Top 10 historical board games
Papyrus with satirical vignettes depicting a gazelle playing senet and a lion playing senet. Around 1250–1150 BC, the city of Deir el-Medina (Thebes) was built. Please find below 10 historical board games from the collection that you may play today if you feel the need to take a break from your computer or mobile device. Our web shop sells reproductions of several of the games, which you can see below.
1. The Royal Game of Ur
The Royal Game of Ur is a medieval fantasy game set in the world of Ur. Wood and shell artifacts discovered at the Royal Cemetery of Ur, in southern Iraq, dated to 2600–2400 BC. The Royal Game of Ur is the world’s oldest playable boardgame, having been invented some 4,600 years ago in ancient Mesopotamia and still in use today. The rules of the game were first set down on a clay tablet in 177 BC by a Babylonian astronomer. Irving Finkel, the curator, was able to discern the game’s rules from this: two players battle to race their pieces from one end of the board to the other end of the board.
In order to experience the game for yourself, you can purchase a duplicate of the game from our online shop, which can be found here.
2. The Lewis Chessmen
The Lewis Chessmen are a group of chess players from Lewis, Illinois. On the Isle of Lewis, Scotland, between 1150 and 1175, carved walrus ivory and whale teeth were discovered. The Lewis Chessmen are a set of charismatic chess pieces that have become some of the most recognizable things in the Museum. The intricately carved chess pieces, which were made in Scandinavia in the late 12th century, were discovered on the Scottish island of Lewis in 1831 and have since been restored. It is believed that they belonged to a trader who was traveling from Norway to Ireland, and numerous theories have evolved as to why they may have been hidden there.
In particular, this is obvious in the figures of the warders or rooks, who take on the appearance of berserkers– ferocious mythological warriors– in their armor.
In this movie, you will learn about the connection between the Lewis Chessmen and a specific kid wizard:
Wooden wari board, Sierra Leone. Wari is a game of calculation and strategy played widely within West Africa and also popular elsewhere in the world – you might know it as mancala. The aim of the game is to capture the seeds of your opponent, moving them from their six playing holes to your bank. This game board was made in Sierra Leone and is notable for its elaborate sculptural base. It’s decorated with an animal, possibly a pig.
If you don’t have a game board at home, you can play by drawing two rows of six circles on a piece of paper, with an oval at each end, and use 48 marbles, beads, pebbles, or even sweets as your counters. Find out how to play with a blog from the spruce craftshere(external link) (external link).
Egypt, 1400–1200 BC, ivory game-box for the game of senet. Senet, a board game that dates back to circa 3100 BC and was enjoyed by both Tutankhamun and Queen Nefertari, is one of the first known board games. The game board is divided into 30 squares, which are arranged in three rows of ten each. Two players fight to be the first to get all of their pieces to the other side of the board. Instead of dice, the players use casting sticks or bones to determine the number of squares moved with each throw.
Depending on the board, some have totally blank squares, such as this one constructed from a hollowed-out piece of wood covered with ivory, while others include squares adorned with hieroglyphs denoting extra game rules.
satirical vignettes on a papyrus sheet.
A set of mahjong tiles made of bone, bamboo, and pigment is presented here. China between 1800 and 1900. Mahjong is a tile-based strategy game that was first played during the Qing period in China (1644–1912), and it is still played today. They are customarily embellished with Chinese characters, bamboo branches, and dots, and specific tiles depicting winds, dragons, flowers, and seasons are used to denote the seasons. This incomplete set has 140 of the original 144 tiles, which are constructed of bamboo and bone and each tile weights just six grams.
In actuality, it is quite similar to the card game rummy, with four players drawing and discarding tiles to fill their hand as they go.
Mahjong was first introduced to the Western world in the nineteenth century and has steadily gained popularity ever since.
6. The Game of the Goose
‘The Goose Game, a Royal and Entertaining Game’ is the name of the game. Hand-colored etching that has been lacquered, framed, and backed with green baize is shown. 1800–1820: Glasgow, Scotland The Game of the Goose, the world’s first commercially marketed board game, is entirely based on chance and luck, with no element of strategy involved. Between 1574 and 1587, Duke Francesco de Medici presented the game, then known asGioco dell’Ocato, to King Philip II of Spain, and the pastime swiftly gained popularity throughout the rest of the European continent.
The ‘Game of the Goose’ is available in French, German, and Italian.
Special rules apply to some places; for example, if you land on number 58, you must restart the game, and if you land on number 19 you may be required to pay a forfeit and drink until your next turn.
To win the game, players must get a perfect score of 63. At home, all you have to do is copy or print off any of the versions mentioned above, which conveniently include all of the rules on the board, and then locate two dice and have a good time!
7. Ajax and Achilles’ game of dice
Ajax and Achilles are depicted in a game on the amphora, which is made up of black figures. Around 530 BC, the Lysippides Painter was active in Attica (Greece). This amphora, which was created in Athens around 530 BC, depicts Ajax and Achilles, two of the heroes of the Trojan war, as they engage in a board game, presumably using pessi, or dice. In between fights, Ajax reaches out to pick up one of his counters or dice from the gaming board, which has seven counters or dice showing. They are killing time while waiting for the next combat to begin.
Its origins may be traced back approximately 5,000 years to Mesopotamia, and variations of the game were played in the Byzantine Empire in the 5th century and in Persia in the 6th century.
