This little article is about fictional games in epic fantasy books. How to play them and how they are connected to the fictional universe they are from, or that is the goal. Most of the games are purely fictional and the books are lacking in how to play them, but most of them give some descriptions on how it is played. Whats more is thats some of the fictional games has become real games later with he cooperation of the authors of these games, while others have become real by fans creating their own interpretation of the rules. I don`t now why so many epic fantasy books have their own fictional games that are such a big part of their universe. Maybe it`s because so many fans of this genre are also fans of games, I know I am, or it might be just that the authors are big fans of games. Fictional games are usually a big part of the world they are set in and being skilled in the game usually means that you are skilled in some real world matters too. It might help them to understand magic and become a better magician or it might help you with battle strategies and political maneuvering. The following list of fictional games are from books that I have read and the rules are mainly taken from the books. However, they are also taken from real world variants of the games if they exists.
Codex AleraCodex Alera is an epic fantasy series by Jim Butcher, the great author of The Dresden Files. The books follow Tavi from boyhood to adulthood. In this great coming of age epic fantasy story every person living in Alera has some degree of control over elemental forces or spirits called furies, except for Tavi. Ambassador Varg, who is a human-wolf-like species called canim, plays the fictional game Ludos with Tavi. He compliments Tavi on his playing style and helps him become better. Tavi transfer this knowledge to certain real life problems. You can find more books similar to Codex Alera in this post.
LudusLudus is a popular well-known chess like game. It is played on both continents by both Alerans and Canim. Ludus might be derived from the roman game Ludus latrunculorum. The rules below are true to the books, but also some fan made additions are added. Full description of the fan made rules can be found here and here. The books do not go into details like how each piece moves or what if any fury craft they have and other specifics like that. Those additions are fan made.
Ludus take part on two game boards. One is a 5x5 board called the sky board and the other is a 11x11 board called the ground board. The sky board is supposed to be visualized as being directly above the ground board and the black and white squares on the sky board is meant to be above/linked to the corresponding squares on the ground board. Pieces can capture each other by two means. One is to move into the other piece like in chess, and the other is fury crafting where the piece keeps standing on its original position. Some pieces can move only on the ground board while others can also move on the sky board. The pieces in Ludos are:
- Can only move one square at the time, like a chess king, and they can only move on the ground board.
- Moves like the legionaries, but they can move onto the sky board.
- Moves like the legionaries, but they ca fury craft one space to any direction. This means that they can capture any piece next to them without moving into that square. After fury crafting knights cannot move or capture for a single turn. Knights cannot move onto the air board, but they can capture enemy pieces on it with fury craft if they stand on the corresponding square on the ground board.
- High Lords
- Has the same capabilities as knights and steadholders. They have fury crafting and they can fly.
- First lord
- Can move on both ground board and sky board and can fury craft in a two squares radius. After fury crafting it cannot move or capture for two turns.
The Bowl of SoulsThe Bowl of Souls is an amazing book series by a self published author. The books follow Justan, the son of a famous warrior and living next to a prestigious battle academy. His one wish in the world is to be accepted in the academy and become a warrior, but he is truly terrible at it. He is week and cannot fight, his only warrior skill are tactics and strategy. The Bowl of Souls has two main games that are played, or on game with two variations to play it, and they are not fictional games. They were created by the author's father long before the books were created, so you can play the same game as they play in the books. The games are Elements and Unity and they use the universal card deck.
You can get the Universal Card deck from the authors website, and all the details around the rules to play Elements and Unity can also be found on his site. Check it out if you want to play the game. Elements and Unity are Trick taking card games with trumps and bidding where players compete to collect tricks.
