Les « escaques »
In other Roman languages, this word was used to name Chess but under the hand of Alfonso X, King of Castile in the 13th century, it meant another game.
It was an astrological game which only has a remote connection with Chess.
Seven players were competing around a round board moving astral bodies with a special 7-sided dice.
The board was circular with 7 concentric circles divided into 12 sectors.
Each player had 1 piece. The 7 pieces were, from center to periphery: Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn.
The 12 sectors represented the zodiac houses. Every sector was divided into a number of square, from 1 for Moon to 7 for Saturn.
The players were moving their piece according to the result of the throw of a special 7-sided die. They were winning or losing stakes depending on the formed arrangement on the board between their piece and the other players' pieces (conjunction, opposition, quarter, etc.)
Often in this Libro de los juegos, a Table game was associated to a Chess game, through the die both were employing. In this case, Escaques is associated with a 7-handed Tables, a kind of Backgammon for 7 players on an heptagonal board divided into 7 sectors.
ORIGINAL TEXT in OLD SPANISH :
ENGLISH TRANSLATION OF ORIGINAL TEXT :
I add here the translation made by Sonja Musser. I acknowledge the very high quality of her work.
Sonja Musser's additional notes are put between brackets.
This is the board of the checkers that are played by astrology
Having shown all the three kinds of games that are explained in the books before this one, as well as in the play of chess, like that of dice and that of tables and explained all their differences and how they can be played according to the most beautiful ways men found in them, for understanding and use, it is fitting that another nature of game now be shown that is very noble, strange, beautiful, and of great understanding, for learned men and primarily for those who know the art of astrology.
And this new game is fashioned according to the seven heavens in which there are seven planets. And the eighth, in which are the twelve signs [That is, of the zodiac] and the other fixed stars. And showing for each one how it moves its movements and how they regard each other sending rays to one another, some with favorable aspects, others with unfavorable. And this is according to the wise men who divided the heavens into twelve quadrants and show for each of them according to the movements of the planets which is their aspect, favorable or unfavorable.
And these aspects are seven, two are called sextile, which are favorable and which are counted from that same sign to the third, as if they were to count from Aries to Gemini which is the third [The manner of counting here is the same used in the “Libro del acedrex” where the beginning sign is counted as the first] ahead of it or from Aquarius which is the third behind.
And also there are two trines, as from Aries to Leo, which is ahead, or from it (Aries) to Sagittarius, which is behind.
On Squares and on [op]position
Also there are two squares that are unfavorable as from Aries to Cancer or from it (Aries) to Capricorn. And there is opposition that is made from this same sign to the other which is opposite it as with from Aries to Libra or from Cancer to Capricorn.
On corporal conjunction
And besides that there is corporal conjunction, which is the coming together of two planets in one sign. And sometimes it is favorable and sometimes unfavorable. And this is stronger than any other favorable or unfavorable aspect. And after this which we have told is this game fashioned.
On the shape of the board and how it is to be made
This board is to be of seven sides around the outside because seven players are to play there, each one with his planet. And they are to have twelve amounts of whatever wager they might agree upon. And it has in it eight concentric circles, after the eight heavens. The eighth circle is to be flat and the figures of the twelve signs put in it as they should be, which are: Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces. And it is divided into twelve section af- [fol. 95v] ter these twelve signs. And from out of the edge of the each sign comes a line and it cuts through the other seven circles, which the seven planets go and they are slightly scooped out and in each one them is a square piece [Notably tabla and not trebeio, iuego or pieza as in other chess variants] which moves around.
And on these pieces there are places where they put the figures of the seven planets when they want to play and each one of these pieces is to be of the color of the planet that is to be put on it.
And also there are to be four circles that are after the four elements, which are inside these eight. The first is red for the element of fire. The second is purple for the element of air. The third is white, for the element of water. The fourth is round like a ball and of brown that is for the element of earth.
On the division of the seven circles and how many spaces there are in them
These aforementioned seven circles, the first is divided into eighty-four spaces, the second is divided into seventy-two spaces, the third is divided into sixty spaces, the fourth is divided into forty-eight spaces, the fifth is divided into thirty-six spaces, the sixth is divided into twenty-four spaces, the seventh is divided into twelve spaces. And even though the seven heavens are divided into more areas and they could not fit beautifully onto this board, we took from these divisions according to the smallest total that suits this game.
On the figure of Saturn
Saturn is first because he is the highest of all and they made him look like an old, thin man who walks bent over. He is naked expect for underwear and a black cloak wrapped about his head. He is sad of face and he has his hand to his cheek like a troubled man.
