Published January 22, 2020 | Version v1
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Pente Grammai - Rekonstruktion, Neugestaltung und Testung eines antiken Brettspiels

  • 1. University of applied arts Vienna



An empirical study on the rules, design and acceptance of an ancient board
game ("Pente Grammai"), starting from the reconstruction and redesign of the
game. Tests at Viennese elementary schools will contribute to answering the
question of what (for whom) constitutes a "good game".

Based on the game theoretical approaches of Roger Caillois, the project "Locus Ludi" - a cooperation between the Institute of Classical Archaeology at the University of
Fribourg and the Department of Cultural Studies at the University of Applied Arts
Vienna - poses the question of the criteria of "good (board)games".

The study of Pente Grammai is guided by several questions that use the game as culturalhistorical

- Can games be used as a cultural-historical source or to what extent can
games be reconstructed in their rules from fragmentary sources?
(Cultural-historical aspect)

- What influence do different narratives and rule systems have on the success
of a game, i.e. on the preference for a particular game variant?
(narratological-ludical aspect)

- Are there age-, gender- and stratum-specific differences in the preference of
game variants?
(cultural-sociological aspect)

Based on findings and theses from archaeological research and ancient sources, the
"Five Line Game" (Pente Grammai)

a) was first reconstructed in its possible rules in cooperation with
archaeologists and game researchers,

b) redesigned in several versions (two different rule systems [beating/nonbeating]
and two narratives [travel/hunting] were created) and

c) tested in an empirical survey with a population of 184 children aged six to
eleven years from different social milieus, as well as a comparison group of 25
adults, in order to determine the preferences of the gamblers.

The surveys provide information about the preferences of rules and narratives in
games and the relationship between the two. For the first time, differences in
preferences and their argumentation according to gender, age and social context
could be identified. Some assumptions were confirmed, but others turned out to be
prejudices in the sense of typical gender-specific and social stereotypes in the
concrete survey. Finally, the study shows by means of the reconstruction, redesign
and testing of an ancient board game that games are still an underestimated subject
of cultural and social science research.


This research is part of the project Locus Ludi. The Cultural Fabric of Ancient Play and Games, funded by the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement # 741520)



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Locus Ludi – Locus Ludi: The Cultural Fabric of Play and Games in Classical Antiquity 741520
European Commission