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Ancient Board Games You’ll Want to Play

Ancient Board Games You’ll Want to Play

An article by Jackie Edwards

Before everyone held up their phones to catch a Pokemon, before a kit of Rubric Marines arrived (armed with Inferno boltguns and Warpflamers) and even before a thin white line hit a tiny circle across a television screen, there were board games. As old as time itself, and as durable as an old friend, board games around the world have held their appeal. So, let’s look at what are some of the oldest board games in the world.

We Are All Pawns

When someone mentions board game, do you quickly think ‘chess’? If you did you would be in harmony with the 70% of UK residents that have played chess at least once in their lives. Interestingly, there are other board games that are older than chess, even though chess does date back to 600 AD. Some historians believe chess started in China, yet more believe it came from India. What is known is that once in India, the poetic game spread to Persia and then to Southern Europe.

The game chess has mirrored societal developments throughout the ages. In the 6th century chess was called ‘chaturanga’, which literally translates as ‘four divisions’ of the military. Whilst in the 15th century chess had become a ‘romantic’ game that involved quick maneuvers. It was only with the establishment of the World Chess Federation in the 21st century that heralded the strategic game that we all know today. And now, in our day, chess can even be played online, making it one of the oldest, most relevant board games in the world.

Taking inspiration from the oldest game

The oldest known board game is Senet. Originating from Ancient Egypt, Senet has been found in burial sites that date back as far as 3500 BCE. The board of the game resembled a brightly coloured, carved ‘Settlers of Catan’ board. Instead of hexagonal cardboard tiles though, Senet had ground quartz coated in glaze. Finding a game board of The Settlers of Catan five thousand years in the future will probably lead to the same confusion as finding a Senet board game has led to for us.

It is not completely known how this fascinating game was played and what the exact rules happen to be, though Senet historians Timothy Kendall and R.C. Bell have made up a reconstruction of the game based on ancient texts that mention Senet. Its intriguing wooden box with squares that have different symbols and objects is 30 squares arranged in rows of 10- the rest- as they say- is history.  

‘If you’re not prepared to lose every friend you have over a board game, you’re not playing hard enough’. This anonymous statement sums up games of all types through all generations. Some of the oldest games remain the best. It can be easily seen how influential these ancient board games have been and how, more importantly, they inspire us to explore and value the past. It is reassuring that in every era of human history people have had a need to engage in games.