ElementsElements is a two to six player game where each player competes against the rest. The students at the Magic academy starts with playing Elements against each other. This is done to teach them about the different elements of magic and their runic symbols. Air = Gold = the crescent rune. Water = Blue = the circle rune. Fire = Red = the triangle rune. Earth = Black = the square rune. Each player is dealt 8 cards the first hand, then 7 cards for the second-hand, and so on down to a hand with only one card for each player. The sequence is then reversed up to eight cards in the last hand. Then the player with most points is the winner. If there is a tie then the game will keep going with he same sequence as before until the tie is broken. The trump suit is the suit of the card that the dealer turns around from the deck after the hands are dealt. The universal cards are also trump cards. Tricks are taken by the player that plays the highest card. Players must play a card with he same suit as the first card in the round, unless they are empty, then they can play whatever they like. If a trump card is played, then the player with the highest trump takes the trick. Each player declares bids on how many tricks he will take that round, the dealer bids last. When it is the dealers turn he has to bid a number that will not make all the bids equal the number of possible bids. This is done to make sure that at least one player dos not make his bid. To get any point the players has to take exactly the same number of tricks as their bid. If they do not make their bid they will get zero points, and if they make their bids they will get ten points plus the number they bid.
UnityInitially the students dos not know about the more advance game Unity. They have to play Elements enough to get a deeper understanding to be able to answer a specific question, only then are they introduced to the game of Unity. Unity mainly differ from Elements by being a team game. Players team up and play against each other, manly four players in two versus two games, however some special rules for other numbers of players exists. In Unity all cards are dealt to the players, except the last two. One of the last two cards is turned and it becomes the trump. The bids for each set of partners are added together and the two players work together to obtain their total bids. To get points the players has to get at least as many tricks as their bid, if not they will get negative points. They get ten points per trick they gets within their bid and one point for each extra trick. If they bid five and get seven they will get 52 points. If they had only gotten four tricks they would have lost 50 points. If a player on a team bids zero the team will get 100 extra points if that player dos not get any tricks, but if he gets any tricks they will lose 100 points. It is also possible to make a blind zero bid if the team is more than 200 points behind. This bid is worth 200 points but it has to be made without looking at the cards. The winner is the team first getting to 500 points.
The Sorcery Ascendant SequenceThe sorcery Ascendant Sequence follows Caldan. He is an orphan raised by monks at a well-known monastery that teaches rich people's children. Caldan has been taught arcane sorcery and some swordsmanship by the monks that raised him. He loves living there but one day an accident forces him to leave. Caldan is an excellent player of the fictional game Dominion, which is a poplar game all over the known world in The Sorcery Ascendant Sequence. There are special gambling establishments where people play or watch others play while huge amounts of ducats are bet on who will win. Dominion is mentioned multiple times during the books and many games of it is played.
DominionDominion is a turn-based strategy game played on three boards separated in different tiers. Some of the game sets in the books are very large, the largest is 20 paces on each side for each of the boards. A couple of the larger, non portable, sets also mentions the board placements in a way that it looks like they are placed above each other. The biggest set have special ladders to reach the top-tier. Whether each tier is equal or different is unsure, tat also goes for how the different tiers are connected. The books talk about game sets where pieces are carved from different types of wood and others where they are carved from different types of stone. At the beginning of the first book a game set that have pieces carved as mythical creatures and stylized humans is also mentioned. This indicates that it probably is different types of pieces that might have different abilities and range of movements. But I did not find anything is the books specifically mentioning anything about that. Pieces can be moved, but it is unclear if they are placed before the game starts or if they are placed on the boards during the game. Pieces can both be captured and turned. If they are turned then the other player can use them. How they are captured and turned is not mentioned. Pieces can also move between the different boards, but how this is done is not mentioned. Before the players starts taking turns they have to share their first seven moves with each other. This is done to simulate the beginning of a battle where you have no knowledge of the enemies strategy. The rest of the game is played by each player taking turns moving one piece at the time, with one exception. Each player is granted five extra moves at the beginning of the game which they can use whenever they want during the game, as long as it is their turn. These extra moves are typically used to execute aggressive or defensive strategies. The books mention that Dominion is divided into three phases. What this means is unclear. Is it just a vague division of opening, mid-game and late game, or is it a more clear division with specific borders and different game-play for each phases. The books do not mention anything about this. But I will hazard a guess and say it is the first. Multiple differing strategies are mentioned in the books. Some strategies sets up ambushes or traps while others focuses more on general defense or attacks. What, if anything, they defend is not mentioned. Positioning of pieces is and important part of every strategy. How the game is won or lost is not mentioned. It might be a special piece that has to be captured, or the destruction of all the enemies pieces, or it might be something all together different.
