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August 17, 2020 Claire Carlson & Faith Deering

Board Games

Created by Historic Deerfield Education Program Coordinator Claire C. Carlson

Welcome to the 17th installment of Maker Mondays. This will be our last installment of the summer. Starting in September, we will send you a Maker Mondays activity on the fourth Monday of the month. Check your social media feed or look for an email from us on Monday, September 28th for the next fun activity that you can do at home, inspired by history and the Historic Deerfield collections, using common household items.

Download a printable PDF of this activity.

Two young visitors to Historic Deerfield play a game of checkers in the Hall Tavern.

Bored with your daily routine? Are you in a Netflix binging rut? Turn off your devices and dust off your chess set, play a game of checkers or mancala, crack open a dictionary and look for new words for a scrabble match, or teach yourself how to play a favorite old tavern game like table-top nine pins, shut the box, nine men’s morris, or fox and geese.This Monday we’re encouraging you play board games and to create your own. First, we’ll show you an example from our collections, and then lead you in making your own board game.

Chess Set made in Canton (Guangzhou) China circa 1850. HD 58.070

This Chinese export chess set has 28 carved ivory Chinese men and 4 pagodas in red and white in a hinged game box lined with silk and insets to hold the pieces. This set was typical of the thousands of chess sets exported from China, which remained a popular, if expensive, souvenir from the China trade throughout the nineteenth century. Given the amount of carving required and rarity of the materials, ivory chess sets were a luxury. Like this example, the pieces were often in red and white; light damage has considerably faded the red stain on some of these pieces. These chess figures are clothed in traditional Chinese dress, some in the position and attitude of attack, and others standing in defensive postures. The rooks take the form of Chinese pagodas; no other architectural form represented the East like the pagoda. Although traditionally regarded by Westerners as a symbol of China, the pagoda form was derived from the stupa – an Indian Buddhist shrine known as a Dagoba or Dhagoba, meaning “relic preserver.” The Chinese often erected pagodas in commemoration of unusual acts of devotion, as good omens, to improve the feng shui (literally wind and water) of the area, or merely as observational towers. Visitors and seamen to China saw several pagodas along the Pearl River: two at Whampoa Anchorage: the Lotus (Lianhua) pagoda and the Whampoa (Huangpu) Pagoda, and the Flowery Pagoda in Canton. The game of chess had developed by the 6th century, but its origins are unclear. Most scholars agree that the precursor of modern chess originated in India as ‘chaturanga’, a military-style strategy game played with four people. Another theory regards China as the true birthplace of chess; ‘Xiangqi’, or Chinese chess, has similar rules, board configuration, piece movements, and strategies.

Sorry. Yahtzee. Chairs. Othello. Mr. Potato Head. These are just some of the games crammed onto the game shelf in our closet at home. One of our favorite games, Fox and Geese, is missing. This will be the game we will make with you today.

Bob Olson shows visitors how to play Fox and Geese (to the right) at a Tavern Night event at Historic Deerfield. Nine Men’s Morris is the game to the left on the game board.

Directions for Making the Board Game: Fox and Geese

 You will need:

●      Game board template

●      Study piece of cardstock, a file folder, cardboard, or wood.

●      Scissors, pencil, sharpie or marker, and a ruler

●      Game pieces

1. There are numerous websites with printable board game templates online. We used the  free printable board game template for Fox and Geese at: https://www.printableboardgames.net/click2.php

2. Print the template and cut it out.

3. Find something sturdy to make your game board: a file folder, piece of smooth wood, a flat piece of cardboard, or foam board.

4. Cut out the template and trace the outline of it onto your board with the pencil. Use a ruler to help you pencil in the horizontal and diagonal lines.

5. Mark the lines with pencil, then darken them in with a sharpie or marker. Erase any stray pencil marks.

6. Mark 13 black circles and one red circle on the game board using the dots on the template as a guide:

7. For game pieces, you will need 13 geese and 1 fox. You can use stones, buttons, coins, seeds, etc. as game pieces.

Now you are ready to play Fox and Geese! Find a partner and get ready!

This is a two-player game. One person plays the red button (the Fox) and the other player plays the thirteen black buttons (the Geese). The two players have different objectives for winning.

  1. Place the Geese on the black circles along the points of the board. Place the Fox in the red circle in the middle of the board (or anywhere else on the board, for more variation.)

  2. The Geese move first. Players alternate turns after that.

  3. During their respective turns, the Fox and the Geese may move along the lines in any direction, but only to the next available point.

  4. The Fox captures the Geese by jumping over them to a vacant spot beyond them. The Fox can jump over multiple Geese if possible.

  5. Geese cannot jump over each other or the Fox.

  6. The Geese win if they hem in the Fox and make it unable to move. The Fox wins if it captures enough Geese so that they cannot hem it in.

  7. Have fun and good luck!


Check out this website for kids that has more information about colonial games.


This book is out of print but some copies are available on Amazon or your local library:

Provenzo, Asterie Baker and Eugene F. Provenzo, Jr. Play It Again: Historic Board Games You Can Make and Play. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Princeton-Hall, Inc., 1981.

Please share a photo of your and your mates playing the board game that you made. Email it to us at historicdeerfield@historicdeerfield.org