Tag Archives: mantra

‘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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failure isn’t an option; it’s inevitable

This, right here. I need to embrace this, internalize it. You do, too, if you haven’t already.

“Every failure is an opportunity for betterment. Every failure is another chance to get it right. Don’t give these away out of fear or shyness. Fail faster, because failing is how we get it right.”

Fail faster.

Adding this to my list of mantras.

feedback on feedback: your play testers and you.

My designer buddy, Kevin Nunn, is exploring the different ways we game designers utilize play tester feedback. That series of articles has sparked an interesting discussion in the comments and is worth reading.

“Give me problems, not solutions.”

So said our mutual friend. He’s interested in a play tester’s gut response to his game, to help pinpoint elements of the design that aren’t working as intended or which cause un-fun moments in play. His job as a designer, as he sees it, is to analyze those faults and propose solutions to them to achieve the play experience he’s looking for.

Kevin has a somewhat different philosophy of utilizing play tester feedback. He sees the designer’s role in play testing as a winnower. Kevin listens to everything his play testers have to say and sifts through the inevitable chaff to glean the fat kernels of insight that will inform his future design choices.

Our mutual friend’s mantra struck me as something of a revelation: I’d never imagined so direct an approach to play tester feedback. “Give me problems, not solutions.”

so many solutions

Considering the argument from a data analysis perspective, if a dozen play testers offer a dozen solutions to a single problem, the useful data is the problem, not the solutions. 

Food for thought.

Drama is anticipation mingled with uncertainty.

― William Archer

A quote from a Turn of the Twentieth Century dramatist and theater critic I keep in mind when I want to create a sense of drama in my games. Anticipation and Uncertainty. It’s a mantra.


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