Chapter 3 Game Evolution

December 8, 2016

As a common misconception, Lukboc is nothing like Weiqi (Go), Xiangqi (Chinese chess) or Mahjong. The oldest Weiqi game board discovered today dates back to about 206 B.C. of the late Warring States period. The oldest scriptures describing the rules of Xiangqi and the earliest form of Mahjong named "Yapei" have only appeared during the Song dynasty (960 to 1279 A.D.). Lukboc has its deep root in Taoism. The throwing sticks and dice of Lukboc, the elements of randomness, have fulfilled the public in their beliefs of fortune-telling and superstitions. Back in those days, Lukboc players would conduct fortune-telling activities for themselves and others based on the outcomes of their games. Such tradition has continued in many of the games invented during the Song dynasty period. In between the Han and Tang dynasties, there were many games brought into China by traders and Buddhist pilgrims. Chaupar, Chaturanga, and Backgammon were among some of the most popular games introduced to China. Despite these games have greatly influenced the future game development  in China, the homegrown game of Weiqi has replaced the "randomness" and "luckiness" factors with "tactics" and "mental skills" in games. Using simplified game components and playing mechanics, the strategic complexity of new games like Weiqi and Xiangqi has actually increased in many folds, bringing more enjoyments for the upper classes. Perhaps these new games had the intention to separate strategy games from traditional dice-based games, but the nobles and scholars were actually using them to distance themselves from the gambling mass. Unexpectedly, their new games had quickly spreading to the public and again turning into instruments for gamblers in reaping huge illicit profits from the poor. Consequently, the advent of Weiqi and Xiangqi had the profound effect on the proliferation of gambling games in China during the first millennium.
Amongst all games, Backgammon was the most favorite dice-rolling gambling game played in the imperial palace during the Tang Dynasty. By the time of the early Song dynasty, there were many dice games invented not just for recreational relaxation, but for hardcore gambling purposes, "Chai Xuan" (Lucky Choice), was a fantasy game of using dice outcomes to promote or demote actual government officials; "Da Ma" (Horse Whipping), a crowd gathering horse racing board game that accommodates two to five players using three dice; "Chu Hong" (Off Red),  a game similar to the modern "Liar's Dice" with emphasis on the "Red 4" on the dice; "Xuan Hu Pei" (Tiebreaker Tiles), the predecessor to the popular Chinese "Pai Gow" game; "Xiang Xie" (Sandal Clacker), a dice-based war game based on the Chinese warring states of Wu and Yue during 500 B.C.; "Ya Pei" (Elegant Tiles),  a tile game made of wood and ivory which resembled some of the present-day Mahjong tiles; "Guan Por" (Coin Toss), the most popular form of gambling used for the exchanges of goods and services between buyer and seller of which a deal would be finalized by the tossing of coins with one side being rubbed off to a blank. As the Song society being impaired by a massive number of compulsive gamblers at all levels of the community, the nobles and scholars had asked the government to take drastic steps in banning all forms of public gambling. Unfortunately, the prohibition policy on gambling was only targeted the military and the operators of illicit banks with covert casinos called the "Money Counter"; moreover, members of the imperial family and all levels of government officials were also infatuated with these mass-appealing gambling games themselves. Miraculously, it was under these bad situations that had led to the refinements of many games in the next 800 years. Weiqi and Xiangqi had remained as pure strategy games while hybrid forms of dice-based gambling games have continued to dominate the society. Until the arrival of Mahjong in the 1600's, China was finally able to strike a balance between strategy versus gambling on the game development continuum. Despite these games have rivaled the western version of chess and playing cards in both complexity and intellectual skills, we can still find many similarities between Mahjong and Lukboc as well as Lukboc and Backgammon.



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