Long before Playstations and Wiis invaded our world, indoor entertainment for children and adults meant playing board games of many kinds. You’d be surprised to know that games like Snakes and
Ladders and Ludo have a long, long past and that some board games go back thousands of years. Want to know more? Read on to discover the history of board games.
The oldest games
Senet, the oldest board game known to exist, goes back a whopping 5000 years to ancient Egypt. Game boards discovered in the tombs of Egypt’s kings are three squares by ten squares long and the aim of the game seems to have been to race one’s token across the board. Although it began as a game for fun, by the end of it, the Egyptians created rules that granted special rights to winners in the after-life (after their death)!
Another ancient game was Mancala, which required players to count and drop seeds through a parallel set of sunken bowls. Players of ‘Palllanguzhi’ in South India will see the similarities.
The ‘role’ of dice
Most board games use some form of dice or the other. The earliest forms of dice were sticks cut from branches. The sticks were then split into two so that each would have one flat side and one curved side. A combination of sticks was used to represent various scores – for instance, if all six sticks fell with the flat side facing up, it would mean a throw of six. Later on knuckle bones of goats and sheep were also used as dice.
The Indian angle
Several of the most popular board games we play even today were invented in India.
The Indian game of ‘Chaupat’ and the related ‘Pachisi’ was probably the original ‘cross and circle game’. It requires players to race their pieces around a board and as they do so, they can ‘knock-out’ an opponent’s piece by landing on the same square. Chaupat is played in a much simpler way today as ludo.
Mughal emperor Akbar used to play Chaupat on a life sized board using slaves instead of pieces!
The greatest gift that ancient India gave to the board game world was Chaturanga – today, all forms of chess are descended from this ancient game. A game of pure skill, it was invented around 1500 years ago.
Another sixteenth century Indian game called Vaikintapaali paved the way for Snakes and Ladders. In the original game, ladders were shown as rewards for good deeds while the rapid slide down a snake’s back was supposed to show that bad deeds would bring about a person’s downfall.
The most popular board games ever
Have you played some of these games?
- Chess- The game of strategy for the smarts
- Monopoly –Some great life lessons can be learnt here
- Scrabble-No better way to brush up your vocabulary
- Uno- The popular card game that can also be enjoyed by very young players
- Risk – A game where you play to win the world!
Board games take to tech
With technology changing our world so much, it’s not surprising that it has also affected the world of board games.
Take for instance, a new version of Monopoly that’s now available in stores. Instead of fake paper money, players get to use debit cards (like the ones your parents use), and these can be used to pay for new sites and buildings. A version that uses an iPad to manage the bank even allows you to get out of jail free by winning a few mini-games on the tablet.
Tablet versions of popular games such as Trivial Pursuit are also available so you can take your game along with you where you go. The touch screen interface of tablets allows players to spin dice, flip cards and move game pieces, the way they would on a real game board.
Technology also helps people to play games with each other even when they are not together – for example, you could play Scrabble with a cousin who lives in far-away United States.
That’s a new role for technology – instead of making it easier for people to play games all alone on phones and computers, new board game technology is bringing people around a game board to have fun and play!