Tag Archives: ancient rome

‘Let the Snorter Be Covered in Soot’: Ancient Board Game Inscriptions

‘to hunt, to bath, to play, to laugh — This is to live!’

Insightful article on the what the peripheral writings on ancient game boards can tell us about the people who played with them.

What will future generations learn from the games in your collection? Do you embellish your games or will they pass into history with no trace of their owners? Will Legacy-style games prove to be the greatest future window into the lives of board gamers of today?

I’ve got a game set in Ancient Rome coming out at Essen this year. I’m going to see if we can add some fun “inscriptions” to the game board artwork as a playful call back to these historical game players.

Be sure to click through and read the full article:

History From Below

☩ μὴ θεόμαχος νήων. ☩

☩ ἀσβολόθη ὁ ῥονχάζων. ☩

Let the snorter / be covered in soot!

[MAMA X, 330=PH 269278]

Games of chance are never a silent endeavor; however, Romans found it rather uncouth to snort when Fortune was not on your side. A civil person kept their nose silent. There is a strong auditory component to board and card games even today (think about your own favorite cuss words or perhaps a nicely placed ‘yo mama’ joke), just as there was in antiquity. An inscription from late antique Phrygia (4th-5th c. CE) in fact gives us some idea of the insults hurled in the late ancient world. On the edges of a game board adorned with crosses, no less, we have the insult: ‘μὴ θεόμαχος νήων’ (for ναίων), ἀσβολόθη (should be ἠσβολώθη) ὁ ῥονχάζων–essentially, let the snorter go straight to hell. Clearly the crosses were there for protection and luck, and not as a show…

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a cool coin-cidence


This is an image of a “remarkably rare” gold coin from very short reign of the Roman Emperor Otho, who ruled for only three months in the year 69.

It is part of a collection of  Ancient Roman and Greek coins recently re-discovered in the Library of the University at Buffalo.

As my dear readers already know, I’m putting the finishing touches on a game called LXIX: The Year of Four Emperors. For those of you who don’t know, LXIX is 69 in Roman numerals. Otho is one of the titular Four Emperors in my game!

It gives me a real thrill to see this tiny piece of history surface while I’m working on a game about the very period in which it was minted. Just imagine! A Roman general seizes the throne in one of Rome’s most turbulent years, but only manages to hold onto power for three months before sacrificing his own life to save Rome from a terrible civil war.

Yet this tiny coin, minted in the brief time Otho ruled as emperor, survived for more than nineteen centuries to end up tucked away in a case, deep in the archives of a library in Buffalo, New York, hidden away and forgotten until a curious assistant professor of classics chased down a rumor and brought it to light. Wow!

Just seeing his noble face peering out from the centuries gives me chills.

#crowdsourcing redux: re-naming Roma returns!


“Behold, I found Rome of clay, and leave her to you of marble.” – Augustus’ last words to the people of Rome.

On Friday, I asked for your help in re-naming my game Roma for publication and you delivered with loads of great feedback and suggestions!

I’ve been working with my publisher to review the responses and winnow the suggestions down to a manageable set. We’re still looking for the perfect name and I think we’ve got some good ones here.

Here’s a summary of the game’s setting and a quick overview:

The reign of Augustus, Founder of the Roman Empire and its first Emperor brought many changes to Rome. With Augustus came an era of relative peace called the Pax Romana, which lasted for more than two centuries. During his more than forty-year reign, Augustus reformed the Roman tax system, developed networks of roads with an official courier system, established a standing army and the Praetorian Guard, created official police and fire-fighting services for Rome and rebuilt much of the great city.

In the game, the players take on the roles of powerful Magistrates, wielding influence and power to direct the reconstruction efforts. The city is rebuilt neighborhood by neighborhood with rhombus-shaped tiles. Great civic buildings are constructed at the intersections of these neighborhood tiles, while aqueducts and fountains deliver water and beautify the city. Players must plan ahead when developing neighborhoods, to ensure their influence is greatest, for their power of influence increases with each civic building completed in their neighborhoods. Players earn points by constructing civic buildings and ensuring access to water and views of fountains. 

I’ve added a new poll with the list of names we like. We’d love to get your input on them. Please take a look and vote on your favorite. Comments are welcome and appreciated!

#crowdsourcing: help me re-name a game!

A 1684 depiction of Vitruvius (right) presenting De Architectura to Augustus

“Behold, I found Rome of clay, and leave her to you of marble.” – Augustus’ last words to the people of Rome.

I’m looking for a new name for my game Roma (formerly Rhome). Roma is a fine name, but it has been used recently for a couple of other games and I don’t want to conflict with them.

Roma is set in Ancient Rome, during the reign of Augustus. Players take turns placing tiles on the board, competing to build the most glorious buildings and leave a lasting legacy.

Augustus has been used very recently for a game, but I think City of Marble would be a fitting name, evocative of the emperor’s famous line.

Architectus Romanus gives you a pretty good idea of what’s going on in the game.

Vitruvius was Augustus’ architect, and his De Architectura is the classical text on Roman architecture.


I’d love to hear your reactions and suggestions. Got a great idea for a name? Let me know! I’m looking for suggestions that are catchy, easy to say and easy to remember. If I use your suggestion, I’ll send you a copy of the game when it’s printed!

edit: Update! See the latest update and a new poll here.


A while back, I read this article about a hill-fort on the edge of a weakening Roman Empire in Britain; an important architectural find, emblematic of the turbulence of the era. In it, I came across a lovely phrase in their translation of a Latin inscription on the famous Vettweiss-Froitzheim Dice Tower.

Vettweiss-Froitzheim Dice Tower. Roman, fourth century AD. (Rheinisches Landesmuseum Bonn). Image: Wikimedia

PICTOS VICTOS – HOSTIS DELETA – LVDITE SECVRI, which they translate as, “The Picts defeated – the enemy wiped out – play without fear”

Lvdite Secvri – Play Without Fear. In the context of a dying empire harried by enemy invaders, it has a powerful implication.

Ludite Securi – Play Without Fear. It could be a motto for our Ludic Century, as well. It should resonate for all advocates of play. I know it resonates for me.


post adapted from earlier tweets