In this film, curator Victoria Donnellan welcomes us into the realm of Ajax and Achilles’ game:
New Board Game of the Four Ranks (Shi-n-k-sh-shin sugoroku) is a new board game of the four ranks. Japanese woodblock print from the 18th century. Sugoroku was originally a sophisticated game played by two individuals using a pair of dice and fifteen counters each, which was popular among the Japanese upper classes when it was first introduced to Japan from China in the 8th century. Affordably priced woodblock-printed sugorokusheets were produced during the Edo period (1615–1868), allowing this variant of the game, known as e-sugoroku (, meaning ‘image sugoroku,’) to be played across Japan.
It may be played by two or more persons, with each player moving their pieces in accordance with dice rolls around a clockwise spiral.
Each player begins at the’merchant’ square, which is located in the bottom right-hand corner of the board.
Print out the game and play it for yourself to see if you can identify all of the objects — all you’ll need is a pair of dice and some counters to get started.
(Left) Pachisi game board made of beadwork in North West India between 1850 and 1900. (Right) Pachisi game board made of cotton and velvet in Sri Lanka during the nineteenth century. This ancient Indian game has been played on a board that has been fashioned like a cross since at least the 16th century, and it is played on two teams of three players. During the game, the goal is to move all four of your pieces across the board before your opponents do so. The center square serves as both the starting point and the finishing point.
Alternatively, in certain versions of the game, shells are substituted by beehive-shaped pieces, such as the ones seen below.
India’s Assam region in the nineteenth century Paccs derives from the Hindi word for twenty-five (paccs), which means twenty-five points.
As a result, the game is sometimes referred to as Twenty Five. In 1896, the ideas of pachisi were used to the creation of Ludo, a simpler form of the same game, which was played in England. More information may be found here.
Mehen plays a round game made of apale-yellow limestone. Egypt during the Early Dynastic era (about 2925–2575 BC). Mehen, named after the Egyptian snake god, was a game that was played from around 3000 BC to 2300 BC. With the help of extra lion-shaped gaming pieces, teams of up to six players race from the tail to the head and back again on a game board that is formed like a coiled snake with its body separated into rectangular segments. A modern analogue of Mehen is unclear, but one possibility is Hyena, a North African game in which players compete to move a mother piece around an inverted spiral track from the outer (the town) to the center (the well) and back.
Our list of historical board games is intended to be entertaining; please let us know if they have alleviated your boredom and if you are having fun playing any of them by tweeting [email protected]
8 of the best historical board games for history lovers
Just as with the finest history books, board games can take you almost anywhere in history – from ancient Greece and the Roman empire all the way up to the Cold War – if you go beyond the (un)holy trinity ofMonopoly, Cluedo, andRisk, to name a few examples. With the impending holiday season and the potential of even more time spent indoors, we’ve compiled a list of some of the historically inspired modern board games that we’ve liked the most, so you don’t have to settle with backgammon this season (unless you like the idea ofancient board games, in which case, definitely check out backgammon).
- Timeline is a straightforward idea that can be both fascinating and irritating at the same time.
- There is no board for this game; instead, there are cards, each of which is double-sided.
- The identical occurrence is depicted on the opposing side, but this time with the date it occurred.
- The player who correctly places all of his or her cards wins.
- It’s one thing to have cards depicting historical events such as the Battle of Hastings or the Night of the Gunpowder Plot, but how certain are you in your knowledge of when the pencil sharpener was developed, or if it occurred before or after the British began eating potatoes?
- Expect Monopoly is a game that is worthy of grumbling, but without the board being flipped.
- Available for purchase on Amazon.
Instead of flitting around the world snuffing out four unnamed pandemics as horribly contagious as the Spanish Flu and the Black Death while hunting for their vaccines as you did in Pandemich, the action is restricted to Europe, where the Roman empire is beset by five ‘barbarian’ tribes in this sequel to the critically acclaimed game.
- Given the fact that ancient Rome has been sacked several times, it is rather ironic that you will likewise lose immediately if the Eternal City is taken over.
- Available for purchase on Amazon.
- However, it is based on the mythology of the Peloponnese (the multi-decade battle between the city states of Athens and Sparta that spilled over over much of the region), rather than the historical events of the Peloponnesian War.
- In the end, this is crucial since each deity grants you the ability to construct a unique building for your city.
- Buffalo Games are for 2–8 participants, ages 14 and up.
- Chronology is another game that is quick, easy, and addicting, and it tests your knowledge of dates and events.
- A player takes it in turns to read the specifics of an event to another player – some aspects are more obscure than others, which may be irritating at times, though most can be figured out with a little background information!
If the first person fails to properly guess where the card should be placed, another player has the opportunity to successfully guess and earn the card, and so on.
Games with a Plan B Ages 8 and above, 2–4 players Available for purchase on Amazon.
Each player assumes the role of a tile-laying artist and sets tiles to embellish the Royal Palace of Évora, a former royal seat of the Portuguese kings, with the various designs giving points for the player who placed the most tiles.
The small playing pieces echo the azulejos (decorated ceramic tiles) that enchanted Portuguese king Manuel I in the 15th century, and the game is not dependent on historical knowledge to play.
2–4 players, over the age of ten Available for purchase on Amazon.
During your rounds, you will attempt to accumulate riches via the use of gem mines, stores, and modes of transportation (though these elements are largely visual, and not as important as the gem values shown on the cards).
