Something juicy, the “Boards”


To demonstrate that something real could be derived from reading the novel, I will explain how to extrapolate the possible boards configuration.
There is it a lot of assumption here even if we have same basic rough information.

From the novel : there are 3 main big boards and several others smaller. Each of the big boards have a 20 m side length and a surface of over 500 square meters.

This mean that they have to be squared boards, but a 20 m side length is equal to 400 m2, so 20 m is an incorrect measure. And this could be because is just an approximation, in fact the exact phrase is : “The whole construction must have measured at least twenty meters to a side.”

Let’s correct the calculations and the boards have to be at least 23 meters to a side, so about 529 m2.
These numbers perfectly fit with the description, nearly 20 meters and over 500 m2.

Starting from this measure we will try to calculate the dimension of the pieces and of a single game box.

We know that the game is played standing up directly on the board and physically shifting the pieces around.
So a game box shall be large enough to accommodate the game piece.

We know that Gurgeh is a tall guy so I will assume 2,00 m high while the Azadians are short and 1,60 m is a good shot.

The pieces are big enough that need to be moved and placed in a box by the Azadian with both hands. The pieces obviously have been created by the Azadians so 1,20 m high piece could be a reasonable choice.
This is about 2/3 of the height of the Azadian people.

Do you agree with my assumption ?

Anyway using the “Staunton” model of our traditional chess pieces the proportion of the height respect to the base is about 3,00 to 1.
So 1,20 m divided by three is 40 cm for the base.
A square at least shall have 60 cm side length to accommodate a piece like this.
This mean that a 23 m length board is composed of 23/0,6 = 38,3  box to a side rounded to 38.
The missing 0,3 m could be easily occupied by the perimetral frame surrounding the board.

So this just for the basic calculations, but …
Are we sure that the board is composed of squares ???

This is a detail never clearly mentioned in the novel where instead is explained that the board is composed of a “stunningly complicated and seemingly chaotically abstract and irregular mosaic pattern”.
Read it again “mosaic pattern”.

This is the hint, the shapes of the boxes are like a mosaic.
Of course the mosaic mean that the square are not “squared” but have several different shapes.
If more or less my calculation are correct the “average” dimension of these irregular shapes is generally around 60 cm but the shapes of each single box could be different.

Is there anyone creative enough to conceptualize this board and boxes ?
Again, as I have already explained in the first post, this is a fictional game so we must assume a lot of speculations.
But we are not walking in the dark. In fact we know a lot about the Azadian culture and this is the “Starting Point” of all our considerations.

So getting back to the boards, remember there are three main boards and I will assume that all of them have identical dimension (23m x 23m) but with different mosaic pattern.

To help you consider that the boards are called :

  • Board of Origin
  • Board of Form
  • Board of Becoming

These are not just imaginary names, the game have evolved for millennia so the names should have a real meaning.

I suspect that some possible mosaic pattern could be derived from these names. As an example “Origin” mean original or ancient so related to a something primitive and easy. Thus we are talking about a mosaic pattern composed basically of simple geometrical shapes.

The second is like the combinations of all the possible shapes in a random combination, because “Form” is a generic noun and represent the possibilities offered by the life. At some point, we choose ours shape or what we want to be and obtain in life.

The last is something that start with a shape then become a different shape because “Becoming” is like a transformation from the “Origin” using the path we have chosen in the “Form”.

The picture is just to visualize the concept of the possible box shapes of the “Origin” board. Consider that the real boards configuration is much more complex, but this will be explained in future posts.

Remember AZAD is a representation of life so the three boards represent the evolution of the life itself.

Obviously this is my interpretation but this the method that I will use for the game development.

6 thoughts on “Something juicy, the “Boards”

  1. Hello Paul, my overall think is that the surface area of “more than 500 square meters” is calculated not considering the hills. They are layered because this is how they are described. Totally the surface is much more than 500 sqm because Banks says that the hills add more sqm to the total. Anyway I cannot reproduce due to copyrights matter every exactly phrase. In a future brief post probably on Facebook I will explain how to reproduce my “reference study book” with line index so I will start to add a numbering page/line reference to the various phrases I’ve considered to define my rules explanation.


  2. IIRC weren’t the boards three-dimensional? The reference to the surface area could be including the “slope” of raised sections of the board, although for practicality you’d think the hills would be stepped rather than smooth surfaces.


  3. I imagine that Banks imagined the boards as squares with 75 feet sides, but translated that into meters at some point in the editing process. (The Culture never seems to use Imperial units, but Banks as an old Scot would have thought in them.) And because 22,86 meters and 522,5796 square meters would look ridiculous, he rounded them into the numbers given.

    I thought the three boards would reflect the three genders. The board of origin would be the “female” gender that everyone is born from. The board of form the “male” gender who are the physically strongest so maybe they tend to do the physical jobs (giving form to things) like building or farming? Then naturally the dominant gender would reserve the ultimate board for themselves.

    Cool project, dude, please keep going.


  4. “Each of the big boards have a 20 m side length and a surface of over 500 square meters.This mean that they have to be squared boards, but a 20 m side length is equal to 400 m2, so 20 m is an incorrect measure. ”

    That a board has a side length does not imply the board must be square. Indeed, the 20m side length and the area greater than 500m^2 implies that the board is not square. For instance it could be a pentagon (a regular pentagon with side length 20m has an area of about 688m^2). Or it could be curved (bulged in the middle), or terraced as in your cover picture on the page.


    1. Hello Scott thank You for the comment.
      Indeed Your suggestion could be correct, I’ve just extrapolated that the phrase “at least twenty metres to a side” was meaning that both side have the same lenght “at least” but not precisely. So the real lenght could be longer than twenty meters. If we assume 22,8 than are 520 square meters.
      Moreover the phrase “a landscape spreading out over five hundred square metres, with the low pyramid-ranges of stacked, three-dimensional territory increasing even that total.” is a good indication that 520 square meters for the basic board could be correct, than adding more square meters for the constructions.
      It is a reasonable approximation do not you think?
      Anyway the exact overall shape of the board is not defined so any suggestion is worth of consideration.
      Thank You


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