The History of Board Games


Playing board games is a favorite pastime for many people. Aside from board games that we can play off-screen, in recent years, the trend of playing board games online has become widely popular.

It is not quite known when the first board game was invented. What is known is that they are certainly not a recent invention. Namely, the oldest board games originate from ancient Egypt, China, Iran, and Iraq. The first board game was played in the prehistoric era, believe it or not. That game is presumed to have originated in Egypt, and then the second one was created in Iran five hundred years later.

What Is the Oldest Board Game?

Many would like to know what is the oldest board game ever known. What historians have managed to determine is that Senet is among the oldest board games. It originates from Ancient Egypt and it was played around 3500 B.C.

Even though it might not be among the oldest board games, the first one for which historians have found a piece of physical evidence is called Liubo. The game was played around 1500 B.C. in China. However, the exact rules of that game are unknown. Another game was played in Egypt during the Second Intermediate Period, and that is the African game Mancala.

Due to the popularity of board games, Indian people have created a game called Parcheesi around 300 A.D., and many years later a version of Chutes and Ladders about 1200 A.D.

Senet

It is presumed that Senet was played around 3500 B.C. in Egypt. It resembles the modern-day game backgammon. Besides Egypt, people played backgammon around 3000 B.C. in Iran, too.

Senet Board Games

Boards for this game were made of limestone, wood, or ceramics. It consisted of thirty squares, sort out in three rows of ten. Researchers weren’t able to figure out the rules for this game.

The game was found in many Egyptian tombs, mainly in the tombs of pharaohs. Queen Nefertari was depicted on the tombs playing this board game. If you wondered why there were pictures of people playing board games on their tombs, we could share a theory with you. Namely, it is assumed that players who are good in this game are protected by the god of the afterlife.

Mehen

Mehen Board GamesThis is another board game that comes from Egypt, and it is thought to be the first multiplayer board game. It bears the name of a mythical character — snake-god. The board is in the form of a wind-up snake. There are two kinds of pieces in this game, small round items and ivory pieces in the form of lionesses and lions.

Scientists cannot say with certainty, but they guess the game was for six players. And regarding the rules, they are unsure about them as well. The Mehen board was uncovered in the burial chamber of King Peribsen.

Checkers

Checkers is one of the oldest games, and it is still played today. This game was found in the ancient city of Ur in Mesopotamia, or nowadays Iraq. Throughout the years the game developed as it was brought in to other countries.

Board consists of three rows of twelve markings. The main goal of the game is to eliminate the opponent’s figures from the board. The difference between this game and backgammon is that one more dice is used in checkers.

The well-liked variations of checkers are “Draughts,” as people in England call it. Aside from the English version, in board games history there are also Russian draught and American checkers.

Backgammon

They said it was similar to backgammon. In 2004, archeologists uncovered a game board in the old city of Shahr-e Sukhteh in Iran.

The board is made of ebony and features 60 markers built of turquoise and agate, and also, there is a pair of dice. The game rules have changed since this game has been played in different countries. The oldest game “tabula” from Byzantine Empire had practically the same rules as backgammon, which dates back to circa 480 A.D.

The Royal Game of Ur

With the help of the tablet from Babylon, historians managed to recreate the rules of Asseb. This game is played with two sets of dice and seven markers. This game represents one of the first board games. In 1920, British archaeologist Charles Leonard Woolley found two game boards while he was digging out the Royal Tombs of Ur. Other almost identical boards of Asseb were found in Tutankhamen’s tomb in Egypt. Also, some of them are discovered in India.

Go

Go Board Games

This game is among the oldest games, and it is played even now. Even though it is not known when the game was created, but there is a myth that Yao, the ruler of the old kingdom invented this game to teach his son some values like patience. The game spread through Asia and became well-liked.

Nine Men’s Morris

Nine Men’s Morris GamesNobody knows where and when this game emerged.

Archaeologists have found a carving on slabs in Egyptian temples, and those slabs represented the game “Mills.”

However, scientists cannot come to a consensus about the exact age of the temple’s tablet.

A number of boards were incised in buildings, but due to their exposure, it is not easy to decipher them. This game spread through Europe at some point. The rules haven’t changed a lot through time, and it is played even today.

Chess

There are two theories about the origin of this game. The majority of historians claim that it emerged in India during the Gupta Empire around the sixth century A.D. Others firmly believe it originated in China. A bit later, around 400 B.C., people played a version of chess that spread through Asia. It is safe to say that, in board games history, chess is one of the latest games.

