Gaming the Medieval: Medievalism in Modern Board Game Culture (July 6-9 2015)

full name / name of organization: 
Daisy Black and James Howard / IMC Leeds 2015

Since the early 1980s, the medieval has proven to be a fertile source of narrative concept, artwork and play structure in popular board and card game culture. In recent years, games with medieval subject matter such as Carcassonne, Dominion and Shadows Over Camelot have increasingly graced the top of European and American board game award tables.

Yet the 'Middle Ages' of the game world is a broadly defined concept. Games taking a historical approach might chart the economical and political landscape of Medieval Europe during a set period of time, while others base their play around a specific event or series of events. In other cases, the medieval operates as a flexible cultural genre for games set in otherwise indeterminate times and places. Although board and card games frequently engage with concepts of medieval warfare, conquest and expansion, they also hold the ability to promote a rich understanding of medieval cultural, literary and social practices such as courtly love and chivalric narrative, Arthurian legend, guild, mercantile and political hierarchy, and alchemical motifs such as the magic circle.

While the role of the game in medieval society and literature commands a strong critical legacy (for example, in the works of Clopper, Huizinga and Vale), this session aims to evaluate what happens when the medieval is made present within modern game culture. This is an area that has been largely neglected by studies of medievalism, which have tended to chiefly focus on the use of the medieval in computer gaming. This session therefore intends to expand the cultural medievalism debate by drawing attention to the ways in which the materiality of board and card games produces new methods of intersecting with the medieval past.

Possible themes might include:

What is a 'medieval' board game?
Courts, cities, fields, monasteries
Chivalry, courtly love and other 'medieval' ideals
Materiality and play, medieval artwork, and the game as artefact
Gender, power and characterisation
Performance, roleplay, and crossplaying
Narrative and playing structures
Place, space and time
Games and pedagogy – using games to teach 'medieval' concepts
Figuring the medieval 'orient' in game culture

Please send abstracts of 250 words to Daisy Black at and James Howard at before the 15th September 2014.