Playing Ancient Games: History & Mythology With John Bucher - Atlas Obscura Experiences

Playing Ancient Games: History & Mythology With John Bucher

3 sessions
$210 per person
Up to 30 people
See Dates
$210 per person
$210 per person
See Dates
What We’ll Do

In this 3-part seminar, learn to play ancient games while exploring the history, mythology, and psychology behind them.

Course Description

Who said stones and runes can’t be all you need to have fun? Certainly not the gamers of ancient times. In this course led by Game Master and mythologist Dr. John Bucher, we’ll dive deep into the world of ancient games, exploring the symbols, cultural context, and uses of games played over 1000 years ago. We’ll look at the history and mythology that gave rise to them, as well as basic tenets of game theory and human psychology as they apply to game playing. Along the way, we’ll have the opportunity to play some of these games together, trying our hands at a different game with ancient origins each week. By the end of our time together, not only will you have a deep understanding of the ancient roots of games, but also a sense of why games have always been an important part of making sense of our world and the ways in which they remain a part of how we play today. 

Syllabus at a Glance  

This course includes three total sessions, each lasting 1.5 hours. 

Spring Session A: Meets Mondays beginning April 15.

Session 1 (Monday, 4/15, 8–9:30 PM ET)| Secret Games of the Gods: How ancient myths and games are intertwined

Session 2 (Monday, 4/22, 8–9:30 PM ET)| Sacred Shapes and Patterns: Exploring Senet and Ur

Session 3 (Monday, 4/29, 8–9:30 PM ET)| Finite and Infinite Games: The intersection of game theory, mythology, and the psychology of everyday life

Between Sessions

Outside of class, students who wish to dive deeper into course material will have access to optional readings. Students will also be encouraged to play with each other or those in their own communities on their own time, too! 

Course Materials

While no materials are required for this course, students are encouraged to purchase or create homemade versions of any of the ancient games played in class for their own enjoyment. 

Pricing Options

In addition to full-price tickets, a limited number of no-pay spots are available for this course. Please note that these tickets are reserved for those who would not otherwise be able to take this course and who expect to attend all sessions. No-pay spots are distributed via a randomized drawing two weeks before each course begins. For more information and to apply for a no-pay spot, please click here. To learn more about our pricing model and randomized selection process for no-pay spots, please visit our FAQ page.

Community Guidelines for Students

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Atlas Obscura Online Courses

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Where We’ll Be

Once registered, you’ll receive a confirmation email from Eventbrite that will provide access to each class meeting. Please save the confirmation email as you’ll use it to access all sessions of your course via Zoom.

About Your Instructor
John Bucher
John Bucher

Dr. John Bucher is a mythologist and storyteller based out of Hollywood, California. He serves as Creative Director for the Joseph Campbell Foundation and is also an author, podcaster, speaker, teacher, and consultant. He has worked with companies including HBO, DC Comics, The History Channel, A24 Films, and has served as a consultant and writer for numerous film, television, and Virtual Reality projects. He co-hosts the Skeleton Keys podcast, which examines mythology and history in pop culture, with Historian Torri Yates-Orr. John holds a PhD in Mythology and Depth Psychology and has spoken on 6 continents about myth, story, rituals, symbols, and cults.

What Else You Should Know

This is an interactive, small-group seminar that meets over Zoom. Students may be encouraged to participate in discussions, work on assignments outside of class, and workshop projects with their instructor or classmates. Due to the interactive nature of this course, we strongly recommend students attend as many live sessions as possible. Within 72 hours after each session meets, students will receive access to a recording of the live session, which they can watch for up to two weeks after the course concludes.

Instructors may use Google Classroom to communicate with students outside of class. While students aren’t required to use Google Classroom, instructors may use this platform to post resources, discussion questions, or assignments. This platform also offers a space for students to connect with one another about course material between sessions. 

We provide closed captioning for all of our courses and can share transcripts upon request. Please reach out to us at if you have any questions, requests, or accessibility needs.

Group Size

There are 30 spots available on this experience.

Dates and Availability

There are no upcoming experiences at the moment. Fill out the form below to be notified when we add new dates.

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