Board games have been a part of almost every civilization on every part of the planet. Board games have been found in ancient tombs and depicted on the walls of the pyramids. From ancient Persia to Egypt and China, board games became an important part of their cultures that they have passed down to subsequent cultures.
Senet was a game from ancient Egypt that can still be found today. It was found in burial chambers of early dynastic leaders and was depicted in a painting of Nefertari. The Royal Game of Ur and backgammon were found in Iran in tombs from 2600 BC. Versions of that game have been found in Babylonia as well in cuneiform from 177 BC. Go is another ancient game from China that dates back to about 2300 BC that is still played today. It also enjoys the fact that the rules have changed little since 700 AD when it was introduced to Japan. Mancala is also an ancient game that was played all over the ancient world that is still enjoyed today. Boards that resemble today’s mancala boards have been found at Neolithic digs from Africa. Mah Jongg is another Chinese game that began its popularity thousands of years ago. It moved outside of China in the 1920s, and has been growing in popularity ever since.
As the years went on, games like India’s Parcheesi joined the other early games and they began to be shared from one country to another. Sometimes new rules were added or boards were redesigned slightly. In Medieval Europe, Italian artists designed elaborate game boards featuring paths of game squares that led to an ending. Checkers and chess became very popular throughout Europe. Board games were invented that let players settle the New World or fight Napoleon. As the printing industry grew, board games became more common.
Milton Bradley made the Game of Life in 1860, and it is still a popular children’s game today. In 1904, a woman from Virginia invented a game she called The Landlord’s Game. It was eventually changed to Monopoly in the 1930s, which has become one of the most popular games ever. Games like Scrabble, Risk, Chutes and Ladders, Mousetrap and Aggravation came on the scene and made a place for themselves. 1948 saw the birth of Clue, which went on to spawn a book series and a film as the years went by. In the 1980s, trivia games became all the rage and Trivial Pursuit was born.
Today, many of the most popular games have been recreated as computer games, though board games still remain popular. It is hard to give them up entirely. While the computerized versions are similar, there is something satisfying about sitting around a table with your family or friends and moving pieces around a board. Considering the long history board games have had in human society, it is no wonder that we feel this way. It’s kind of nice to think we can have a good time playing a game just like a family in ancient Egypt or China did centuries ago.