Since before we had written languages, there were board games. What started as a simple way to pass the time turned into a booming industry. Now, we all play board games. We play with our friends and family members, eagerly gathering around the kitchen table to compete against one another. Board game tournaments take place across the globe where board game fanatics strive to win money. Even board game cafes exist, a place for board game enthusiasts to test out new games with a cup of coffee. Board games continue to remain a widespread source of entertainment for people all around the world. So, where did this all begin? Let’s go back in time.


The Pre-Historic Ages

From the very beginning of time, humans have kept themselves occupied with made-up games and activities. The very first gaming piece known to humankind is a pair of dice! Perhaps there could have been gaming pieces even before dice existed, but historians have found real evidence of dice in Turkey, Syria, and Iraq.

At the time, dice were made from materials such as wood, stones, bones, and even turtle shells!

Dice games continue to be popular in our modern society. For example, think of Craps! It’s a dice game that is widely popular in casinos.


A Royal Leisurely Activity

In Ancient Egypt, board games became extremely popular amongst members of royalty. Popular games for Ancient Egyptians were Mehen, Senet, Twenty-Squares, and Hounds and Jackals. In many Egyptian tombs, there are drawings on the walls of people playing these games.

Senet was a game of great luck. This was tied to the spiritual views of the Egyptians. Ancient Egyptians believed in fate. When you played Senet, it was said that if you won, you would be protected by the Gods. The actual methods of gameplay for Senet are up for debate; historians haven’t quite figured out how the game was played. Below is an image of Senet!


The Act of War Inspires Military Styled Board Games

In the 13th century, there was a great deal of warfare. The wars in this time inspired people to create military themed board games.

One military themed board game in particular was Ludus lactrunculorum. This was a 2 player strategic board game that was played throughout the Roman Empire. This game is said to have a similar likeness to Chess. Ludus lactrunculorum is said to have inspired the movement of pawns in modern day Chess. As well, Ludus lactrunculorum was frequently used as a medieval Latin name for Chess.


Childhood Games

For a long duration of time, board games were only popular amongst adults. However, board games eventually became a source of entertainment for young children.

Hopscotch was created around 500 BC for children in Rome.

Snakes and Ladders was created for Indian children. This game was said to teach Indian children morality and the difference between good and evil.


The Evolution of Chess  

It all started with Tafl. Tafl games were from German and Celtic origin. Like modern day Chess, Tafl games were played on a checkered board with armies. The king in Tafl has the objective of fleeing from the armies, while the armies attempt to capture the king. Tafl was said to resemble the act of Viking attacks. Supposedly, Tafl became a game named Chaturanga, a strategic board game from Ancient India.

The European edition of Tafl and Chaturanga was Chess. It rapidly spread through Europe and Russia. Chess evolved over time. It’s rules changed and progressed until it became the Chess that we know and love today.


The Beginning of Dominoes

It was said that dominoes were originally created in China around 1100 AD. However, it wasn’t until 18th century France that dominoes became increasingly popular. Eventually, the game of dominoes made it’s way over to Britain.

Another version of dominoes was played by Inuit tribes in North America. They constructed their dominoes out of bones.


The Launch of Monopoly

In 1904, The Landlord’s Game was invented. This game was created by Lizzie Magie, one of America’s first board game designers. This game had a square track and housing properties located around the board. There were also railroads, a jail, and a corner of the board called, “Labor Upon Mother Earth Produces Wages”. When players passed this part of the board, they received $100. Does this concept sound familiar to you?

In 1935, Lizzie Magie sold The Landlord’s Game to Parker Brothers. They launched it as Monopoly. It is surprising to know that originally, Parker Brothers rejected the idea for The Landlord’s Game. However, as we all know, Monopoly is extremely successful and remains one of the most reputable board games of all time. The patent for The Landlord’s Game was sold to Parker Brothers at the price of merely $500.


Spiel des Jahres

This German award is English for, “Game of the Year”. The first Spiel des Jahres award was given in the year 1979. It is an extremely important award for board game creators as this award has been proved to boost revenue.

Many famous games such as Dominion, Qwirkle, Catan, and Carcassonne have won this very prestigious award.

This award was important for the board game industry because board game creators felt inspired to keep creating more games.


Catan’s Cultural Impact

Many European board games did not experience fame outside of the European continent. However, Catan changed this completely by becoming extremely popular in America throughout the late 90s. Catan didn’t just become popular amongst Americans though; it has since been translated into over 30 languages so it can be played across the globe.

Catan was named “the board game of our time” by the Washington Post. As well, it was featured in a documentary in 2012 called Going Cardboard. This documentary explored Catan’s impact on board gamers in America.

Catan inspired those in North America to explore a new industry of games – Eurogames. Instead of only playing American games like Trivial Pursuit, Battleship, and Sorry, Americans found a new genre of European games just like Catan.


A Prosperous Industry

Despite our very digital world, the board game industry remains successful. As a matter of fact, society’s technological advancement has actually helped many board games achieve success. For example, in this day in age, board games are able to be viewed online through social media posts and online reviews. This allows more people to hear about new and upcoming board games, which drastically increases revenue.

Globally, there are board game conventions and meet and greets where members of the board gaming community can meet board game creators and fellow opponents. These conventions are greatly advertised through social media.

Our world has become a very digital place. It is true that many people seek out other forms of entertainment such as video games or television instead of board games. However, the board game industry isn’t going anywhere. Our digital world has been assisting in successful advertising for board games all across the world. Social media is also a great place for board gamers to play against one another and communicate with one another.

With beautifully illustrated designs and new complex rules, it is evident that the board game industry will continue to withstand the test of time.