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Brief History of Board Games

board games for kids

Board Games

Playing board games with family members create long-lasting memories like that game night bonding with mum and dad playing Monopoly. Or spending the summer vacation at grandma’s house playing Tic-Tac-Toe, Backgammon and Snakes and Ladders. All of these memorable times bring back the childhood memories of all the fun, chaos and laughter from playing board games.

Here's a brief history of board games

What is a Board Game?

Traditionally, a board game is a subset of tabletop games. It comprises a set of rules that players must follow and usually involves deployment of strategies in order to come out victorious. It also contains counters or pieces that are moved in a pre-marked surface or board. A board game may also not necessarily need a physical board. It may just involve a set of rules and playing pieces.

Board games also come in different types and elements. It may be an Economic simulation games like Monopoly, educational games like Arthur Saves the Planet or race games like Snakes and Ladders and many more.

The elements can be pure strategy, element of chance and purely chance without using skills. Each board game has goals but the most common is to defeat the opponent via points, winning position and counters.

The Earliest Board Games

Board games had provided entertainment to many people during the ancient times. Senet is considered to be one of the oldest known board games where it is found in burials of Egypt during the Predynastic and First Dynasty dating 3500 BC and 3100 BC.

Another Egyptian board game called Hounds and Jackals appeared around 2000 BC and was popular in Mesopotamia and the Caucasus. It was also in Mesopotamia where backgammon was created and played in 5000 BC and Royal Game of Ur about 4,600 years ago. Chess and various board games were played in India. The ancient Aztec played board games like Patolli. China has contributed to board game history by creating Go and Liubo board games.

Board Games in the 18th and 19th Century

The earliest board games published in the US were based on Christian morality. One good example is the board game called The Mansion of Happiness in which was introduced in 1843 where players were sent to a path of virtues and vices that led to the mansion of happiness, heaven.

In the mid 19th century, commercially produced board games were printed in monochrome prints and were hand-colored by teams of lowly paid young factory workers. Thanks to advancements in technology, chromolithography was developed which made bold and richly colored images.

The Checkered Game of Life was created in 1860 where adult players were rewarded with activities such as attending college, marrying and getting rich. It was the first game to focus on secular virtues other than religion. During its first year, it sold more than 40,000 copies.

In 1935, a lot of competitive capitalistic board games were mass-produced and one of the most popular of these board games, Monopoly, became the most successful board game in US history.

Mass Production in the 21st Century

Through mass production, board games became even popular, cheaper and widely available to the masses. The Internet also contributed to the popularity of board games because it allows people to easily search about board games and look for opponents to play against online. There are also online communities and forums dedicated to preserving the wonders of board games. Many board games can now be played online. It can be against a virtual opponent or another person.


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