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Kafenio 1: Game on

8 – 16 April
A celebration of Greek culture through games and conversation. From history and philosophy lectures to school holiday activities, there's something for everyone in the Kafenio 1 program.

The Chau Chak Wing Museum in association with the Australian Archaeological Institute at Athens presents a celebration of Greek culture, games and conversation. 

In Greece, the kafenio is a place where people come to drink coffee, to discuss politics, philosophy and their neighbours, and of course to play tavli (backgammon). Throughout Kafenio 1 you will have the opportunity to explore the social and cultural context of board games throughout history, handle and view special artefacts, photographs and artworks from Greece and around the globe, and of course, play some games! 

This free celebration of games and Greek culture is supported by The Nicholas Anthony Aroney Estate Greek Cultural Program.


Thursday 8 April, 6.30pm: Batteries not included - Candace Richards

Weekend 10 – 11 April: Kafenio 1 weekend activities (all ages)

Saturday 10 April, 2pm: Glory on the plastic battlefield - Dr Hamish Cameron (NZ)

Sunday 11 April, 2pm: Board games in the ancient greek world - Dr Stavros Paspalas

Monday 12 – Friday 16 April: School holiday program - Game On! Board games in the ancient world

Board games

Glory on the plastic battlefield: viewing the ancient Greek world through modern board games

Lecture: Dr Hamish Cameron (Victoria University of Wellington)

Saturday 10 April, 2–3pm

What can a board game tell us about popular understandings of history? A lot! The evocative historical and mythical imagery of the ancient Mediterranean world is a popular source of material for movies, TV shows, comics, video games… and board games! Board games have a long history, but their character and variety has changed dramatically in recent decades. This talk will survey recent board games drawing on the ancient world—especially the ancient Greek world—and examine some of the ways that these games reveal modern attitudes towards the ancient past.

Watch the event recording

Attic Black-Figure Neck Amphora, attributed to the Medea Group

Board games in the ancient greek world: a matter of life and death

Lecture: Dr Stavros Paspalas (Australian Archaeological Institute at Athens)

Sunday 11 April, 2pm

In the ancient Greek world board games were not always simply board games. Through a mythological lens such apparently simple and pedestrian daily pursuits could be elevated to the heroic realm where questions of Fate, life, and death could be examined, and examples for correct social behaviour could be established. An array of iconographic, literary and artefactual evidence will be presented in this lecture so as to gain a deeper understanding of what board games may have meant to the ancients both in life and death.

Watch the event recording

Ancient die

Batteries not included: the archaeology of board games in Greece and the Mediterranean

Lecture: Candace Richards (Chau Chak Wing Museum)

Thursday 8 April, 6.30pm

Board games have been part of human culture for millennia. The ways we come together to compete with chance and strategy, using tokens on a playing surface, leave interesting and often puzzling remnants in the archaeological record. This lecture explores the archaeology of board games popular in the Greek world from antiquity to today, examining what kinds of boards and playing pieces have been uncovered, including those from the Paphos Theatre Archaeological Project. We will look at how scholars use literary and physical evidence to understand how to play these games and the ways in which elements of ancient games survive in some of our most popular games today.

Watch the event recording

Two girls play senet

Kafenio 1: weekend activities

Two days of free all-ages activities 
Weekend 10 – 11 April

Join us as we turn the Museum into a kafenio for the weekend! Learn how to play Greek games both ancient and modern, including tavli and explore the social and cultural context of board games throughout history.

  • Learn how to play ancient board games from Greece and the Mediterranean including Pente Grammai, XII Scripta and senet
  • Play giant backgammon and jenga 
  • Artefact handling stations and activities 
  • Backgammon and mancala boards available to borrow from the café throughout the day, or bring your own board games to play!
  • Talks and lectures (see below)

A lion and a gazelle play senet

Game On! Board games in the ancient world

A free school holiday program

Monday 12 – Friday 16 April | 10-11am, 11am-12pm

Just like us, ancient people played board games for fun and to socialise with friends and family. This April the Chau Chak Wing Museum will travel back in time to allow visitors to play a number of ancient board games.

So get your game on and learn to play the ancient games of senet, 5-lines and tavli (backgammon), and challenge your skills in some real ancient board games. Speak to the Museum education team about the role of gaming in people’s lives and enjoy a rare chance to handle ancient artefacts. Fun for kids aged 5-12 and their families!

Featured image (top of page): Attic Black-Figure Neck Amphora, attributed to the Medea Group (detail), c. 510 BC. Getty Museum 71.AE.441