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When Were Board Games Invented

When Were Board Games Invented?

Board games have been around for centuries, originating as early as 3500 BC.

The oldest board game discovered to date is Senet, an Egyptian game thought to be over 5,000 years old.

Throughout the centuries board games have evolved and become more sophisticated, in this article we cover the most popular historical board games.

Historical Board Games…

Examples of historical board games include:

1. The Royal Game of Ur

The Royal Game of Ur is an ancient two-player strategy game dating back to the Mesopotamian and Indus Valley civilizations.

Thought to be around 4,000 years old, the game has been discovered in archaeological sites from Turkey to Iraq and even as far away as Egypt.

The game consists of a large square board made of wood, stone or clay and legumes like beans or pebbles to represent pieces. Players move their pieces on the board completing the various “courts” used for scoring points.

The most important thing winning the game came down to was making tactical moves and outsmarting your opponent.

Although quite complex in terms of rules, the Royal Game of Ur remains one of history’s most popular board games and its roots have not been lost over time.

2. Chess

Chess is believed to have originated in India in the 6th century AD and was further developed by the Persian game of Chatrang.

According to oral tradition, it is was thought to be invented by a sage who presented the game to an Indian King who consequently shared it with his counterpart in Persia who in turn adapted and improved it.

The game and its rules then spread throughout Asia and Europe, eventually leading to modern-day chess, which is still universally appreciated around the world.

As a result, who invented chess remains somewhat of a mystery but most sources credit early Indian and Persian civilizations for giving us this timeless classic.

3. The Lewis Chessmen

The Lewis Chessmen board game is an intriguing piece of history. The collection consists of elaborately carved pieces that were discovered on the Atlantic coast of Scotland in 1831.

The majority of these pieces are thought to represent characters from the Norse sagas and have been dated to the twelfth century.

The chess pieces from this game are some of the oldest intact chess sets known today and have become a globally-recognized symbol, having appeared in a variety of popular films and television series including Harry Potter and The Queen’s Gambit.

The Lewis Chessmen hold an abundance of cultural significance, representing medieval life, Medieval Gaelic culture and literature, as well as providing us with insights into Norse mythology.

4. Wari

Wari is an ancient African board game that has been around since at least 1200 AD. Wari is still widely enjoyed today, particularly in various parts of Africa, and it continues to capture the imagination of players all over the world.

Wari boards can take a variety of shapes and sizes, depending on local resources that are available. The basic concept of Wari is simple: maneuver coins or pottery pieces around a cross-shaped board strategically, with players attempting to capture as many pieces as possible.

Wari’s rules are easily accessible, making it an enjoyable game for any skill level. Wari offers challenge and entertainment not just to adults but also to younger players as well, creating countless memorable moments for everyone who plays it.

5. Senet

Senet, one of the oldest known board games, is thought to have originated in Egypt in the very early part of humanity’s history.

Senet boards were found in large aristocratic tombs and date back to around 3500 BC during the predynastic period. Pharaoh Tutankhamun even had a Senet board among his burial treasures.

Players moved pieces along a track divided into 30 squares, with pawns and dice used as playing pieces.

Senet is more than just a game, however; it is usually referred to as “the Game of Passing” which can be interpreted as a metaphor for the transition from life to death or the journey of life itself.

6. Mahjong

Mahjong is an ancient Chinese game with a long and fascinating history. Mahjong tiles are key elements of the game, consisting of several suits including Circles, Bamboos, Characters and Winds.

Mahjong is the ultimate combination of skill, strategy, and luck! each player must create their own winning strategy influenced by which tiles they receive during their turn while also cleverly utilizing any bonus items they were lucky enough to be dealt.

Mahjong requires hours of practice to hone the skills necessary to win consistently, making it a great choice for friends who are looking for a competitive and engaging game that can be played anywhere.

7. The Game of the Goose

The Game of the Goose is a classic board game that can be enjoyed by players of all ages.

The game is thought to have originated in the 16th century and has been a popular game ever since with slight alterations over time. The original Italian version was known as The Game of the Labyrinth, which was adapted into The Game of the Mansion in France and adopted later in England as The Game of the Goose.

The goal of the game is for each player to reach square 63 with as few rolls of a die as possible. A wide variety of variations exist, from different rulesets to new obstacles on the board.

The Game of the Goose remains popular amongst gamers today, providing a challenging and enjoyable experience at family gatherings or with friends.

8. Sugoroku

Sugoroku is a traditional Japanese board game that has been around since the 12th century. One of the oldest vestiges of human gaming, it was played by nobles and commoners alike at all levels of society.

Taking on different forms in many countries, this game involves rolling a dice or moving pieces based on the roll to traverse a path along which are arranged random spaces with assorted rewards.

With its minimalistic makeup and easily accessible rules, Sugoroku brings with it an air of calmness while highlighting the importance of luck over skill, making it an enjoyable experience for players of all ages!

9. Pachisi

Pachisi is an ancient game that dates back to the 6th century, originating in India and played by a variety of cultures across the world.

Played on a cross-shaped board, Pachisi is essentially a race game with two to four players competing against one another. Players use dice to move pieces around the board and whoever reaches the ‘home’ square first is the winner.

The popularity of Pachisi has endured and it is still played in many countries today, especially in India where it was invented.

10. Mehen

Mehen is an ancient game of strategy and chance with its origin in Egypt, dating back to before the 2nd millennium BCE.

The game was popular among the upper classes and royalty, who would commission elaborately painted boards or play on lacquered boards of dark wood.

The Mehen board consists of a two-level spiral track and six playing pieces engraved to depict lion-headed cosmic serpents or wadjets, these pieces are moved along the track during play by throwing sticks.

It’s believed that the game served a ritualistic purpose, offering insight into cosmic order, but it also provided entertainment for all who played it.

Despite its ancient roots, Mehen is still enjoyed today as a challenging test of strategy that provides fun for players of all ages.


Board games have been around for centuries, offering gamers countless hours of entertainment and fun.

From Senet and Mahjong to The Game of the Goose and Sugoroku, when were board games invented is an intriguing part of their history that should not be forgotten when enjoying these classic favorites.

Whether you are looking for a competitive challenge or just want to play for fun, there is no shortage of great board games to choose from.

Further Reading…

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