Playing surface

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Some games do not need to be played on any kind of surface. This is typically because all the the playing materials can be held in the hands or thoughts of the players. Most games, however, are played on some kind of "playing surface".

Baseball, a popular game played by schoolchildren and steroid users, is played on a very large surface called a "field". This field is large enough that the players themselves stand and move about on it. These fields are often surrounded by seats in which spectators can rest while they watch.

Chess is played on an eight by eight grid of squares called a "board" or chessboard. This board can be large enough for the players to stand on, and even use passive humans as playing pieces, but is usually small enough to place on a table. Chess variants (or "fairy chess") sometimes use multilevel boards, or others of unusual shape. The Chessboard wedge was invented for three-handed Martian Chess, but has many other game uses as well.

Such boards lend their name to a general class of games known as "board games". Some board games use simple grids as boards, but others use ornate (Candyland), baroque (Mousetrap), abstract (Nine Men's Morris), or representational (Kill Doctor Lucky) structures. Some boards are made of modular components or tiles, like Martian Coasters.

Some pyramid games use boards that facilitate the close packing of large pyramids in a small area. The progenitor of such boards is the Volcano board, a five-by-five grid of one-inch squares. Its offspring include the six-by-six Mega-Volcano board and the nineteen-square board for Hexano. Versions of these boards often have the squares separated by ridges, so that the pieces in play are fixed neatly in place.

Many card games do not require a playing surface, but use so many materials that having one handy on which to place cards, score keeping aids, pretzels, and beer is considered desirable. These surfaces are often tables. Some card games, like Blackjack, are enhanced by the use of special tables. These special tables are often found in large ornate buildings, called "Casinos", where players pay money for the privilege of using them and having their beer and pretzels brought to them by servants. Cards are themselves used tile-fashion as a playing surface in a large family of pyramid games that includes Zarcana, Gnostica, Zark City and Alheimur.

Icehouse, while technically boardless, does require a flat surface of some kind on which plays are made. This surface is usually a table top, with the entire surface of the table being a legal play area except for the stash pads where players keep their unplayed pieces. If beer, pretzels, or other objects are present on the table, they are considered obstacles with no real game value.

In Zendo, no matter what actual playing surface is used, each koan is imagined to stand alone on an infinitely large, featureless playing surface. Real-world objects (such as marking stones, beer, pretzels, other koans) are thus said to unexist in Zendo.

Both Icehouse and Zendo can also be played on a floor or field, which is advisable if the pieces being used are large enough that playing them on a table would not leave any room for beer or pretzels.