As a society we have been playing games to stretch our physical ability, bend our mental capacity, and just to be entertained. The entrepreneurs of the 1800s made it a goal to publish and make available a variety of board games to the general public. From the 1930s to the mid 1980s, one could say these were the “Golden Years” of board gaming. This was an era before televsion was the main focus in many households. Then it changed almost overnight, board game activity came to a near end with the affordability and availability of computers. The “boards” were being replaced by screens and controllers. It went from multiple players around a table to a player of one. The percentage of homes with two or more board games dropped significantly after the event of the technology age. The pendulum has begun to swing back in the direction of nostalgia, sentimentality, aging baby boomers, or the simple need to reconnect.
Many board games have come and gone. Ancient gamers have played the following five board games for centuries, and these have stood the test of time. They have elegant rules, deep strategy, and tactical opportunities. Today, these games appeal to young audiences because they are available to play online, even globally.
First played in China (a.k.a. Wei Ch’i and Baduk in Korea) more than 3000 years ago, it’s believed to be the oldest continuously played board game. Today Go is so popular in Japan, newspapers run columns about the game. The main goal of the game is to completely surround your opponent’s pieces.
This game comes from South East Asia. Chess can trace its roots to a game called Chaturanga which was played in India around 600 AD. Chinese Chess (Xiangqi) and Japanese Chess (Shogi) came into existence by 800 AD. Somewhere around the year 1200, Europeans began adapting the Indian game. Near the end of the 1400s, the bishop and queen were added to Western Chess.
Although it appears to be a much simpler game than Chess, Checkers offers plenty of strategic considerations. Variations of Checkers have been played since at least 3000 BC. Great thinkers like Plato and Homer both reference playing the game. Checkerboards have even been found in Egyptian tombs.
The word “Mancala” means “to transfer” in Arabic. This game, dates back 7,000 years The challenge is to move pieces from bin to bin. Many rule variations exist, and Mancala is played in some form in almost every African country. There are over 800 different names for this turn-based strategy game. The boards can range from a simple board with two rows of bins or to more artistically crafted designs made to look like things like sea shells or animals.
With roots dating back to 800 AD, Mah Jongg is the youngest game on this list. Originally a card game, Mah Jongg today is played with beautifully etched tiles. The modern version of Mah Jongg was thought to be played in China and England in the 1800s. It has currently become a very popular computer game.
Old has become new again. Looking back over the past 217 years since the first board games were made available, many can be played as “hard copies,” as well as computer generated. According to the website, The Spruce, the following is a partial list of the most culturally and historically significant games published since 1800 in the United States:
- (1824) Kriegsspiel (1959) Risk
- (1843) The Mansion of Happiness (1962) Password
- (1888) Tiddlywinks (1964) Jeopardy
- (1904) Pit (1966) Twister
- (1906) Rook (1967) Facts in Five
- (1934) Sorry! (1971) Uno
- (1935) Monopoly (1973) Dungeons and Dragons
- (1943) Chutes and Ladders (1982) Trivial Pursuit
- ((1948) Scrabble (1984) Balderdash
- (1949) Candy Land (1986) Pictionary
- (1949) Clue (1995) Settlers of Catan
- (1956) Yahtzee (2000) Blokus
- (1958) Concentration (2002) Scene It?
- (2002 and beyond) Which board games of this decade are your favorite?
Before the holiday is in full swing, before friends and family show up on your doorstep, peruse the list and see how many of these iconic games you’ve played or…still own!
It’s time to dust them off, check if all the pieces are intact, and refresh your memory on the rules of play. If you dig deep enough, you might even resurrect an essential tool that hasn’t seen the light of day since the 1980s – the ‘old’ folding game table with metal chairs! Rest assured,friends and family will not be bored with your choice to engage them in a heartfelt round of board games this season.