Board games have been played throughout the world by people of many different cultures and backgrounds across
a time span of millennia. The oldest known games date back to about 3500 B.C. Board games may be categorized
according to the type of strategy dictated by the rules of the game. These categories include race games,
war games, games of position, and Mancala games.
Today these are considered abstract games although when they originated
the games may have represented real life situations like battles.
In race games the opponents compete by moving their pieces around a pre-determined track on the board.
The first player to complete the circuit with all his pieces is the winner. Race games may be divided into two types,
pure races and running fight games. In pure race games the opponents compete by moving their pieces around a pre-determined
track on the board. The winner is the first player that completes the circuit with all their pieces. During these games,
pieces may be captured, removed from the board and forced to start the circuit again. These games include Senet,
Pachisi, and Backgammon.
In running fight games the pieces are moved in repeated laps over same circuit attempting to capture their
opponent’s pieces. Captured pieces are removed from the game. The winner is the player whose opponent no longer
has pieces still remaining on the circuit. The running fight games include Zohn Ahl, Bul, Puluc and Ad Elta Stelpur.
All these games use various forms of dice such as six-sided cube dice, two or four-sided throwing sticks, cowrie
shells, marked corn grains or knucklebones.
In war games the players marshal their armies made up of pieces of different strengths in combat against each other.
The objective is usually to capture the enemy King or all the opponent’s pieces. War games can generally be divided
in to those with equal opponent forces and those with unequal forces. In games with equal forces both sides have exactly
the same type and number of pieces and have identical objectives. These games include Alquerque, Seega, Ming Mang,
Checkers and Chess. In games with unequal forces each player has different numbers of pieces with different capabilities,
and in addition the goals of each player are different. These games include Ringo, Tigers and Goats, Fox and Geese,
Pulijudam, Tablut and other games of the Tafl family. Many of these games with unequal forces are also known as hunt games.
Games of Position
Games of position are those in which the location of a player’s pieces on the board in relation to those of
his opponent is of prime importance. In these games the players fight for control of regions of the board. Games
of position include Achi, Nine Men’s Morris, Renju and Go.
Mancala is these days the name given to a family of board games played throughout Africa, the Caribbean, India
and south-east Asia. In these games the players distribute their counters along a fixed track and attempt to capture
their opponent’s pieces by arriving at a particular position when the count is exhausted. These games are usually
played on wooden boards with two, three or four rows of holes carved into them. Sometimes these games are played in
a set of holes scooped in the ground. The counters used for these games include stones, marbles, seeds, beans, cowrie
shells or small lumps of dung.
Time-line Game History
- Fortunetelling with Sheep’s Knuckle Bones came from India to Africa around 40,000BC
- But the earliest known dice were from Iran around 3,000BC
- Note the idea that the game contains and reveals knowledge that is otherwise hidden from the player.
- In 3,000BC this knowledge was extracted from mystic sources – the mists of superstition
- In 2,000AD the knowledge is extracted from complexity – the mists of mathematics and logic
||Wei Hai or Wei-qi
- Name means “encirclement”
- Chinese game (later called "Go" in Japan)
- Abstract board on which players placed colored stones
- Details of game have not survived
- Believed to be similar to Japanese game of Go
- Appears in Egyptian dynastic history through the 4th cent. B.C.
- Move 7 pieces around the Senet board
- Used knucklebones as dice
- Egyptian Ancestor to Checkers or Draughts
- Religious mysticism. The space you end at forecast good or bad fortune
- Entertainment and a mystical window
|| Royal Game of Ur
- Oldest complete set of gaming equipment ever found
- Game is called “Ur” for the location it was found.
- A race competition for 2 players around the board and back to the beginning
- Rosettes give player another turn
- Also found at Ur, perhaps the gaming capitol of the ancient world (Las Vegas)
- Combines luck (dice/sticks), skill (choice of move), and power of the gods (rules)
- Throwing sticks are early 2-sided dice
- Also early version of “coin toss”
|| Go see Wei Hai
| 1800 BC
|| Dogs & Jackals found in Egyptian tombs
- Chinese game of battle that morphed into a racing game between 1500BC and 1200AD
- Generals and Pawns
- Become Fish, Owls, and Stones
- As with many others the exact rules have disappeared
| 1400 BC
|| Morris variant boards from the Temple of Kurna, Egypt
| 1400 BC
- Began as an accounting tool for trading good
- Evolved into a form of entertainment
- A means of gambling on cattle, sheep, and goods
- Does being good at Mancala make you better at trading animals and food?
