Innovative game on Byzantium

How does a board game whose play involves dealers, vendors and slave traders, as well as musicians, acrobats and magicians, sound? One of the Culture Ministry’s divisions – the Directorate of Byzantine and Post-Byzantine Antiquities – is set to launch an innovative board game focused on what is probably one of Greece’s less popular historical periods. The action is set in Thessaloniki between the late 13th and early 14th centuries at a major Byzantine festival, the Demetria. Like today, fairs back then were vital business events for merchants. They drew various parties from the business world, such as merchants and bankers, and also artists, including musicians and actors. In the game itself, dubbed «At the Byzantine Fair,» Niccolo Beltrame, an important merchant from Genoa, visits a banker to convert Byzantine currency, whose value is on the decline, into Genoese money. Based on this transaction, younger and older players are brought into contact with a world of unforeseen events. «We had to present a somewhat dull period of history in an enticing fashion,» remarked Spyros Verykios, an artist who designed the board game’s graphics with a collaborator, Sophia Aidoni. «Business affairs during the Byzantine era are not filled with intrigue, wars or battles, and our aim was to entertain the player,» he added. Verykios noted that the board game’s artwork was intended to offer a «slight reminder of Disney – in a way, we’re pursuing the logic of 3D animation.» Explaining the board game’s educational value, Verykios said that its purpose is to educate youngsters on life during the Byzantine era while avoiding customary teaching practices. Verykios admitted that he had yet to play «At the Byzantine Fair,» but noted that friends of his had – and «enjoyed it immensely.» «At the Byzantine Fair» will be available at museums and bookstores ahead of the upcoming festive season.