igital Ludeme Project

Modelling the Evolution of Traditional Games

Ludii General Game System   

   Project   Outputs   People   

The Digital Ludeme Project is a five year ERC-funded research project hosted by Maastricht University.
This project is a computational study of the world's traditional strategy games throughout recorded human history. It aims to improve our understanding of traditional games using modern AI techniques, to chart their historical development and explore their role in the development of human culture and the spread of mathematical ideas.


The development of games goes hand in hand with the development of human culture. Games offer a rich window of insight into our cultural past, but early examples were rarely documented and our understanding of them is incomplete. While there has been considerable historical research into games and their use as tools of cultural analysis, much is based on the interpretation of partial evidence with little mathematical analysis. This project will use modern computational techniques to help fill these gaps in our knowledge empirically.

We will represent games as structured sets of ludemes (units of game-related information), which will allow the full range of traditional strategy games to be modelled in a single software system for the first time. This system will not only model and play games, but will evaluate reconstructions for quality and historical authenticity, and automatically improve them where possible. This will lay the foundations for a new field of study called Digital Archaeoludology (DA).

The ludemic model reveals innate mathematical relationships between games, allowing phylogenetic analysis. This provides a mechanism for creating a family tree/network of traditional games, which could reveal missing links and allow ancestral state reconstruction to shed light on the gaps in our partial knowledge. Locating ludemes culturally provides a mechanism for charting the transmission of mathematical ideas across cultures through play. This project seeks to bridge the gap between historical and computational studies of games, to provide greater insight into our understanding of games as cultural artefacts, and to pioneer new tools and techniques for their continued analysis. The aim is to restore and preserve our intangible cultural heritage (of game playing) through the tangible evidence available.


The key research objectives of this project are to:

1. Model the full range of traditional strategy games in a single playable database.

2. Reconstruct missing knowledge about traditional games with an unprecedented degree of accuracy.

3. Map the transmission of games and associated mathematical ideas across history and culture.

12 May 2021
FAIR Coffee lecture "FAIR Play" at Maastricht University's Institute of Data Science (IDS).

28 April 2021
Walter presents "Playing with the Past" at the Studium Generale, Groningen University.

16 April 2021

Eric presents at the Board Games Studies (BGS 2020/21) colloquium.

15 April 2021
Cameron defines ludemes at the Board Games Studies (BGS 2020/21) colloquium.

13 April 2021
Walter and Matthew present at the Board Games Studies (BGS 2020/21) colloquium.

8 March 2021
Walter presents at the Jouer dans l’Antiquité workshop (Fribourg).

5 March 2021
Cas Giepmans joins the Ludii team as our next Masters Research Intern.

20 December 2020

Cameron presents at the Playing with Memories conference (Instucen Trust, Mumbai).

17 December 2020
Walter presents at the Playing with Memories conference (Instucen Trust, Mumbai).

5 December 2020
Cameron presents the DLP at ChessTech 2020 session Beyond Chess (London).

1–18 December 2020
Ludii is the official online platform for the ICGA Computer Olympiad 2020!

10 November 2020
Cameron presents the DLP in the Games in Cultural History course at Boğaziçi University (Turkey).

22-25 October  2020
Ludii showcased in a virtual booth at Essen SPIEL.digital (Germany).

September 2020
Eric presents Ludii at ECAI in Santiago de Compestela (Spain).

26 August 2020
The team virtually present a Ludii tutorial at the IEEE Conference on Games (Osaka).

24 August 2020
Dennis virtually presents on Expert Iteration at the IEEE Conference on Games (Osaka).

19 August 2020
Invited seminar on General Board Geometry at Queen Mary University London (UK).

8 August 2020

Walter presents the DLP to the Instucen Trust and Project Khelya (India).

24 July 2020

Official public release of Ludii (v1.0.0).

31 April 2020

Public beta release of Ludii (v0.9.0).

4 March 2020
Cameron presents the DLP in the Open Lecture series (Ipswich, UK).

4 March 2020

Ludii workshop at the University of Suffolk (Ipswich, UK).

27 February 2020
Our intern Tahmina successfully defends her  work on Union Find.

13 February 2020
Talk by Olivier Teytaud from Facebook AI (Paris) on "Zero Learning, Old and New".

11-12 February 2020

Another research visit to the Flemish Game Archive in Bruges.

10-13 February 2020
Visit by Olivier Teytaud (Facebook AI) to get Ludii working with the Polygames platform.

6 February 2020
Walter's work on Senet is featured in Science.

17 January 2020

Invited talk at Mapping Antiquity workshop (Fribourg University, Switzerland).

16 January 2020

Cameron and the DLP are featured in issue #70 of Il Fogliaccio degli Astrattti.

16-20 December 2019
Cameron attends Schloss Dagstuhl Seminar on New Directions for Game AI (Germany).