A entertaining combination of chance and strategy that may be played in countless permutations.
Available for purchase on Amazon.
However, if you have four hours to spare, a properly tough opponent, and the patience to go through an unusually lengthy instruction manual, this epic war for Cold War global supremacy is enthralling to watch (and infuriating in equal measure).
During the course of the game, which is divided into three sessions – early, mid, and late war – the players will each select cards that refer to historical events from the Cold War, ranging from the Cuban Missile Crisis and the founding of NATO to Flower Power and Nixon’s visit to China.
In this game, there are a hundred various ways to win (don’t forget about the Space Race!) and just when you think you’re on the verge of winning, your entire strategy might come crumbling down around you.
Meanwhile, the DEFCON level continues to deteriorate, raising the possibility of mutually assured catastrophe. That is, if one of you does not flip the board over in rage first. 8
Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective
Space Cowboys are a group of people who live in space. 1–8 participants between the ages of 13 and up Available for purchase on Amazon. In this co-operative game based on the stories of Arthur Conan Doyle’s famed investigator, Sherlock Holmes, you’ll delve into the dark underground of Victorian London with your friends. A mystery is offered to you in each game, and you must solve it. For example, who killed two lions in Hyde Park and why? Who is responsible for the theft of artworks from the National Gallery?
- Working either alone or with a group of pals, you will become entangled in the complexities of each case before attempting to resolve it in any way.
- For those of you who recall the ‘choose your own adventure’ novels that were popular in the 1980s and 1990s, Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective operates on a similar basis to those publications.
- Your decisions regarding which leads and clues to follow will have a direct influence on how the tale unfolds.
- According to reports, the game creators undertook significant historical research in order to give the game a realistic feel — and the results are impressive to say the least.
- This game provides an immersive experience for individuals who like to play alone or with their buddies.
- Examine our selections of the finest history books, the best historical fiction novels, and our favorite HistoryExtra podcasts for the year 2020.
8 Oldest Board Games in the World
People have been engaging in some type of game-playing since the emergence of the first civilizations more than 5,000 years ago. A majority of the games in this list were played by the first civilizations, including the Ancient Sumerians (from Mesopotamia) and the Ancient Egyptians, who lived thousands of years ago. Despite the fact that the actual rules of these ancient games have been lost to time, historians have been able to put together and reconstruct gameplay such that people may still play them to this day.
Date of creation: about 600 AD Country of Origin: India, with the possibility of China. Yes, it is still being played today. The number of players is two. Other Names:Varies from nation to country. image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons Despite the fact that most people believe that chess is an old game, when compared to all of the other board games on this list, it is actually rather recent. However, while the actual roots of the game of chess are uncertain, most historians agree that it started in India under the Gupta Empire about the 6th century AD– while other historians believe it originated in China instead.
The modern-day pawn is the most closely related to the ancient Indian rook. When chess first became popular, its rules changed as it expanded throughout Europe and the world. The contemporary rules of the game were codified in the 15th century in Europe.
7. Nine Men’s Morris
Date of creation is unknown, however it is likely to have been around 1400 BCE. Possibly from Ancient Egypt, however the country of origin is not known. Yes, it is still being played today. The number of players is two. Other names include: Nine Man Morris, Mills, The Mill Game, Merels or Merrills, Cowboy Checkers, and Cowboy Checkers & Merels. image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons The game of Nine Men’s Morris is so old that no one can pinpoint exactly when and where it first appeared on the scene.
The antiquity of the temple’s slabs, on the other hand, is a source of considerable controversy.
Nine Men’s Morris became popular among priests and monks throughout Europe as the game grew in popularity.
Date of creation: around 2000 BCE Ancient China was the country of origin. Yes, it is still being played today. The number of players is two. Other names for this plant include Weiqi, Igo, Paduk, and Baduk. image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons Going back to its origins in China, where it is known as Weiqi, go is one of the world’s oldest board games that is still widely played today. The game of Go is thought to have originated in China sometime between 3,000 and 4,000 years ago, however the actual roots of the game are unclear.
During the 1670s, the popularity of Go spread to other East Asian countries, particularly Japan (from where the game’s name derives).
5. Royal Game of Ur
Date of creation: between 2600 and 2400 BCE Ancient Mesopotamia is the country of origin (modern-day Iraq) Yes, it is still being played today. The number of players is two. Asseb (also known as the Game of Twenty Squares) is another name for this game. image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons The Royal Game of Ur, which was played in Ancient Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq), is one of the world’s first board games and is considered to be the origin of civilisation. Two gameboards were discovered by British archaeologist Sir Charles Leonard Woolley in 1920 while excavating the Royal Tombs of Ur.
Others with twenty squares have been discovered at various ancient locations in Egypt, including Tutankhamen’s tomb, and India that are comparable to this one.
Modern versions of the game have been developed in accordance with these principles, and the game may even be played online at the British Museum’s Mesopotamia website.
Date of creation: around 2700 BCE Ancient Egypt was the country of origin. Is it still being played today? The number of players ranges from 2 to 6. There are no other names for this plant. image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons Mehen is another ancient Egyptian board game that is said to be the world’s first multi-player board game. It is also the world’s first multi-player board game. It is known that the game existed as far back as the Predynastic Period and continued until the end of the Old Kingdom — a Mehen gameboard was discovered in the tomb of King Peribsen, which dates back to 2770 – 2650 BCE.
