Tablero is a mediaeval drinking game often played by members of the Society for Creative Anachronism. The rules are fairly simple.

You will need:

  • A 7x7-grid playing board (note: a standard chess or checkers board will NOT work)
  • 7 shot glasses or similarly-sized containers
  • 2-4 bottles of alcohol, any type (DON'T use anything harder than cider, unless you're a dyed-in-the-wool lush -- the bottles will be drunk before the end of the game)
  • A non-playing lady
  • 2D6
The Set-up

Each player starts out with an equal amount of alcohol (typically, one or two bottles of beer or cider). To begin the game, three glasses are placed on each player's baseline, and the players fill the glasses before them from their own alcohol supply. The remaining glass is placed on the square in the center of the board. Before this center glass is filled, the players must select a non-playing lady (typically the one with the highest rank in the SCA, or failing that, the highest rank in the House) from the audience to roll the dice. Add the values displayed on the dice together -- the result is called "the Queen's Number" (more about this in a moment). That is, unless she rolled a 7, 11 or 12, in which case she should roll again. (These numbers are reserved, and will be explained shortly).

Once the Queen's Number has been determined, each player will then roll one die. The player rolling the higher number has the option of moving the center glass to his baseline and filling it, thereby gaining initial control of the dice, or of passing the center glass to his opponent, who must move it to his baseline, fill it and begin play.

Playing The Game

In Tablero, two pieces are moved each turn. The player rolls the dice, and the value on each die is the number of squares the player must move one of his pieces. The moves on each die must be completed by a different piece -- one cannot move a piece the value indicated by the first die, and then by the value indicated on the second. Also, before moving, the player must add together the numbers on each die. If the numbers add up to the Queen's Number, the player must announce this fact, and drink the contents of any one shotglass on the board, and place it on his opponent's baseline, who must then fill it. The player can take his moves at that time. If the player moves his pieces and fails to announce the Queen's Number, the other player may do so and drink the contents of a shotglass, placing it on his opponent's baseline to be filled.

If, however, the values on the dice add up to 7, 11, or 12, the player's turn ends, and he must pass the dice to the other player. Otherwise, the player may take his turn as normal.

A word about the movement of pieces: Pieces can only be moved backward or forward, never from side to side.

Winning the Game and Getting Drunk

Tablero has two major goals: winning, and drinking all of your opponent's alcohol while allowing him to drink as little as possible of yours. These goals go hand in hand. In order to drink your opponent's alcohol, you must do one of the following:

  • Line up six or seven shotglasses in an unbroken row. You may then drink the contents of these shotglasses and place them on your opponent's baseline, who must then fill them. It is then your opponent's turn.
  • Line up seven shotglasses diagonally across the board. Lucky you! This is very difficult. Do the same as above, but gloat more.
  • Line up seven shotglasses in a triangular or "crossbow" formation, with the apex of the triangle on the center of the board. Do the same as above, but gloat a lot.
It is considered good manners, when you have made a "line" (as the above is called), to offer a shot or two to your opponent, and perhaps some to the audience, but you yourself must drink more than anyone else.

The Victory Toast

Play continues until a player gets a line and his opponent doesn't have enough alcohol to fill all the glasses after the line is drunk; the line is declared aloud (before the line is drunk) as follows: "Set 'em up and knock 'em down --TOAST ROUND!" The line is then not distributed by in-game rules; instead, the winning player takes a glass, gives a glass to his opponent, and passes out the remaining 5 glasses to individual spectators.

Before anyone drinks, the winner makes the toast. The traditional toast is (in this order): to the King and Queen, to the Crown Prince and Crown Princess (if any), to any nobles present, to any nobles the winner wishes to toast (such as the Autocrat, who may be within listening-distance!), to his opponent, and to himself. The part of the toast to the opponent is traditionally a good-natured slam (for example, "to my worthy opponent, may he next time remember how much I cheat"), and the part of the toast to oneself is traditionally self-agrandizing (for example, "and to myself, for a magnificent and stylish win that once again proves me the ranking Tablero god"). Local variations of this toast sometimes exist; for instance, The Lost Sons of Davion tend to toast the Queen's Moustache, rather than the Queen; this has gotten them in trouble on occasion. Members of House Kurva often toast Joe's Nipples (this tradition dates back to my first tablero game).

A Word about Cheating

Some Houses and players permit and even encourage creative cheating at tablero. Others don't. It's best to find out; you don't want large men pulling live steel on you if you get caught! One exception to this is known as Edric's Rule, which states, "If I can convince you it's a rule, it's a rule." Otherwise... there are a lot of variations in tablero rules, often from House to House and camp to camp.

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