||-Earliest records of cubical Dice
|Birth of Jesus
||-Record of Emperor Claudius playing Tabula (Early Backgammon)
||-Reference to Nard (Backgammon variant) in the Babylonian Talmud
||-Tabula (early Backgammon) game lost by Emperor Zeno recorded
-Hnefatafl games being played in Scandinavia
||-Go (Wei-qi) comes to Japan from China 4th, or 6th Century.
||-A Persian romance tells of Chess coming from India circa. 650-850 AD
Extension of knucklebones and dice
Dual-dice that are played instead of rolled
“Domino” is a hood from a Christian priest and later a Venetian Carnival mask (white with black spots)
Europeans added blanks as wild cards
||-Ballinderry artifact, Tafl-type Fidchell game board carved 10th century
-Welsh literature mentions a tafl-type? game Tawlbwrdd
||-3-in-a-row games first appear in Europe
The Isle of Lewis Chessmen are believed to have been carved
||-Alphonso X's "Book of Games" written circa 1283. Describes versions of : Chess, Tables (Backgammon) Morris, Alquerque.
-Gretis Saga of Iceland mentions Hala- tafl the Fox Game
-Earliest relations to Snakes and Ladders games in India
||-Earliest European mention of Cards in Spain 1371
||-Tarot games first played in Italy 1430's
-12- Man Morris version first seems to appear.
-1440's Poch card game, ancestor to Rummy Royale, Michigan Rummy
-Standard card suits hearts clubs spades diamonds created in France c. 1480
||-Noddy - precurser to Cribbage
-Game of Goose -ancestor to most modern childrens' race board games.
-First clear references to Checkers in 16th century
||-Modern Cribbage rules standardized in England.
-Solitaire board games appears in the court of Louis XI.
-Earliest reference to "Backgammon", Oxford English Dictionary, c.1645 -earlier name was Tables
||-Earliest reference to Pope Joan card game 1730's.
-First mention of Solitaire card games within a few years of first records of cartomancy -fortune telling with cards or tarot decks 1765
||-Bridge develops from earlier games such as Whist.
-Poker first mentioned in print, 1836
||-1863 Ludo printed in England based on Indian Pachisi (Parcheesi in US).
-Chinese Checkers first published in the west 1892.
-Snakes & Ladders published in England 1890's
||-The Landlord's Game -earliest ancestor of Monopoly patented.
- George Parker founded Parker Brothers in 1883
- Invented Banking in 1887
- Bought Monopoly rights from Charles Darrow in 1936
- The WWII Secret:
- Monopoly games distributed by the Red Cross to POWs
- Board contained 2 files and a compass
- Hollow piece contained a map of the area printed on silk
- Real German, Italian, and Austrian money was mixed with the play money
|| Scrabble (Lexico invented 1931)
- Alfred Butts created and manufactured the game at home in 1938
- Failed to Sell Any
- James Brunot bought the rights in 1948
- Failed to Sell Much
- In 1952 Jack Strauss, President of Macy’s, played the game on vacation and placed a big order for his stores
- Letter counts unchanged from 1948. Rules simplified.
- Diplomacy was originally a play-by-mail game
||-Othello published in Japan 1968, based on 19th century Reversi.
||-Cathedral invented by a New Zealand man in 1962, and sold to a game publisher in 1979.
||-Dungeons & Dragons published 1974
-Tablero da Jesus (also Tablero da Gucci) drinking game invented by SCA member
-Pente published 1978.
|| TSR Dungeons & Dragons
- Created by Gary Gygax and David Arneson
- A new genre of fantasy/imagination games.
- Dungeon Masters guide players on a quest
|| Magic: The Gathering
- Richard Garfield, Ph.D. Combinatorial Mathematics
- Mathematics Professor at Whitman College, WA
- 20 minute wargame in card form for conventions
- Less record keeping required
- Cross between Wargames and D&D
- Mahjong, 1850AD
- Apocryphal link to Confucius around 500BC
- Tile games are predecessors of cards
- Popular form of entertainment and gambling – both of which were passed on to cards
- Xiangqi, 200BC
- Influences of Go and Chaturanga
- Unique identity to pieces
- Strategic movement of pieces
- Used for military strategy
- Chess, 500AD
- European evolution of Indian Chaturanga
- “ Checkmate” is English form of Persian “Shah Mat”, which means “dead king”
- Shogi, 570AD
- Moves very similar to Chess
- Gold & Silver Generals are unique
- More aggressive promotion of pieces
- Pachisi, 1600AD
Indian Emperor Akbar I of the 16th century Mogul Empire, apparently
played Pachisi (aka Chaupar) on great courts constructed of inlaid
- He would sit on a Dias four feet high in the
centre of the court and throw the cowry shells. On the red and white
squares around him, 16 women from his harem, appropriately colored,
would move around according to his directions.
