(Jean-Marie Lhôte, "Histoire des Jeux de Société" Paris, Flammarion, 1994 pp. 536-537)
LUDUS REGULARIS SEU CLERICALIS
Game of chance pure|
France, Xth century
Author: Wibold, Bishop of Cambrai
Known by a chronicle of the XIth century, Chronicon Camaracense et Atrebatense (Chronicle of Arras and of Cambrai), written by Balderic – or Baudry – of Thérouane, cantor in the Cathedral of this city which was a episcopal seat of the Pas-de-Calais from the VIth century.|
The object of the game is the edification of clerics.
The game is practiced with three dice. We know that it is thus possible to obtain 56 combinations. These combinations are each noted before a virtue. Moreover, the addition of the points in question gives a number which is indicated following. It goes from 3 for Charity (I + I + I) to 18 for Humility (VI + VI + VI).
Wibold begins by enumerating fifty-six virtues:
*Hilarity, that is to say “good humor”.
ORDER OF PLAY
Wibold suggests associating the virtues of which the sum of the accompanying numbers give 21 (21 is the number of combinations which it is possible to obtain with two dice). These are the “unions of virtues”. For example:
Charity and Humility are united for 3+18=21
The numbers 3 and 18 permit 1 union.
So a total twenty-eight unions are possible.
SIMPLIFIED RULE WITH ORDINARY DICE
Each player rolls one die three times in a row or three dice one time. The three points visible to him indicate the corresponding virtue. If this virtue has not yet been drawn, he obtains it. If this virtue is already taken, he passes the turn. The fifty-six virtues are in this way drawn by lot.
DRAWING WITH DICE MARKED WITH LETTERS
Each face of a cubic die is marked with one or more vowels which represent the points of the die: one face with one vowel, one face with two vowels, one face with three, etc. There are three dice and the faces of the unity are marked with different vowels as the beginning of the series.
It seems that drawing lots with vowels and consonants must have been tedious because because Wibold takes care to add a drastic simplification: “One can also use this game in a way more convenient and agreeable to some people: one throws only three dice, the sum of the score is calculated with no attention paid to the particular character of each letter; the player will then possess all the virtues corresponding to the virtues taken.”
SANCTIONS OF THE GAME
The word “sanction” is taken in the ancient meaning of the word, that of a “religious precept.” Wibold’s ambition is to allow clerics to play a game of chance, which is usually forbidden to them. Playing this dice game, the clerics must moreover earn virtues which they inherit.
MEDITATION ON THE NUMBERS AND LETTERS
In an accessory way, Wibold give some indications on an elementary symbolism of numbers: the Trinity, the Seven Gifts of Grace, the Decalogue, etc. These considerations do not intervene in the game proper.
THE GAME AS A FORERUNNER
This games deserves great attention because the procedure anticipates the “Book of the Pastime of the Fortune of the Dice” by Laurent L’Esprit (1474). It appears as an ancient example of betting games with three dice and utilizes a numeric structure – 21 and 56 – later present in tarots. Moreover, we find in it a forerunner of the joker, when a privileged consonant can replace all the others.
(translated by Ross Caldwell)