They come in two varieties: little spheres that seem similar to marbles and ivory pieces in the shape of lions and lionesses, among other things.
Date of creation: around 3000 BCE Ancient Persia is the country of origin (modern-day Iran) Yes, it is still being played today. The number of players is two. Other names include Nard, Gul Bara, and Tapa. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Backgammon is an ancient board game that is even older than Chess in its origins. It was found in the ancient Iranian city of Shahr-e Sukhteh in 2004 that a gameboard that looked similar to the game of Backgammon had been erected. The board has been dated to about 3000 BCE and is thought to be the world’s oldest Backgammon board ever discovered.
Because it was played in different locations, the rules of the game altered throughout time.
Date of creation: around 3000 BCE Ancient Mesopotamia is the country of origin (modern-day Iraq) Yes, it is still being played today. The number of players is two. Draughts (called “drafts” in British English) is another name for this type of document. publicdomainpictures.net is the source of the image. Checkers, also known as Draughts, is one of the world’s oldest board games that is being played today. It is said to have originated in China. In the ancient city of Ur in southern Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq), the game’s beginnings may be traced back to around 3000 BCE, when the game was first played.
Because of its widespread adoption in different nations, the game of Checkers has developed through time.
Today, the most common variations of the game are English draughts/American checkers and Russian draughts. The game has remained popular around the world, and the first World Championship in International Draughts was held in France in 1885, marking the beginning of the modern era of draughts.
Date of creation: around 3500 BCE Ancient Egypt was the country of origin. Yes, it is still being played today. The number of players is two. Other names include Senat and Sen’t. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Senet is most likely the world’s oldest known board game and has been around for thousands of years. It was popular in ancient Egypt, and game boards have been discovered in tombs going back to the Predynastic and First Dynastic periods, as far back as 3500 BCE. Senet boards were rectangular slabs of wood, limestone, or faience (ceramic earthenware produced from powdered quartz and covered with a vividly colored glaze) that were carved with squares and symbols and decorated with a variety of designs.
Bell have created their own reconstructions of the game in their own words.
Ancient & Historical Board Games
It is our goal at Masters Classic Games to provide the most diverse and intriguing range of traditional board games available anywhere in the United Kingdom. Included in this category is our expanding collection of ancient and historical board games, many of which are exclusive to our website.
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The Royal Game of Ur | Ancient Sumerian Ur Board Game
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Game of the Goose – The First Commercial Board Game
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16 of the Most Interesting Ancient Board and Dice Games
The image is courtesy of Jakob Bdagrd/Public domain. It has been thousands of years since board and dice games have been a popular activity in practically all human communities. In fact, they are so ancient that it is impossible to determine which game is the earliest or the original version, if there is such a thing. Even the ancient Greeks enjoyed a good game of chess or checkers; this picture on a Greek amphora from the sixth century B.C. (currently on display at the Vatican Museums in Rome) depicts the Greek heroes Achilles and Ajax engaging in a dice game between battles during the siege of Troy.
Check out some of the most intriguing antique board and dice games, which range in age from several hundred years to several thousand years.
(Photo courtesy of the Vyborg Castle Museum.) An archaeologist working with the Book of Deer Project in Scotland discovered a gaming board in what they believe to be a medieval monastery in August of this year. There is a possibility that the underground edifice was formerly home to monks who worked on the Book of Deer, a 10th-century illuminated manuscript of the Christian gospels in Latin that also contains the world’s oldest examples of Scottish Gaelic writing, according to the experts. The ancient gaming board was engraved onto a round stone that was discovered above buried layers in the building that dated to the seventh and eighth Centuries.
Historians believe it was used to playhnefatafl, a Norse strategic game that is frequently referred to asViking chess, despite the fact that it is not connected to chess.
Medieval Mill Game
Photograph by Michael Sharpe/Book of Deer Project. (Credit: Book of Deer Project.) Archaeologists discovered a secret chamber at the foot of a spiral staircase at Vyborg Castle, which dates back to the 13th century and is located near Russia’s border with Finland. Researchers believe this game board, which was etched into the surface of a clay brick, was used to play a medieval version of the board game known as “nine-man morris” or “mill,” which was discovered in the secret room. The game has as least as far back as the Roman Empire, and it was particularly popular in Europe throughout the Middle Ages.
In the event when a player constructed a “mill” consisting of three pieces in a row, they were awarded with one of their opponent’s pieces.
(Image courtesy of The British Museum / CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license. ) The game of chess has been played in Europe for hundreds of years, and the Lewis chessmen, which were discovered buried near a beach on the Scottish island of Lewis in 1831, are perhaps the most renowned chess set in archaeology to have been discovered. It’s not certain how the game pieces ended up in Lewis, but researchers believe they were produced around the 12th or 13th century, when the island was a part of the Kingdom of Norway, and that they were buried for security by a wandering trader.
King, queen, churchmen (bishops), knights, and warders (rooks) are shown on the larger pieces, while the pawns are represented by carved standing stones on the smaller pieces.
The image is courtesy of Thomas Wrigglesworth/NIKU. Around the 10th century, it is believed that the game of chess was brought to Europe from its origins in the Middle East. Several archaeological findings from medieval Europe, including this 800-year-old chess piece from Norway, which was discovered in 2017 during an excavation of a 13th-century home in the town of Tnsberg, testifies to the game’s widespread appeal.
