ‘Indian Board Game Survey‘).

The importance of India, and south Asia in general, in board gaming terms cannot be overstated – it is the probable origin of chess, and has a rich history of race, hunt, war and mancala games. But while Chess is comprehensively covered in H.J.R. Murray’s monumental History of Chess there is remarkably little research available in western languages on the other games. A number of articles were published in journals over the years, were referred to by Murray in his 1952 History of Board Games other than Chess, and were subsequently republished in Sedentary Board Games of India (1999).

At the 2001 Board Games Studies Colloquium Dr Finkel presented a preliminary report on the Indian Board Game Survey – though nothing subsequently appeared in the journal Board Games Studies.

Subsequent colloquia touched on the Indian contribution to gaming, but still nothing much appeared in print:

Board games from the city of Vijayanagara (Hampi) (1336-1565). A survey and study, by R.Vasantha
Folk board games of strategy in Tamilnadu, by V. Balambal
A contribution to the history of Backgammon from an indological point of view, by Micaela Soar and Irving Finkel

An inquiry into the earliest game boards, pieces, dice from India, by R.Vasantha
Special features of some traditional board games of Tamilnadu, by V. Balambal

The arrival and spread of pachisi from India, by Irving Finkel

Revival of traditional board games — prospects and retrospects, by V. Balambal

Bondage of Indians with Board Games from Ancient to Modern Times, by V.Balambal
The Game of Chaupad in India, by Ute Rettberg

A very early counting system in traditional Indian games and some implications, by Irving Finkel

Ancient Board Games in Perspective edited by Dr Finkel and published in 2007 added some extra information on India in the history of backgammon, and India and the Far East Game boards at Vijayanagara, but given its focus on games in the past it had nothing very much to say about the more recent gaming traditions of India.

Currently the web site of the British Museum, where Dr Finkel is Assistant Keeper of Ancient Mesopotamian script, languages and cultures, and which will publish the Indian Board Game Survey, states that it is a ‘major report in preparation‘.

Game historians, enthusiasts and anthropologists are by nature probably very patient people, but this month marks the eleventh anniversary of the first mention of the Indian Board Game Survey in Sedentary Board Games of India, and the ninth anniversary of Dr Finkel’s preliminary report. Does anybody know whether the final report going to be published any time soon?


The updated programme for the 13th Board Games Studies Colloquium has been circulated. The colloquium, which will take place this year in Paris from 14 – 17 April, brings together researchers, writers and experts on various aspects of board games.

The Programme includes:

Wednesday 14 April, morning session

Jean-Marie Lhôte (invited speaker), Opening Lecture: Mathematical Games in History
Jorge Nuno Silva, “George Berkeley’s Ludus Algebraicus”
Alda Carvalho, João P. Neto, Carlos Santos, Jorge Nuno Silva, “History of Nim Games”

Wednesday 14 April, afternoon session

Ancient and Medieval Archaeology

Anne-Elizabeth Vaturi, “Fragments of a game of 58 Holes among the Pratt ivories in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York)”
Claudia-Maria Behling, “Games involving nuts as a topos for childhood in Late Antiquity and pre-Christian time”
Marko Jankovic, “Board game accessories in Roman graves of Moesia Superior (more or less present Serbia)”
Mark A. Hall & Katherine Forsyth, “On the compatibility of Gaelic ‘Fidcheall’ and its P–Celtic cognates with the Roman introduction of Tafl-like games to the British Isles”
Mark A. Hall, “Black to move: a look at some jet chess pieces from Britain”
Ulrich Schädler, “Le plateau de jeu d’Autun : romain ou Renaissance ?”