Wheel of TimeWheel of time is probably the second most widely spread epic fantasy book series there is. It has some excellent books and a few not so excellent ones, but on the whole it`s a long and good book series. Wheel of time follows three main characters, Rand, Perrin, and Matrim, on a 14 books long and over 10,000 pages long journey. A few different fictional games are mentioned in the books, Sha`rah, Stones, and Snakes and Foxes being some of them. Check out my earlier post if you want more books similar to Wheel of Time.
Sha'rahSha`rah is an ancient game that has been played in the Age of Legends, however it is no longer played. The only knowledge of the game comes from Moridin. He also tells us that there are only nine living people who remember the game, and that is the nine remaining forsaken. The board is 14 x 14 big where the outer layer, or goal layer, is alternating between the color red and green while the inner 13 x 13 layer playing field is black and white. The pieces in the game are 33 red pieces and 33 green pieces and they are placed on the outer red and green border. The central square is occupied by the Fisher King, a black and white piece that has different attributes depending on the color of the square he stands on. He is weak in attack yet agile and far-ranging in escape on white squares and strong in attack but slow and vulnerable on black squares. There are only one Fisher king and the player that last captured it can use it, but only until the other player is able to capture it back. There are three ways to win the game. One is to get the Fisher king on a square of your color on your opponent's side, another is to force your opponent to move the Fisher king on a square of your color, and the last is to annihilate all your opponents pieces. The Thirteenth Depository, a Wheel of Time blog, has a post about Sha`rah with a fuller description of the game and how it might be played. The rules of the game has not bean described fully, but The Thirteenth Depository mentions that it have similarities to Tafl games, like hnefatafl.
StonesStones is the most popular board game played in the Wheel of Time universe, and it is considered a gentleman's game and is valued by both generals and rulers. It has been played since the Age of Legends, if not longer. Moridin mentions that its original name from before the Breaking was no'ri. Stones is a two-player game with flat rounded stones that are either black or white. Each turn the player place one stone on a board with an interconnected grid of lines. Stones can only be placed and not moved. The goal of the game is to capture as many of the enemies stones as possible. This all sound very familiar to the game of Go.
The Thirteenth Depository, a Wheel of Time blog has a post with a deeper analysis of the game rules. Their conclusion is that Stones is very similar to Go, but it has some small differences.
Snakes and FoxesSnakes and Foxes is a children's game that cannot be won without breaking the rules. Almost every child in the Wheel of Time universe enjoys the game until they realize this. The game should always begin by tracing a symbol of a triangle with a wavy line drawn through it in the air and recite the rhyme; "Courage to strengthen, fire to blind, music to dazzle, iron to bind." Historians in the Wheel of Time universe believes that this game was originally created as a metaphor on how to deal with the Aelfinn and Eelfinn.
The game is played on a board with a web-like playing area, with arrows pointing which way its possible to move around the web. Some paths are one-way, others are two-way. There are ten snake pieces that are marked with a wavy line on a pale disc and ten fox pieces marked with a triangle on a disc. The fox and snake pieces are stacked at the corners of the board. Two black discs representing the human players are placed at the center of the web, and the goal of the game is to move the human pieces to the edge of the web and back without being touched by any of the snake or fox pieces. All movement of the pieces are directed by dice rolls. Player pieces are moved to keep as much distance from the snakes and foxes as possible and the foxes and snakes are moved towards the human pieces in as direct a manner as possible.
The Cycle of ArawnThe Cycle of Arawn follows Dante and Blays. Dante wants to become a powerful nethermancer and is willing to do anything to reach his goal, while Blays is a bodyguard and wants to become better at it. In some parts of the books the fictional game Nulladoon is mentioned. It`s a complicated game that Dante has to become good at.
NulladoonNulladoon is played all over the Norren territories and all the Norren poeple plays it. Instead of money they bet nulla. Nulla is favor or an IOU. It's whatever the Norren making the promise is famous for. Some examples are healing, silversmithing or arrow point crafting. The following description is far from playable and is directly from the descriptions in the books. In the books Nulladoom is mentioned to have similarities to chess, dice, hearts and plock (whatever that is). It consists of three distinct types of game plays. The main part is a tile bared board game where the main part of the game is played with pieced combating each other, while the other two parts are a card based game and an argumentation based game play that affects the main game. Nulladoon has a game board and a set of square tiles that are placed on the board to make a unique game board. These tiles can be set in classical map arrangements or be placed free-form with he players taking turns placing each tile. Each tile affects the different pieces in different ways.