The first manifestation of chess, from India, is known under the name Chaturanga, which characterized four military units, elephantry, infantry, chariotry, and cavalry. Ultimately, these game pieces turned into the ones we know today — bishop, knight, rook, and a pawn.

The game of chess expended through Asia and Africa. In Europe, it became popular during the medieval period. Chess rules were created in 1500 in Europe. After 1500 A.D., Europeans introduced chess to people in North America and South America.

Frequently Asked Questions About Board Games

The very first board game ever invented is not known. However, one of the oldest board games is probably Senet. Ancient Egyptians were the first to play it, and the game boards were discovered around 3500 B.C.

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Even though it is among the most ancient board games, backgammon is not the oldest. Senet is considered the oldest board game as it dates back to 3500 B.C. On the other hand, backgammon dates back to around 3000 B.C.

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The first kinds of board games included 2—6 players. The precise rules of ancient board games are not known as the majority of them have been destroyed. Some of the games served as the basis of modern games, whereas others are still played even today.

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Senet is considered the oldest board game in the world. It dates back to 3500 B.C., and it originated from Ancient Egypt. This game was discovered in a great number of tombs, primarily pharaohs’.

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The majority of board games come from ancient kingdoms and empires, mostly on the territory of the Middle and Far East. For instance, Senet, Nine Men’s Morris, and Mehen come from Egypt. Chess originated from China, while Checkers come from Iraq (former Mesopotamia). Backgammon, Go, and The Royal Game of Ur originate from Persia, i.e., modern-day Iraq.

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People play board games for various reasons. Firstly, it is a common past-time activity throughout the world. Secondly, it produces happiness and lowers the stress level as well as blood pressure. Thirdly, it builds up relationships between people. Also, it teaches us to be patient. Lastly, it improves brain functions and creativity, along with building up self-confidence.

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11 thoughts on “The History of Board Games”

  1. Peter says:

    I got quite interested in board games recently, specifically their history. What I learned is that some of them served as the basis for a number of modern-day board games. Now, what I want to know is what are some of the oldest board games that are played nowadays?

    1. Mary says:

      The oldest board games still played include chess, backgammon, and checkers. Chess comes from China, and was played for the first time about 400 A.D. Checkers originates from Iraq and was created around 3000 B.C., as well as backgammon, whose country of origin is Iran.

  2. Johnathan says:

    Ok, there are numerous games that ancient civilizations created in the pre-Christ era. But what are some of the oldest board games on the globe? And who created them?

  3. Mark says:

    The oldest board game in the world is Senet created around 3500 B.C. In Ancient Egypt, checkers and backgammon were invented around 3000 B.C. in modern-day Iraq and Iran, respectively. Also, ancient Iranians created Go and The Royal Game of Ur in the period around 2400–2600 B.C. Egyptians created Nine Men’s Morris around 1400 B.C. The most recent game among those oldest board games in the world is chess, dating back to 600 A.D.

  4. Edward says:

    Can you list the oldest board games? Also, I would like to learn where they originate from and the date of their creation.

    1. Florence says:

      The list of the oldest board games includes:
      Senet (Egypt, c. 3500 B.C.)
      Checkers (Iraq, c. 3000 B.C.)
      Backgammon (Iran, c. 3000 B.C.)
      Go (Iran, c. 2400–2600 B.C.)
      The Royal Game of Ur (Iran, c. 2400–2600 B.C.)
      Nine Men’s Morris (Egypt, around 1400 B.C.)
      Chess (China, c. 600 A.D.)

  5. Amy says:

    It is quite interesting that some games managed to remain almost unchanged in terms of their basic rules. Do you know what are the two oldest-known board games that you can play nowadays?

    1. David says:

      The two oldest board games people know of are checkers and backgammon. The games date back to around 3000 B.C., but their places of origin are different. Checkers come from Iraq (former Mesopotamia), while backgammon comes from Iran (former Persia). Both games are still played by modern-day players.

      1. Fred L. Poe says:

        The oldest board game ever known to historians is Ancient Egyptian Senet, dating back to 3500 B.C.

  6. Emily says:

    It seems that there is a lot of data about board games, much more that I actually thought. What do you know about board games history? Are there any interesting facts?

  7. Diana says:

    Board games have been played long before you might even conceive. Historians have discovered that one of the oldest board games dates back to around 3500 B.C. Some games that are still played were created around 3000 B.C. The first physical evidence that experts discovered is associated with the game named Liubo which was played in China back in 1500 B.C. Therefore, board games history is much richer than you think.

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