Thursday 15 April, morning session

Maths, Computers & Games

Tristan Cazenave, Abdallah Saffidine, “Monte-Carlo Hex”
Tristan Cazenave, Nicolas Jouandeau, “Towards deadlock free Sokoban”
Jean Mehat, Tristan Cazenave, “Ary, a general game playing program”
Olivier Teytaud, “The Game of Go: recent progress for an old game”
Fabien Teytaud, “The Game of Havannah: nice challenge for computers”

Thursday 15 April, afternoon session

20th-Century Archaeology

Michel Boutin, “Circulation des jeux de pions entre éditeurs français et étrangers autour de 1900 : brevets, marques, plagiats…”
Edward Copisarow, “Chronologies using British 19th-century Intellectual Property records: Ludo, Agon and Reversi”
Gadi Kfir, “Hunting for Board Games in Poland”
Fred Horn, “Lost treasures: hidden gems of abstract/strategic board games within the pages of Games & Puzzles nos 1-77 (1972-80)”
Tom Werneck, “The impact of the Award ‘Spiel des Jahres’ on the Development of the Market for Board Games in Germany”

Friday 16 April, morning session

Games in History

Arie van der Stoep, “Footsteps of the past” (On alquerque and draughts)
David H. Caldwell & Mark A. Hall, “What do we really know about the Lewis chessmen?”
Phil Winkelman, “A∂ elta stelpur: an Icelandic chimera”
Thierry Depaulis, “Three early 17th-century printed board games by the Veuve Petit in Paris”
Phillippa Plock & Adrian Seville, “The Rothschild Collection of printed board games at Waddesdon Manor”
Bruce Whitehill, “‘The Game of Life’, Milton Bradley’s first game, 1860”

Friday 16 April, afternoon session

Visits of the Louvre (Oriental and Egyptian Antiquities) and of the Cabinet des Médailles (BnF) (“Charlemagne” chesspieces, various unpublished small objects – dice, gamepieces, counters, tesserae – from the Froehner Collection)

Friday 16 April, evening

Official dinner at the “Au Moulin Vert” Restaurant, 34bis rue des Plantes, 75014 Paris

Saturday 17 April, morning session

Traditional Games

Dr. V. Balambal, “Kallankai, a traditional stone-catching game”
Alex de Voogt, “The archaeology and anthropology of Syrian mancala”
Peter Michaelsen, “Haretavl – hare and hounds as a board game”
Thorsten Traulsen, “Some historical issues of the Korean Yut game”
Irving Finkel, “A very early counting system in traditional Indian games and some implications”
Piotr Adamczyk, “Short history of board games in Poland (from around 1st cent. A.D. till 17th cent.)”

Saturday 17 April, afternoon session

Games in Theory and in Practice

Michel Quenault, Tristan Cazenave, “General gaming: une classification des jeux basée sur les mécanismes possibles de l’arbitre pour une généricité des jeux plus étendue”
David Parlett, “Abstraction and representation in games”
Manouk Borzakian, “Pistes pour une approche géographique des jeux de plateau”
Michele B. King, “From gangsta’ to gamester: an entertainment-education strategy for a school-based gang prevention program”
Michel Van Langendonckt, “Vers une typologie des interactions sociales dans les jeux de pions”
Dores Ferreira, Pedro Palhares, Jorge Nuno Silva, “The ability to play games and its connection with pattern recognition”
Carlota Dias, Jorge Nuno Silva, Pedro Palhares, “Mathematical Games for the Blind”

As usual, it is a full and fascinating agenda, and includes many presentations that I would love to see. It used to be the case that the Board Games Studies Journal published the more important of the papers presented at the related colloquia, but since the journal seems to be in hibernation (since 2004) it is by no means certain that the general public will be able to access the research. This is a great pity, because many of the papers presented at previous colloquia remain unpublished to this day. For those of us who do not attend the colloquia it is frustrating to know that there is so much good and interesting research out there, but to have no way to access it.

The journal Board Games Studiesis an academic journal for historical and systematic research on board games. Its object is to provide a forum for board games research from all academic disciplines in order to further our understanding of the development and distribution of board games within an interdisciplinary academic context“.

It has appeared (so far) seven times between 1998 and 2004, and has contained a wealth of well-researched and fascinating articles on a wide variety of subjects connected to board games.

It is, however, relatively expensive – €24 per issue, or €168 for the complete set of seven volumes. 

It is with some surprise, therefore, that I discovered that it is now possible to download issues 1, 2 and 3 directly from the BGS website:

What is not announced on the BGS website, though, is that issues 4, 5 and 6 can also be downloaded, simply by stepping back through the levels of the URL until you get to ‘’ and then following the /aux/ directory; thus giving:

Only issue 7 remains out of reach. But then it was never really the best issue anyway.