History Of Board Games

It might sound too good to be true, but all innovation and invention stem from playing, not working. Have you ever watched how kids interact with the world? Through play! It’s the number one activity responsible for human evolution. Giving ourselves the opportunity and time to play is vital to ensure our mental, physical and social health.  Playing board games is a great way to learn about the world and how we fit in, from childhood right through to adulthood.

Early board games

Playing board games has been a favourite human pastime for over 4000 years, both in the West and East.  Discovered within the tombs of ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt were the oldest known games, The Royal Game of Ur and Senet. Ancient Asia also produced many original board games, such as Indian Parchisi and Chess, as well as The Game of Go and Mah Jongg from China.

Ancient Greece and Rome popularised many games, including Draughts/Checkers which was adopted throughout Europe, eventually spreading to the West in the 19th century.  America became a fertile ground for an explosion of board games as demand for entertainment grew. The growing middle classes had increasingly longer leisure hours to fill, which coincided with technological advances that enabled the mass production of high quality board games.

Popular American board games

The earliest known American board game was The Mansion of Happiness of 1864. Along with its successors, it spawned new generations of board game categories based on strategy, racing, role-play and of course, chance. So many board games we know and love today are descended from these 19th century games. Although mass produced from 1935, Monopoly was based on the much older games Monopolist and Bulls & Bears – The Great Wall Street Game. The 1980’s favourite Trivial Pursuit owes its origins to parlour games such as The World’s Educator, and even the much loved Scrabble of 1948, is based on a game called Anagrams.

Since the 1930’s, each decade has seen its own board game stars rise and be embraced by an eager public, hungry for quality, fun entertainment.  In the 1950’s, Diplomacy, Concentration and Risk were launched. In the 1960’s, Twister twirled a whole generation into knots. Dungeons and Dragons first entered the public consciousness in 1973, while Pictionary took parties by storm in 1986.

Games from Europe and beyond

During the 1990’s, a European consciousness of sharing and cooperation entered the board game arena with The Settlers of Catan, while the award winning Aricola was released in 2007. We are now spoilt for choice with a huge variety of outstanding board games on the market. So what should we expect for 2010? More choice of course!