- Can be arranged in lakes or river formations. Some units can attack over it while others can not.
- Can be used as a defensive position. Units on them probably attack harder and take less damage.
- Archers can attack over water tiles
- Hit and run tactics are possible
- Ice drake
- Is it the same as drakes?
- Norren Swordsmen
- Is this the same as the swordsman piece or are they two different pieces?
- Is this the same as the Norren Swordsmen piece, or are they different?
- Might not be able to attack over water tiles
- Skirmish type of piece.
- Bear Cavalry
The Kingkiller ChronicleThe Kingkiller Chronicle follows Kvothe. His parents were Edema Ruh leaders, a nomadic group of entertainers. This has given Kvothe a skill set in music, acting, memorization, storytelling and sleight of hand. later he also learns real magic from the academy and swordsmanship. The Kingkiller Chronicles created a few diferent fictional games that are played most places in its universe. What is interesting is that some of these games started as fictional games but now they have in cooperation with Patrick Rothfuss become real playable games. Check out this article for more books similar to The kingkiller Chronicle.
PairsPairs exists in one variation or another throughout the civilized world, from Vintas and the Commonwealth to the farthest corners of the small kingdoms. Pairs is a simple press-your-luck card game that is fast, simple, portable and easy to bet on.
Pairs is a real game for two to eight players and it features a deck of cards that has the numbers 1 through 10. Each card has different numbers which are 1x1, 2x2, 3x3, and so on, up to 10x10. In the basic variation of the game there is no winner, there are only one looser. The betting is usually done by forcing the looser to do something stupid or paying for the next round of beer. Pairs are produced by Cheapass Games and they have a pdf with details description of the basic rules and a bunch of other variations on the game. The Kingkiller wikia page also has much information about the game and the different decks that belong tho The Kingkiller universe. They currently sell three different decks that are set in the Kingkiller universe. The Commonwealth deck, the Fen Deck and the Modegan Deck. Each deck can play the standard Pairs game, but they also has some variations of the game that are unique to them self.
The game starts by shuffling the deck and discarding the five first cards, this has to be done each time the deck is reshuffled. The reason for discarding the top five cards is to make it harder to count cards. The round starts by dealing one card face up to each player and the player with the lowest card starts. The dealer keeps dealing a card to each player face up, but before a player gets a card he has two options. He can hit (take a card) or he can fold. If he folds or gets a pair the round ends. If he got a pair he gets as many points as the card has. If he folded he can pick the lowest card in play from any player and get those points. the game ends when one player reach the target score. That player looses. The target score is calculated by 60 divided on number of players and plus one to that.
TakTak is an abstract strategy game for two players. Kvothe is first introduced to Tak by Bredon in Vintas. According to Bredon, the objective of Tak is not to win, but to play a beautiful game. The books do not describe much about the specific rules about the game, but the game are under development with he help of Patrick Rothfuss himself. The rules as of now is only in a beta stage, and they can be found at Cheapaas Games and the pdf is here. If you want a more complete description of the rules than what is described below, then check out the pdf.
The game board is divided into squares, similar to chess. The board can be any size, but is usually 4x4 (beginner), 5x5 or 6x6 (standard) or up to 8x8 (advanced). Pieces can only be connected horizontally and vertically, they cannot be connected diagonally. The game pieces are normal stones and capital stones, but the number depends on the board size. Stones:
- Normal stone
- Flatt stones. They can laid flat or placed on the end. If they are flat then they are called flat stones and other stones can be stacked on top of them. If they are placed on the end they are called standing stones or walls and no other stones can be stacked on top of them.
- Capital stone
- Capital stones, also called capstones, comes in many decorative shapes. They are always played upright and nothing can be stacked on top of them. A capital stone moving by itself, not with a stack of stones under it, can flatten a standing stone if it moves on top of it.
