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About This Article: History of Board Games

Board games have been around for years and are a favorite pastime in the US. Learn about the history of board games.

History of board games

The oldest complete board game found to date is the Royal Game of Ur, discovered in the royal tombs at Ur in Mesopotamia (Ancient Sumeria). The game is believed to have existed around 2500BC. The rules of the game are not known entirely, but it appears to be a race game. The boards found range from simply designed boards to richly decorated pieces. This indicates the game had several versions according to the players' social standing.

Game boards with 3 x 10 squares have been found in Egyptian sites which date back as far as 3000BC. This game is known as Senet (sometimes pronounced Senat) or Game of Thirty Squares. Senet is considered as one of the oldest board games in the world, if not THE oldest of all. Variants of this game discovered include 3x6 squares and 3x12 squares boards. A common trait found on many Senet boards was the game of Tau being featured on its reverse side.

The Mancala family of games consists of two or more parallel rows of holes into which pieces are transferred by players. Pebbles, seeds, sea shells are the most commonly used objects as pieces. Many versions of the game under various names are found throughout Africa and the Caribbean and also in the Philippines, Sri Lanka, India, Indonesia and Malaysia. Mancala boards have been found in Ancient Sumarian and Egyptian sites, indicating the game's existence as early as 1400BC.

Game boards have been found on Egyptian sites of the Game of Twenty Squares, also known as Tau and Aseb. Tau is estimated to have existed around 1000BC. The rules of Tau are thought to be somewhat similar to the Royal Game of Ur. Another version of Tau called Double Tau also existed during that same era but how it was played is unknown.

The Game of Go is considered by many experts as the most perfect of board games. The game is known as Wei-Ch'i in China, Baduk or Paduk in Korea and Go in Japan and in the West. The Chinese term means 'surrounding game' and the object of the game is to place counters on the board to capture territory. Chinese history suggests two versions as to who invented Go. One story suggests Emperor Shun who reigned from 2255-2206 BC invented the game to boost his son's intelligence. The other says a person by the name of U who lived several hundred years later during Emperor Kieh Kwei invented the game. But according to other history sources, the game seems to have originated in central Asia and later spread to Nepal, Tibet and China.

Shaturanga or Chaturanga was invented in India during the 6th century. It is believed to be the earliest predecessor of Chess. Shaturanga was a four player board game where each player had an army of eight made up of five different types of pieces. Similar to chess, it too was played on a board of 64 squares. A dice was used to decide which piece moved at each player's turn.

Article Summary: Games played on boards have existed since the very early days of human civilization and were played not only for enjoyment but also for intellectual development.
 
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