- Jigsaw Puzzles, 1760AD
- Created by map makers, pasting their maps onto wooden boards, then cutting them into pieces
- Intricacies of interlocking pieces came much later
- Became popular and affordable with the invention of the jigsaw tool in the early 1900’s
- Originally unique patterns with pieces shaped like animals, card suits, etc.
- Mansion of Happiness, 1843
- Serious Game of its time … Social Principles and Morals
possesses PIETY, HONESTY, TEMPERANCE, GRATITUDE, PRUDENCE, TRUTH,
CHASTITY, SINCERITY...is entitled to Advance six numbers toward the
Mansion of Happiness.
- WHOEVER gets into a PASSION must be taken to the water and have a ducking to cool him...
possesses AUDACITY, CRUELTY, IMMODESTY, or INGRATITUDE, must return to
his former situation till his turn comes to spin again, and not even
think of HAPPINESS, much less partake of it.“
- An entertainment of young George Parker
- Koenigspiel, 1664
- Invented by Christopher Weikhmann
- Checkered Board with 30 Pieces
- King, Marshall, Colonel, ... Private
- War Chess, 1780
- Invented by Dr. C.L. Helwig
- Squares colored for terrain feature
- Aggregate units - Infantry, Cavalry, Artillery
- Military School Wargame, 1797
- “ Rules for a New Wargame for the Use of Military Schools”
- Invented by Georg Venturini in 1797
- Kriegsspiels, 1811
- Invented by Baron von Reisswitz in 1811
- Contoured terrain, porcelain soldiers
- Introduced the “General Idea”
- Unique Scenario with Victory Conditions
- The American Kriegsspiel, 1879
- William Livermore and Hugh Brown in 1879
- Variable unit icons with strength, type, fatigue, ammunition, and task time indicators
- Pegs-and-Holes firing board
- Naval War College, 1886
- Develop operational war fighting concepts through research and wargaming
- Wargaming introduced in 1886 by William McCarthy-Little
- Cardboard Ships and Gridded Paper
- 1895 Studied British Naval Attacks on New York Harbor
- 1897 Teddy Roosevelt presented new problem
- Japanese/American fight for Hawaii
- Naval War College, 1900s 1895 1914 1947
- Birth of Miniature Games, 1903
- “ The Naval Wargame”, Scientific American , 1903 by Fred T. Jane
- Rules and tools for naval games of war
- Later author of Jane’s Fighting Ships
- Little Wars , 1913 by H.G. Wells
- Miniature soldiers and cannon
- Terrain board & rules of operation
- Championed firing toy cannons rather than calculations for determining outcome of war
- Lanchester Equations, 1912
- 1912 Differential Equations
- Predict combat outcomes based on historical data
- Establish a scientific basis for making combat decisions
Fredrick William Lanchester
- Create fundamental mathematical equations which capture the reality of combat
- Lanchester Equations
- Linear Law (Indirect Fire)
- German Schlactenspiel, 1920’s
- Mechanism of Chinese Checkers
- Terrain & buildings occupy specific holes
- Movement restricted by board characteristics
- Researched battle narrative
- Political-Military Gaming, 1929
- Invented by Eric von Manstein
- Explored German invasion of Poland
- Included players at many levels of
- President of the League of Nations
- Cabinet Members of Germany and Poland
- Diplomats from both countries
- Soviet Kriegsspiel, 1933
- Chess board with 2 rows added to each edge, 128 squares
- Explicit representation of military forces of the early 20 th century
- Japanese Wargaming, 1941
- Fall 1941 Japanese gamed Pearl Harbor Attack
- Japanese War College in Tokyo
- Partial success of attack is credited to wargames
- May 1943 gamed Battle of Midway
- Aboard the Yamato, Flagship of the Combined Fleet
- Host for regular “Table-top
- Charles Roberts, 1952
- Roberts invents board game to “practice war” while awaiting his commission
- Introduces primary pieces
- Military Units with Ratings
- Published as “Tactics” in 1954
- Sold 2,000 copies from 1954-58
- Started Avalon Hill in 1958