- 4 x 4
- 15 stones and 0 capital stones
- 5 x 5
- 20 stones and 1 capital stone
- 6 x 6
- 30 stones and 1 capital stone
- 7 x 7
- 40 stones and 1 or 2 capital stones
- 8 x 8
- 50 stones and 2 capital stones
CornersCorners is a popular trick taking card game among the students. It requires four players and is played two against two. Corners are describes as a two vs two player card game where the players compete to get the most tricks. The game also has trump cards and ranks the Jack as the most valuable card. Patrick Rothfuss has stated that Corners is very similar to Euchre, which is also supported by the above mentioned descriptions from the books. If Corners are the same game as Euchre the you can check out the rules for Corners in this youtube video on how to play Euchre.
The Farseer TrilogyThe Farseer Trilogy is a coming of age story about the orphan Fitz. He lives in a castle in the duchy Buck, that's where the king of the Six Duchies. He starts out living in the stable as a stable boy but later he is brought in to be trained as an assassin because of his lineage. Check out this post if you want to read more books like The Farseer Trilogy.
StoneStones is an abstract strategy games that are at least based on Go and Fox and Hounds, and it draws inspiration from other games as well. that tidbit of information comes directly from the horse's mouth. Stones are not made to a real playable game, not even Robin Hobb her self dos not know all the rules to the game. She admits as much on her websites FAQ page.
I love games. The Stone Game described in The Farseer Trilogy intrigues me. Can you give me the rules for it? Unfortunately, no, I can't. The Stone Game is imaginary, a game concept based loosely on Go, Fox and Hounds, and several other old games. I never created a specific set of rules for it, though if I close my eyes, I can see the game cloth in my mind and I know the sort of strategies that I'd want it to have. Someday, when I'm old and retired to a nursing home and have lots of time to myself, I plan to work out all the rules for it. Unfortunately, by that time everyone will consider me a bit barmy and I probably won't be allowed to have pencils.When Kettle gives Fitz the Stones problems to solve it is always implied that the game can be won with a move, so how the game ends is different from Go. Nighteyes is a natural at playing Stone. He told Fitz that the game has similarities to a wolf's hunting game, which he nows all about. Some other fact known about the game is that the players pick a random stone from a purse each turn to be placed on the game board, and that there is three colors for the stones; black, white and red. Black stones are most powerful, read is in the middle and white is the weakest. More powerful stones can kick those of lower power than it self.
A Song of Ice and FireA Son of Ice and Fire might have taken over the place as the second most popular epic fantasy book series from the Wheel of Time because of its supreme quality and the TV show Game of Thrones. The A Song of Ice and Fire universe dos not only have the deadly Game of Thrones, they also have other less deadly games they like to play. Check out this post for more entertainment similar to A Song of Ice and Fire.
CyvasseCyvasse is a game from Old Volantis and is favored by many of the nobles in the books. The game came to Westeros around 299 AC. It come first in Dorne, where a trading galley from Volantis introduced the game. According to George R. R. Martin, Cyvasse was inspired by "a bit of chess, a bit of blitzkrieg, a bit of stratego. Mix well and add imagination.
Check out Gameofcyvasse for detailed and print friendly descriptions of the rules described below. The rules are based on information reviled in the books, but they have been extended to make a playable game. For a more book friendly description check out the Cyvasse on the westeros wiki. The board consists of an 8 by 8, like chess. The board is separated at the start of the game by a screen so each player only can see their half of the board. Each player place their tiles on their half of the board as they see fit. Players then place their unit pieces on the tiles they wish. Once both players have agreed that they are finished the screen is removed.
Tiles are placed on top of the board squares to make a unique board each turn. The tails in this game are:
- Mountains x 6
- Mountains are impassable to all units except Dragons. Dragons roosting on mountain tops can be attacked by ranged units, but ranged units cannot attack units on the other side of a mountain. To prevent mountains from becoming impassable walls only two of them can be placed next to each other.
- Water x 5
- Water stops all units except dragons. Once they enter it that unit can not be moved next turn and must wait until that turn is passed before it moves again. Trebuchets, Catapults, Crossbowmen can not attack while they are in water.
- Forest x 6
- Forest shortens a unit’s maximum range by one upon entering it. If a light horse enters a forest on it’s first move, it may now only move one more space. Dragons cannot attack units that stands on a forest tile.
