Medieval Games – Gambling with Hazards

medieval games

From 3,000 year old Egyptian Mancala to twentieth-century Monopoly, games have always been a popular form of entertainment. Through the worst of times and the best of times. During castle sieges and voyages across the vast unknown. King and pauper, soldier and scholar, games have always remained. Most games needed little more than a handful of stones or a pair of dice to play, while others had elaborate boards and pieces cut from gems or formed of precious metals.

Historical documentation of games is somewhat rare. This is largely due to the fact that most games were learned from word-of-mouth rather than some nifty instructions booklet. This also made for a broad spectrum of variants for game rules. Different people had different rules for the same game, which led to more than one “sore loser” murders throughout the medieval period. As a matter of fact, some games are only known today from the records of medieval murder trials.

The second game we will look at in this on-going article is called Hazards. Hazards was first discovered to exist somewhere in the first half of the first century, and remains popular (though in different variations) to this day where it is known as craps. It was a very popular gambling game that tended to draw passionate players. Passionate players sometimes got too passionate about Hazards though, resulting in enough mayhem to inspire most of Europe to outlaw it, and preachers to condemn it from the years 623 to 1600. Despite this, hazards remained widely played even by those who were supposed to enforce against it.

Hazards requires the use of two dice. The first player rolls the dice to obtain a “main” number, which can be any number from 5 to 9. Rolling a 2 is an automatic loss, and other numbers are re-rolled. Now, the player rolls again to determine his number. His number can be any from 3 to 10. If the main number was a 7 and his number is a 7 or 11, or if the main number was 8 and his number was 8 or 12, the player wins all bets. If, while rolling his number, it is the same as the main number than this also means he wins. If none of the above circumstances apply, than the player continues to roll until either the main number or his number is rolled. If he matches the main number he loses, if he matches his number he wins.

0 thoughts on “Medieval Games – Gambling with Hazards

  1. I read that the phrase “Set upon six and seven” or “at sixes and sevens” was first seen in Chaucer’s Tales. Betting one’s entire fortune on a single throw of the dice. As time passed the phrase became associated with any kind of circumstance that involved disorder, chaos, or just plain confusion. Thus.. Hazards. True?

    1. From the wikipedia: The name “hazard” is borrowed from Old French. The origin of the French word is unclear, but probably derives from Spanish azar (“an unfortunate card or dice roll”), with the final -d by analogy with the common French suffix -ard.

  2. I am currently attempting to write a medieval era novel and I want to add a scene incorporating the game of ‘hazard’ but I have no real understanding of the game. Can you either explain the game to me in ‘laimon’s’ terms or direct me somewhere that can?

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