A little history
The first mention of the Game of the Goose comes from Francesco dei Medici, Grand Duke of Florence in Italy from 1574 to 1587. He sent a copy to King Philip II of Spain where it caused great excitement at the court, and the game spread rapidly to other parts of Europe.
Professor Murray reports in his book: “A History of Board Games other than Chess” (Oxford University Press, 1952) that it reached England by 1597, when John Wolfe entered “the newe and most pleasant game of the Goose” in the Stationers’ Register on June 16 (Arber, iii, 21).
In 1758 the Duchess of Norfolk planted a Game of Goose in hornbeam at Worksop, as mentioned by Horace Walpole (Letters, 1840, iii, 395). Such hedge designs were at the time popular among the European gentry, although instead of the Goose game’s spiral most were laid out as living Labyrinths, like the famous maze at Hampton Court.
The Game of the Goose, currently popular in its “Winnie-the-Pooh Game” guise, has been since the Renaissance (and still is) a lasting favorite among game players. This is somewhat puzzling, since in the traditional version each player has only one counter, making for a rather mechanical and slow-moving game, as compared to the lively race and test of wits of our team variation described in this booklet.
And yet, from its first appearance on, the Game of the Goose has appealed to people and has responded to some widespread need, because people played it everywhere and everywhen. To judge from the number of variations and new editions in the many countries where it was popular — not just for a few years, like some passing fad, but for many generations — and if one adds up the number of copies that must have been printed of this game through all that time, then the circulation of the Game of the Goose must by far surpass the largest circulation figures of any modern-day board game.
The Museum of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia listed in its 1895 inventory (yes, just about a century ago) 146 different editions of Game of the Goose in just this one museum, in many languages, and some from as far away as China and Japan. Many of the designs are highly dramatic, delightfully entertaining and artistic, and they reflect the cultural trends of their time; but, in general, they have not much to do with the game: the illustrations show toys, sports, opera scenes, entertainers, cartoons and what-have-you.
But all these gameboards have in common that some of the fields — the “special fields” in this game — always bore the same names and showed the same things in their pictures, and there were also a number of fields decorated with a goose—always the same fields.