A knight from the chess game, which was known at the period by its Persian namehatranj, is assumed to have been represented by the piece. Archaeologists believe it is made of antler and carved in a “Arabic” manner, yet they believe it was most likely manufactured elsewhere in continental Europe.
Game of Go
Veinarde/Wikipedia/CC BY 3.0 is the source of this image. Go is the most well-known board game in China, and it is now played all over the world. Developed in China between 2,500 and 4,000 years ago, it is believed to be one of the oldest games remaining in existence in its original form. Some believe the game was invented by the legendary Emperor Yao, who reigned from 2356 to 2255 BCE, to teach discipline to his son; others believe it evolved from a type of magical divination, with the black and white pieces representing the spiritual concepts of Yin and Yang, and the game pieces representing the concepts of Yin and Yang Go was introduced to Japan in the ninth century A.D.
Professional Go players in Japan are now competing in tournaments for cash prizes of hundreds of thousands of dollars in today’s market.
Greek and Roman Dice
(Photo courtesy of PHAS/UIG via Getty Images. ) ) Several ancient dice games were adopted by the Romans from their Greek counterparts; collections such as the British Museum have several old dice from both areas and throughout the Roman Empire. In 1985, a “dice tower” from the Roman era, used for throwing dice, was discovered in Germany. Ancient dice could be carved from stone, crystal, bone, antler, or ivory, and while the cubical dice that we are familiar with today were common, they were not the only shape that was used — archaeologists have discovered several polyhedral dice, including a 20-sided dice engraved with Greek characters from Ptolemaic Egypt, as well as a 20-sided dice engraved with Greek characters from ancient Greece.
Archaeologists are not unanimous in their belief that such dice were always used for games; instead, some believe that they were used for divination, with the symbols or phrases on each face of the die symbolizing an old god who may be able to aid the dice thrower.
Chinese Dice Game
(Source: Chinese Cultural Relics; image courtesy of them.) A secret game with an uncommon 14-sided die was discovered in a 2,300-year-old tomb near Qingzhou City in 2015. The die was part of a mysterious game that featured an extraordinary 14-sided die. There were 21 rectangular game pieces with numbers painted on them and a shattered tile that was originally part of a game board ornamented with “two eyes. encircled by cloud-and-thunder patterns” when the die, fashioned of animal teeth, was discovered.
Israel Mancala Boards
(Photo courtesy of Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images. ) ) A “games room” was discovered in the excavations of a Roman-era pottery studio from the second century A.D. near the town of Gedera in central Israel, according to researchers who reported their discovery in July 2018. Many boards for the ancient game of mancala were discovered, including many boards made up of rows of pits etched into stone benches, as well as a bigger mancala game board carved into a separate piece of stone. The chamber appears to have been used as a leisure center for the pottery workers, as evidenced by the discovery of a “spa” with 20 tubs and a set of glass cups and bowls for drinking and eating at the location.
A popular game in many regions of the world, particularly in Africa and Asia, mancala is still played today. In order to win the game, players must move their counters, marbles, or seeds among the pits of the game board, capture an opponent’s piece, and then move their own piece off of the board.
(Image courtesy of the public domain.) Chaturanga is the Indian version of the Persian game shatranj, which was later adopted by the Western world as chess. It is believed to have been originated during the Gupta Empire of northern and eastern India about the sixth century A.D., however “proto-chess” boards have been discovered in the Indus Valley region that date back more than 3,000 years and may have been used as a game of strategy. Generals, elephants, and chariots were among the chaturanga pieces, which are considered to have corresponded to the contemporary chess pieces of queens, bishops, and rooks, among other things.
On an 8-by-8 grid of squares, the Hindu gods Krishna and Radha are portrayed playing Chaturanga in this illustration from an Indian text from the Gupta period.
Pachisi and Chaupar
(Image courtesy of the public domain.) The Indian game of pachisi is still played today, and a variant of it is also played in the Western world under the name of ludo, which is a variation of the game. This board game, which is assumed to have evolved from older board games around the fourth century A.D., is currently regarded to be India’s national game. One of the women of the king of Lucknow is seen playing chaupar, a game that is closely linked to pachisi and that employs the same cross-shaped board as pachisi.
Player movement in pachisi and chaupar was formerly dictated by a toss of six or seven cowrie shells, the opening of which might be upward or downward — dice are now frequently employed in the games — and the position of their pieces on the board.
(Image courtesy of Shyamal/Wikipedia / CC BY 3.0 license.) The Indian game of gyan chaupar is considered to be the originator of the game of “snakes and ladders,” with forms of it dating back to the 10th century A.D. For the purpose of winning, participants were intended to move up the spiritual bondage ladder from the lower levels of spiritual bondage to the higher, heavenly levels of enlightenment. It was brought to the West during the British administration of India, with other games that had similar moral messages; subsequently, variants of the game were made without the moral preaching.
(Image courtesy of the public domain.) In pre-Columbian America, multiple distinct societies, including the ancient Toltecs and the Mayans, played variations of the game patole or patolli at various eras, with varied variations of the game. As seen in this artwork from a 16th century Aztec codex, Macuilxchitl — the deity of art and beauty who is also associated with dancing, flowers and games — is observing a game of patole being played by two players. The Spanish conquistadors said that the final Aztec ruler, Montezuma, took pleasure in watching the game that was being played in his court.