- Grass x 14
- Fortress x 1
- A unit can only attack a fortress if it is capable of capturing the unit inside. If the unit inside a fortress is taken, it is instead left in play and the fortress is destroyed. The attacking unit is also placed on the last tile in it’s path to the fortress. A destroyed fortress cannot be used like this again. Unoccupied fortress tiles can be occupied by any unit.
- 1 - Rabble
- Move one space
- 2 - Spearman
- Move one space. Cannot be taken by cavalry when defending
- 3 - Crossbowman
- Move one space. Attack one space radius. Can attack Dragons.
- 4 - Light Horse
- move three spaces
- 5 - Heavy Horse
- Move two spaces
- 6 - Elephant
- Move one space
- 7 - Catapult
- Move one space. Attack two space radius. Can attack Dragons
- 8 - Trebuchet
- Move one space. Attack in a three space line is same direction it last moved. Can attack Dragons.
- 9 - Dragon
- Move any number of spaces vertically, horizontally, or diagonally. Can only move in one direction turn. Only blocked by another Dragon. Can roost on mountains. Cannot attack units in forest tiles.
- 10 - King
- Move one space. Captured by any unit.
The rules of Cyvasse is currently not described fully in the books, which means that playable versions of the games has extended the rules to make it work. The rules described above are not the only version of the extended rules that exist, other versions also are made. Chris Design has a slightly different set of rules, he has also created a wooden version of the game. The Thingverse site has another unofficial version of this game with jet again some slight differences in the rules. Google Play even have Cyvasse games in its app store. The youtube video below describe jet another slightly different set of rules for the game.
Harry PotterYes, I know, Harry Potter is not an epic fantasy book series. However, I opted to include the games anyway. They are cool and I like the books, and the movies are just as good in my opinion. Something else that differentiate these fictional games is that they are more closely related to real world games than most of the other games. They are basically muggle games that have been adapted to the wizarding world by adding magic to them. If you love Harry Potter, then check this post out for more like it.
The rules of Wizard Chess are the same as that of the regular chess game that you muggles play. The main difference is that the Wizard Chess pieces are alive and you have to command them to move. If you are not experienced enough the pieces might not listen to your commands, and they might come with their own contradicting and confusing suggestions on what to do. The more you play and the better you know your chessmen the easier it is to get them to do as you order them to do.
They do have a very fine wizard chess on amazon that are a replica, only in regular chess size, of the final challenge chess set as seen in the movie Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. However I am not going to waste money on that before they have some small robot pieces that moves by voice commands. They should also come with some silly advice and complain about suicide orders. I would trow my money after a chess game like that.
Exploding SnapExploding Snap is a wizard version of the muggle game Snap. The main difference being that the wizard version has cards that explodes if you are not good enough. I don't remember if the rules was ever explained in the books, but this wikia page for Exploding Snap has a description of three different version of rules for the game. These rules might have been taken from other places that the books since the Harry Potter universe is spread over many other mediums.
- Classical: When two identical cards are face up the players have to touch it with their wand. The first one to touch i gets a point. The cards shuffles faster and faster as the game goes on.
- Patience: You have twenty cards and you reveal them in pairs. You have to find two identical pictures. Cards explode soon after you reveal them for the first time, unless you find a pair before they explode.
- Bavarian: In this variant, cards are dealt in a circle, with identical cards to those already dealt being placed in the center. The identical cards must be tapped in a limited time frame, or else all the cards will explode.
GobstonesGobstones is a marble like games that is mostly played by wizard children. The main difference between the mundane muggle version of marble and the fancy wizard version of Gobstone is that the special stones in Gobstone spits a foul-smelling liquid on the person that looses a point. According to the wikia page for Gobstones there are four popular version of the game. These rules might not be from the books but from some of the other platforms that the Harry Potter universe exists on.
- Standard: You must capture all fifteen of their opponent's stones before the same is done to them.
- Classic: You have to knock seven Gobstones out of the circle before your opponent.
- Jack Stone: The winner is the one that is closest to the Jack Stone after four snaps.
- Snake Pit: Same as Jack Stone, but with a hole in the center instead of a stone.