On the figure of Jupiter
Jupiter, which is near him, looks like a middle-aged man. He has a happy face and is dressed in green clothes. He has an ultramarine blue hood and holds a book before him.
On the figure of Mars
Mars looks like a young man dressed in the armor of ancient Greece, all red. He holds in his right hand a sword, drawn from its scabbard, and in the other the head of a man, hanging by its hair, freshly beheaded.
On the figure of the Sun
The Sun looks like a young king with a crown of gold on his head. He wears clothes of shining gold. He holds in his left hand a round apple and in the other a bough with flowers like the Emperors when they crown them.
On the figure of Venus
Venus has the figure of a young woman. She is very beautiful with very blond, long hair handing down her back. She has on her head a garland of roses and wears purple clothes. She holds a comb in her right hand and in the other a mirror in which is admires herself.
On the figure of Mercury
Mercury looks like a young man dressed in many-colored clothes and he is writing in a book.
On the figure of the Moon
The Moon has the figure of a young woman, dressed in white clothes. She holds with both hands over her head the figure of the moon.
On how these seven planets should be placed on the board when they want to begin to play with them
In the first circle that is closest to the circle of the zodiac signs is to be the planet they call Saturn. In the second is to be the planet they call Jupiter. In the third is to be the planet they call Mars. In the fourth is to be the planet they call the Sun. In the fifth is to be the planet they call Venus. In the sixth is to be the planet they call Mercury. In the seventh is to be the planet they call the Moon.
And in this way they are to be placed in their spaces. And because most of them have two houses indicated in their signs, we place it in that one which is more powerful as with Saturn in Aquarius, Jupiter in Sagittarius, Mars in Scorpio, the Sun in Leo, Venus in Taurus, Mercury in Virgo, and the Moon in Cancer.
On how this game of checkers is to be played with one die and with no more
This game should be played in this manner: that each one of the players that they roll their luck with a 7-sided die with one to seven pips on it, so that each player knows with which planet he is to play.
And he who should have as his roll seven which is the highest number of pips, will have Saturn. And he who should have six, will have Jupiter. And he who should have five, will have Mars. And he who should have four will have the Sun. And he who should have three pips, will have Venus. And he who should have two, will have Mercury. And he who should have the one, will have the Moon.
And also they roll battle and he who wins the battle will play first. And he rolls the die and for as many pips as it shows he is to move his planet that many spaces. And if he does not move enough spaces to leave the sign he is in, he neither wins nor loses, but if he enters another sign he loses or wins according to the aspect he has with the other planets. And if this planet enters in the sextile of the other, he wins from it two of twelve. And if he enters in its trine, he wins three of twelve. And if he enters into its square, he loses three of twelve. And if he enters into its opposition, he loses six of twelve. And if he enters into a conjunction, he is to put up of twelve (of twelve). And in this way this game is to be played.
And this is the diagram of the board and of the seven planets as they are placed on it.
This is the board for tables, after the (same) nature of the checkers, which is played by astrology.
The board for these tables is to have seven sides, like the board for the checkers, both inside and out. And on the inner division it is to have seven spaces. And this should be on each one of the other divisions. And in between the one division and the other there is to be a divider that marks both sides. And from that divider there is to be a long line that goes to the middle of the board.
And each ones of the pieces of these sides, are to be of the color of the planets. And the pieces are to be as many as the spaces. And over each side there is to be drawn the likeness of the planet to which it belongs, that side painted and colored of that color which suits. Saturn in black, Jupiter in green, Mars in red, the Sun in yellow, Venus in purple, Mercury in many different colors, the Moon white. And because the pieces belong to that planet, they are to be of its color.
And the arrangement is to be in this manner: that all seven pieces be placed in the first and leftmost of the seven spaces and they are always to move to the right, according to the numbers that the seven-sided die show, as we said above. And neither is counted the space they occupy nor the space to their right which is the beginning space for the other seven pieces, unless there remains one lone piece which can be captured, leaving the space empty or occupying it according to astrology. [Ms.: Astronomia; HSMS: “??”. This word is now within seam repairing a tear to the folio. In the original it is discernible between the stitches; in the facsimile it cannot be read. Steiger as well as Crombach and Canettieri who follow him all give a mostly logical but incorrect reading of “suerte”]
And play is in this way: that each one of the players has seven amounts of whatever wager they agree upon of maravedí or whatever coin they like. And if one captures the piece of another, he is not to return it and he should take one amount from him for it and for as many as he captures. And so on around until the whole game belongs to one of those that play it, because that one who remains is the winner.
And this is the diagram of the board and of the pieces.