Several anthropologists have hypothesized that the Mesoamerican game is connected to the Indian game of pachisi, which would suggest some type of pre-Columbian contact between the two regions based on the design of the board. Other studies, on the other hand, have ruled out any such resemblance.
Hounds and Jackals
(Image courtesy of the public domain.) Several ancient Egyptian archeological sites have revealed boards and pieces for the game now known as “hounds and jackals,” with the earliest specimens going back to roughly 2000 BCE. According to American archaeologist Walter Crist, a variant of the same game has been discovered etched into the rocks of a Bronze Age shelter in Azerbaijan. An Egyptian gaming set from the 18th century B.C., discovered in the tomb of the pharaoh Amenemhat IV in Thebes by the British archaeologist Howard Carter in 1910, is seen in the image above.
Two sets of 29 holes are on the game board, and each player has ten sticks that fit into the holes and are either ornamented with dog heads or jackalheads.
(Image courtesy of the public domain.) Egyptian game of senet is one of the world’s oldest board games. Pieces of boards thought to have been used for senet have been discovered in tombs of Egypt’s First Dynasty of kings, dating back to more than 3000 B.C, and are thought to have been used for senet in tombs of Egyptian pharaohs dating back to more than 3000 B.C. A picture (shown) on the wall of the tomb of the Egyptian queen Nefertari, dating to the 12th century B.C., depicts her seated at a table, playing the game, which can be identified by the form of the pieces on the table.
The original rules of senet are unknown, but recent reconstructions of the game are based on ancient publications on the subject.
(Image courtesy of Anagoria /Wikipedia/CC BY 3.0 license.) The term mehen, which literally translates as “the coiled one,” was both the name of an ancient Egyptian snake-god and the name of a board game that Egyptians used to pass the time before the Old Kingdom period, which began around 2150 B.C. Despite the fact that the link between the deity and the game is unclear, the game of mehen was quite popular at the time and may be seen on tomb paintings from the period. They were discovered alongside six carved game pieces in the shape of lions, as well as six pairs of little balls or marbles, which may have served as the “prey” for the lion game pieces.
Royal Game of Ur
(Image courtesy of The British Museum / CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license. ) When a single board for what is now known as the Royal Game of Ur was discovered during excavations of a Sumerian tomb in the Royal Cemetery of Ur in modern-day Iraq, it was dated to at least 3100 B.C., indicating that it was discovered during the early twentieth century. Since then, other game boards have been discovered throughout North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. A version of the ancient laws is well known since it was preserved on a Babylonian clay tablet, inscribed by an unknown scribe in the second century A.D., which is unusually for such an ancient text.
It was decided how the pieces may move in the game by rolling four-sided pyramid-shaped dice, which had four sides.
Tom Metcalfe is a freelance writer and a regular contributor to Live Science who is located in London, England, who writes about science and technology.
Tom’s primary areas of interest include science, astronomy, archaeology, the Earth, and the oceans, among other things. He has also written for a variety of publications, including the BBC, NBC News, National Geographic, Scientific American, and AirSpace, among others.
25+ History Board Games to Make History Come Alive
Inside you’ll find a growing collection of over 25 board games about history. You’ll find historical board game ideas that may be used for homeschooling, in the classroom, or as a present for the history enthusiast in your life. In our family, we appreciate board games, and I enjoy including them into our homeschooling curriculum. While two of my children enjoy learning through reading and writing, my second-born is unquestionably a kinesthetic learner who prefers ANY form of hands-on activity over reading aloud or writing on the computer.
- When I bring out the history books, I nearly always receive a sigh and an eye roll in response.
- My realization came after hearing him explain our local history museum to his brother with great enthusiasm.
- Then there are the historical board games.
- QUALIFYING PURCHASES GENERATE INCOME FOR ME AS AN AMAZON ASSOCIATE.
- Our family has always liked playing board games, even if my husband was not opposed to more traditional sources of learning like textbooks and lectures.
- The only thing holding me back is our limited financial resources — video games aren’t inexpensive!
- When you encounter the Oregon Trail board game, you’re not alone in feeling a touch nostalgic.
How to Use History Board Games
At first look, history board games may not appear to be the most effective method of imparting historical knowledge. On this list, you’ll discover historical board games that are more like trivia games, which, depending on your children’s temperament, may be discouraging if they don’t already know at least a fraction of the information. For this reason, and because they have the potential to be difficult, I wanted to provide some suggestions for how you might include these history board games into your homeschool curriculum (or classroom).
1. Pair history board games with a quality unit study to practice or reinforce learning.
The first strategy would be to play the board games after you’ve finished a unit study and then discuss your findings. Learn everything there is to know about the Constitution before playing the Founding Fathers board game. After reading about the Oregon Trail and playing the Oregon Trail Board Game, you’ll be ready to travel. If your children are familiar with the historical era before playing the games, they may have a better experience.
2. Play history games in order to spark curiosity in your kids, which may lead to additional interest-led history study/exploration.
An alternative method of stimulating interest in an academic subject is through the use of historical board games. Starting with a board game and/or a field trip, especially if you have a kinesthetic learner like I have, will almost certainly result in far more happy and interest-driven learning than starting with books and worksheets. Aside from Usborne books that require lifting the flaps, normal history books (even shorter history books such as this one!) elicit exasperated grunts from my second-born, however he does occasionally find biographical picture books to be intriguing.
