History of Board Games + 21 Unknown Fun Facts

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The History of Board Games

What do you think of when you imagine playing board games? You probably picture evenings spent around a kitchen table, chairs packed with friends and family. You may even imagine groups of children playing.

But what if we were to tell you that board games have been an integral part of cultures all over the world for thousands of years? You’d be surprised that the roots of even the humblest board games can be traced back to ancient civilizations.

After all, people have always needed entertainment, and what better way to pass some time than a classic board game? In this post, we’ll take a dive into the history of board games. We’ll also cover some fun board game facts that you may not have known.

History of Board Games + 21 Unknown Fun Facts

What do you think of when you imagine playing board games? You probably picture evenings spent around a kitchen table, chairs packed with friends and family. You may even imagine groups of children playing.

But what if we were to tell you that board games have been an integral part of cultures all over the world for thousands of years? You’d be surprised that the roots of even the humblest board games can be traced back to ancient civilizations.

After all, people have always needed entertainment, and what better way to pass some time than a classic board game? In this post, we’ll take a dive into the history of board games. We’ll also cover some fun board game facts that you may not have known.

The Earliest Board Games

one of the world’s first recorded board games is Senet, an ancient Egyptian board game that’s estimated to have been created as early as 3500 BC.

Some of the most ancient civilizations in the world came from the middle east. It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that the roots of board games can also be found in ancient middle eastern civilizations.

In fact, one of the world’s first recorded board games is Senet, an ancient Egyptian board game that’s estimated to have been created as early as 3500 BC. (That would make it easily over 5,000 years old!)

Senet wasn’t the only board game Egyptians played, though. Hounds and Jackals was another popular board game that began making its appearance around 2000 BC. At this time, board games were often used as a pastime for royalty to entertain themselves with.

Another extremely old boardgame is Backgammon, which was created by the Mesopotamians approximately 5,000 years ago. Of course, this game is still widely played today, whereas you don’t really see anyone playing Senet or Hounds and Jackals much anymore. 

A long tradition of boardgame-playing isn’t exclusive to the middle east, though. Go is an example of a Chinese board game that has existed for well over 2,500 years. Unlike many of the other games we just mentioned, it’s still widely played today, too. 

Board Games in Colonial America

Of course, board games enjoyed a lengthy history in Europe, as well, with a handful of European board games dating all the way back to the first several AD centuries. Despite their well-established European history, though, board games didn’t immediately take off when America was colonized.

The reason for this was twofold. First, people in early colonial times simply didn’t have enough leisure time to dedicate to something as “frivolous” as a board game. Much of their time was dedicated instead to maintaining the home and long hours spent at work.

Second, popular New England religious beliefs at the time feared that games would be too much of a temptation. Dice, tools often used for gambling, were seen as sinful.

The Explosion of Board Game Popularity

So, when exactly did board games start taking off? Clearly, they didn’t remain taboo forever, otherwise we wouldn’t have the impressive board game industry of modern times.

Well, one of the first board games published in the United States was the game Traveller’s Tour Through the United States. It was published in 1822. While we can’t say this specifically led to the meteoric rise in popularity board games would eventually experience, it did mark a gradual shift in American thought towards board games overall.

As time went on and technology progressed, people began to find that they had more time to dedicate to leisure activities. In the mid 1800’s, more board games came to be released as a result, although many of them focused on religious themes for the sake of palatability.

It wasn’t until 1860 that the United States saw the publication of the earliest version of The Game of Life. If you’ve never played it before, Life essentially has players playing through an average life. They can get married, buy a house, go to college, work, and retire in the game. 

In many ways, this is what started the burst in video game popularity. No longer were games seen as taboo, nor did they fixate on morality. They became more relatable.

After that, the United States saw the emergence of numerous other board games. As time progressed into the late 19th century and materialism became more acceptable, this trend continued.

In the early 1900’s, board games saw a first “golden age.” This is because factories enabled them to be produced on a commercial scale, driving down their prices and allowing stores everywhere to keep them in stock. 

Board Games Today

thanks to the Internet, board games are still incredibly popular.

You may think that, in the digital age, board games would be irrelevant. This is far from the truth. In fact, thanks to the Internet, board games are still incredibly popular.

You can easily find dozens of channels on Youtube dedicated to reviewing and playing board games. Some board games are even designed to be purchased online and printed at home, so players don’t need to deal with the hassle of waiting for them to arrive in the mail.

Many board games are even replicated in a virtual format. With platforms like Tabletop Simulator, board game fans can enjoy their favorite classics with players around the world from the comfort of their own homes.

This may not merely be a passing trend, either. Some sources show that, in 2017, the board game market was estimated to be at a whopping $7.2 billion USD. It’s projected to continue growing to a point where it will be valued at $12 billion by 2023 – almost doubling in value in a matter of a few years.

Fun Board Game Facts

Now that you know a little more about the background of boardgames, let’s dive into some extra fun stuff. Boardgames are surprisingly interesting – here are 21 facts you may not have known about them.

Wrap Up

Like with any culture phenomenon, board games have a surprisingly far-reaching background. If you’re a board game fan, the good news is that they don’t look like a temporary fad. They’ve been around for thousands of years, and if that’s any indication of their staying power, they’re likely to be around for a bit longer.