5–6 December 2019

Invited lecture at the Trier Center for Digital Humanities (Germany).

23 November 2019
Walter presents on ancient games at ASOR (San Diego, USA).

19 November 2019

Interview on US radio show Top of Mind.

13 November 2019
Cameron presents the DLP at New Advances in Game AI (Maastricht).

7 November 2019
Visit and talk by Lisa Rougetet on the Historical Roots of Combinatorial Games.

27 October 2019
Interview in Abstract Games magazine.

24-26 October 2019
Team visit to Essen SPIEL.

16 October 2019
Cameron presents the DLP at Games as Heritage (Bath, UK).

9 October 2019
Walter gives a departmental seminar on his work in the DLP.

2 October 2019
Interview on Dutch Business News Radio's Science Today programme.

26 September 2019
DLP is covered in Atlas Obscura.
We're not playing around!

21 September 2019
Walter presents at the 4th New York Symposium on Board Game Studies.

9-10 September 2019
Research visit to the wonderful Flemish Game Archive in Bruges.

7 September 2019
Public lecture on AI for Ancient Games as part of Maastricht's PAS Festival.

21 August 2019
DLP is featured in VICE magazine.

20–23 August 2019
All team members present papers at CoG 2019 (London). Dennis is runner-up for Best Paper.

13 August 2019
Demo and first public pre-release of Ludii at ACG 2019 (Macao).

15 July 2019
Anthropologist Walter Crist joins the team as our "Cultural" postdoc.

20 June 2019
DLP is featured in the MIT Technology Review.

10–13 June 2019
Dennis presents a paper on feature learning at CEC 2019 (Wellington).

3 June 2019
DAL Dagstuhl report on "Foundations of Digital Archaeoludology" available on arXiv.

24 May 2019
Invited talk by Cedric Piette (CRIL, Lens) on "The Easiest Way to Model Any Constrained Problem (Yes, Even Games)".

17–22 May 2019
Visit by Jakub Kowalski (University of Wroclaw) regarding game description languages

7–10 May 2019
Papers on Ludii and "Mathematics through Games" presented at BGS 2019 in Bologna

23–27 April 2019
Paper on DLP presented at CAA 2019 in Krakow

10–12 April 2019
Schloss Dagstuhl inaugural international research meeting on Foundations of Digital Archaeoludology (DAL).

4 April 2019
Short pitch of DLP at the FSE Strategy Afternoon as an example of research at UM.

28 February 2019
Visit to project collaborator Luis Musquiz from GeaCron in Madrid.

15 February 2019
Postdoctoral researcher Matthew Stephenson joins the team.

27 January – 1 February 2019
Two papers presented at AAAI'19 in Honolulu.

19 January 2019
Cameron and the DLP are featured in Dutch national newspaper Trouw.

26–28 December 2018
Visit to Advisory Panel member Jorge Nuno Silva in Lisbon University.

18–20 December 2018
Visit and talk by Sarah Peoples, Leipzig University, on games and cultural values.

27 November 2018
Presentation at the VSNU meeting of Dutch Universities, Amsterdam.

14 November 2018
Departmental Lunch Seminar, Maastricht.
First team presentation.

8 November 2018
Presentation at University College Dublin.

19–21 October 2018
Research trip to Madrid.

15 October 2018
PhD candidate Dennis Soemers
joins the team.

12 October 2018
Interview on local TV station RTV.

1 October 2018
Presentation to Game AI Group,
CNRS, University Paris Dauphine.

19 September 2018
Article in local newspaper De Limburger.

15 September 2018
Postdoc Eric Piette joins the team.

24–28 August 2018
Research visit to London.

14–17 August 2018
Presentation at CIG'18 (Maastricht).

9–11 July 2018
Presentation at CG'18 (Taipei).

28–30 May 2018
Visit to Flemish Games Archive (Bruges).

23–26 April 2018
Presentation at BGS (Athens).

1 April 2018
Project start.

Upcoming Events

4 June 2021
Dennis presents "Discovering Strategies for Ancient Games using Artificial Intelligence" at the FSE-PhD Research Day.

23–25 November 2021
Cameron is Program Co-Chair of the ICGA's Advances in Computer Games (ACG 2021) virtual conference.

23–25 November 2021
Ludii is again the official tournament platform for the ICGA's annual Computer Olympiad.

Late 2021
Second project workshop (date and venue to be finalised).

Early 2023
Final project exhibition and conference (dates and venues to be finalised).

     Cameron Browne

Maastricht University
Data Science and Knowledge Engineering (DKE)
Paul-Henri Spaaklaan 1, 6229 EN, Maastricht, NL
lkjh   Supported by the
                      European Union. Funded by a €2m ERC Consolidator Grant (#771292) from the European Research Council. lkjh