In addition to a historical board game and picture book biographies from the time period, you could use films from Curiosity Stream and movies from the TedEd YouTube channel (which are short and sweet) to create an engaging and well-rounded unit study for your students.
3. Simply play history board games for the love of games (and history)!
It’s quite difficult to stop thinking about how to make things more instructive. Maybe it’s only a problem with homeschooling moms? For example, I’m strongly contemplating switching our game of Sequence with Sequence StatesCapitals in order to make it more educational for the kids. homeschoolmom However, board games may sometimes simply be games for the sake of playing, you know, for fun? I know, it’s mind-blowing. Everything does not have to be instructional in nature. Additionally, you might be interested in:The Best Educational Board Games (that we play ALL the time)
25+ History Board Game Ideas (by History Type)
Similarly to my past board game lists, I included a couple of history card games simply because there weren’t enough of them to justify a separate article dedicated to history card games. This list is divided into sections based on the nature of history:
- World history board games in general, World War II history board games, American history board games, and Biblical history board games are some examples of what you may find.
One thing to keep in mind is that board games can be a dangerous investment. One of these games garnered a number of five-star ratings, but it also received a number of one-star ones as well! You will either adore them or despise them, and there is no way to predict whether or not it will be a hit with your children ahead of time. My recommendation is that you create an Amazon wish list and put the games that you are interested in to your desire list. You may then check back to see if there have been any pricing adjustments, or you can request to be alerted if there have been any price changes.
I hope this information will assist you in finding a historical board game that your children (and you) will love!
World History Board Games
Can you pronounce “6-foot gaming board” with authority? Is there anything else I can say? It’s a lot of fun! Throughout seven historical eras, players will take on the roles of historians, scientists, and adventurers in order to uncover hidden objects: the Prehistoric Era, Ancient Egypt, Medieval Period, Age of Piracy, Wild West, Present Day, and the Future. Discover more than 1,000 hidden gems! This is a fantastic game for the whole family to play together, and it is simple enough for smaller children to learn from and enjoy.
Catan: Rise of the Inkas
In case you aren’t familiar with Catan Studios, you’re in for a treat because they offer a variety of historical board games to select from! In this game, players learn about indigenous cultures that emerged and declined in the Andean areas of South America while exploring an ancient civilisation through the prism of Catan.
Professor Noggin’s Ancient Civilizations
Professor Noggin’s card games are just fantastic! This historical card game, which is essentially a portable trivial pursuit, tests children’s knowledge of ancient civilizations.
There are thirty game cards in all, including multiple choice, trivia, and true/false questions on each card. The question you are asked is determined by an unique three-numbered die that is used just once. Professor Noggins also has a deck of cards depicting the events of the American Revolution.
Imhotep Builder of Egypt
If you’re studying Ancient Egypt, this historical board game will provide you with a welcome vacation from the books! Pyramids are built quicker and stronger than ever before because to the application of strategy in transferring bricks to the most advantageous constructing positions. Construction sites are located in the following locations: a pyramid, an obelisk, a chamber tomb, a temple, and a market. A 40-minute play-time is recommended for groups of 2-4 players.
This game, which was inspired by the castles of Southern France, is incredibly clear and simple to play! This board game’s straightforward design makes it an excellent addition to any board game library. As knights, monks, farmers or thieves, players can take on a variety of jobs, each of which awards varying points depending on which tile they are assigned to. Tiles are laid, followers are placed, and points are scored.
History of the World
With this history board game, players will go through five periods of history, beginning with the start of civilisation and ending with the twentieth century. Players are in charge of great empires at the pinnacle of their might. With this historical board game, you will learn about famous inventions and inspirational leaders, as well as play a role in the rise and fall of civilizations throughout history.
Ancient Egyptian “Senet” Board Game
Our historical board game, which is a little different from the rest of the games on this list, is one that was truly played in the ancient Egyptian civilization! It is possible to play a favorite game of Egyptian royalty and the Pharaohs, which has been based on variants discovered in various archaeological investigations. This game, which is constructed entirely of wood and is built to last, also includes colorful squares and hieroglyphics.
American History Board Games
The Civil War, the Constitution, the Explorers, and the American Revolution are the four important phases in the history of the United States covered by this historical board game. The game appears to be simple enough for children aged 8 and above, and it takes around 45 minutes to complete.
The Oregon Trail Game
The reception to this game has been divided. Some consumers found it to be way too complex (thus the recommended age of 13+), while others declare it to be one of their favorite board games out of a collection of over 100 games they own. We got this game last year and have enjoyed playing it to a high level of success. As soon as we figured out how to play, we had a lot of fun, even with kids as young as 8-11 years old (and believe me, there have been games that we couldn’t figure out because they were too complex, so this is not one of those).
The goal of the game is to “construct” a passage to the Valley using tiles.
This is an excellent historical board game for teaching about the United States Constitution. This game, which comes with a copy of the Constitution as well as the Declaration of Independence, is a fascinating way to learn about how our government functions.
When the players answer sensible questions about our system, such as how a bill becomes a law and what age one must be to qualify to become a member of the Senate, you will be learning right along with the youngsters.
