Board Games In The Ancient World

Although the world is changing to adopt a more electronic-based upbringing, those of us who grew up before the new millennium know the benefits of a good board game. Not only can they help alleviate boredom–something else that was far more of a concern back then than it is today–but they can help us acquire or maintain a level of mental acuity that many of us love to lord over our friends and loved ones. It’s why the smartphone-based game Trivia Crack and other games like it have so many devoted fans. Board games have been around since ancient times, and they probably won’t go anywhere anytime soon. Here are a few of those from the distant past.

You’ve probably heard of “Go” in the news recently. It’s an ancient Chinese board game exponentially more complicated than even chess, and the number of possible moves is even greater. When a computer beat the world chess champion, it was big news. A computer recently beat the world “Go” champion, and because of the complexity of the game, the event was even bigger news. “Go” was played perhaps longer than 4000 years ago, and Confucius is known to have written about the game.

Tabula” was a game played during the age of the ancient Byzantine Empire. You’ve probably never heard of it, but here’s one you have: backgammon. We believe that Tabula is a genetic precursor, so to speak, of backgammon. Without Tabula, we might not have the more modern favorite. Two players try to keep fifteen pieces safe, but upon rolling two dice the players must move pieces in specific directions. A lone piece is vulnerable.

Another game with a genetic precursor is one you played all through your childhood: tic-tac-toe. The citizens of the Roman Empire played a similar game called terni lapilli.

Mancala has been around for thousands of years, as Egyptians have been playing it since perhaps 1000 BCE. The game has likely evolved over time. We use wood surfaces on which to play the game, while Egyptians are believed to have preferred surfaces made of stone.

Many games throughout the ancient world were involved with darker aspects of human nature such as gambling. An Aztec game called “patolli” was played using marked stones and beans which would help players decide what moves were made. As players battled it out using a game board in the shape of a cross, bets were often placed.

Many parents believe that board games are an important part of growing up. Although some are games of chance, others can help provide young minds with the framework needed to grow. It could be said that games like chess or go can test the creativity of a child–and these types of tests are not a game.

If this is making you feel nostalgic, please check out some commercials for old board games in the video below!