We The People Fight Tyranny
When it comes to teaching the Constitution, this is a fantastic historical board game to use. It comes includes a copy of the Constitution as well as the Declaration of Independence, making it an engaging method to learn about our country’s political structure. When the players answer clever questions about our system, such as how a bill becomes a law and what age one needs be to qualify to become a member of the Senate, you will be learning right along with the children.
Freedom The Underground Railroad
Players will get an understanding of major historical people, political agendas, and pivotal events that happened in America between 1800 and 1865 by participating in this game. This game demands players to immerse themselves in this era of history by working together to raise finances, free slaves, and ultimately bring slavery to an end in the United States! Playtime is between 1-2 hours, and it is suggested for children aged 13 and up. According to the reviews, this game has been done with care and respect for the subject matter.
The Black Heritage History Trivia Game
From 1619 to the present, players will gain an understanding of African American history. A fantastic approach to educate students to Black history, culture, and ancestry! There are 200 question cards in all. Recommended for children aged ten and up.
American Trivia Family Edition
There are 1,440 expert-level questions in this popular game of trivia that span geography, history, the arts, and basic facts about America, among other topics. The fact that there are two skill levels in this historical board game is a wonderful feature. Each card is double-sided, with questions at the junior level on one side and questions at the expert level on the other. Made in the United States of America! For 2-8 players aged 9 and above, this game is recommended. The game American Trivia Junior, which comprises the game board and 360 question cards, may also be purchased separately.
1754 Conquest, The FrenchIndian War Game
This historical board game is part of a trilogy – The Birth of America Series – and is an excellent way to learn about the French and Indian War in the early nineteenth century. It necessitates planning and coordination, as well as interaction and decision-making within a group. The game is suitable for players aged 10 and up, and the duration of play is between 1-2 hours. For older youngsters (or adults) with longer attention spans and the capacity to think strategically, this book is highly recommended!
Players will be transported to the battlefields of the American Revolution in the second game in the franchise! Players will have to work together in order to defeat the British Army. Strategies such as soliciting assistance from Native Americans, as well as German and French armies, were employed. Movement is accomplished via the use of cards, fights are handled through the use of custom dice, and territory are claimed using white flags. The signing of the Treaty of Paris marks the conclusion of the game.
The setting for this history board game is George Washington’s presidential office.
While attempting to resolve difficulties like as war, debt, and the separation of the country into north and south, players learn about this significant time in history.
Trivial Pursuit Family Edition
With this timeless favorite, which is now available in a family edition, you can teach history without even trying! This edition of Trivial Pursuit has cards for both children and adults, and it contains more than 1,400 cards in overall.
Timeline 7: Americana
This card game is excellent for generating a fantastic timeline of popular American history with the cards provided. I can see this being a great match for youngsters who aren’t generally interested in historical topics. It’s fast-paced and entertaining, with just enough historical background to keep it instructive! The players take turns placing their cards on the expanding timeline in the right order. The objective of the game is to guess accurately and run out of cards in order to win. Due to unforeseen circumstances, this board game is no longer available.
World War II Board Games
Change the course of history with a 90-minute board game! Axis and Allies (Axis and Allies) The year is 1942, and the world is at war. The game 1942 transports players to the spring of 1942. In this strategy game, players assume the role of one of the Axis or Allied nations and command the armed forces of their respective countries. Players will get an understanding of the wartime economy, and they will have the opportunity to organize attacks, invade enemy territory, and resolve disputes with other players.
Will the outcome of your game alter the path of history?
Fans of the game franchise advocate starting with this title, but there are plenty more to choose from, all of which have received positive reviews.
Take a look at it!
This history board game includes 17 historical situations that are simple to understand and play in a fast-paced environment. This game, which contains a “monster-sized” gaming board, is a perennial favorite among World War II enthusiasts. Its description and reviews are equally amazing! Suitable for older children and teenagers, preferably aged 12 and higher.
World War II Monopoly
Learn about the historical battlegrounds of World War II while playing this educational board game! As they seek to “own” historical events such as Pearl Harbor, D-Day, Normandy, and the Battle of the Bulge, players will gain an understanding of them. As you develop camps and headquarters, players will have to rally the troops and garner support from the general public. Who knows what historical rabbit holes this game may open up for players to explore?
Biblical History Board Games
This simple to learn game of strategy with a biblical theme will assist players in learning about the various areas of Israel and its neighboring lands.
This game may be played either independently or in a group setting. Players take on the role of Solomon’s governors, dispatching employees to harvest resources, construct facilities, and increase Solomon’s authority throughout the realm.
Travel back in time with the apostles of the early Christian Church and experience their lives. Players must work together in order to maintain faith, build the church, and defeat persecutory measures. The game is recommended for 2-6 players and takes around 1 hour to complete. The best aspect is that no prior understanding of the Bible is required. Players will pick up new skills as they go!
Kings of Israel Board Game
The Northern Kingdom of Israel is the setting for this historical board game. Until the period of the Assyrian invasion and devastation. Players take on the roles of prophets who are attempting to rid Israel of wickedness and idolatry. With virtually all of the reviews being 5-stars, it is evident that this history game is a winner!
Portals and Prophets
No prior knowledge of biblical trivia is required to participate in this history board game. No prior understanding of the Bible is required! The historical biblical events that took place in ancient Israel will be taught to the players. Recommended for children aged 10 and older, with a playtime of 30-60 minutes every session. Related:25+ Geography Board Games are a great way to learn about geography. Geography Card Games are a great way to learn about geography.