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SMITHSONIANMAG

The Best Board Games of the Ancient World

The Best Board Games of the Ancient World

smithsonianmag.com

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Egyptian Senet

One of the earliest known board games, Senet was played in 3100 BC and loved by Queen Nefertari and the Pharaoh Tutankhamun.

Played using a longboard having three rows of ten squares each, the players used a combination of luck and strategy to rush to the end of the board while bl...

The Royal Game Of Ur

  • Also known as Twenty Squares, this 4500-year-old game, first unearthed in ancient Mesopotamia, is impressive in its complex rules and intricate design.
  • The beautiful game board uses twenty squares and has a narrow bridge in the middle part, was played in Iraq, Israel, Egyp...

The Game of Mehen

  • Named after the Egyptian serpentine deity, Mehen is also known as the Egyptian Snake Game and was played between 3100 to 2300 BC.
  • Six players could simultaneously play this spiral board, each having a piece crafted in the shape of a lion or a sphere.
  • The ...

Nine Men’s Morris

Resembling the game of modern-day checkers, Nine Men’s Morris was first played in 1400 BC in medieval Europe.

It had players directing nine ‘men’ across a grid, and combining three pieces of men together captured a man from the other side. The game was mentioned in Shakespeare’s

The Game of Tafl

A disc-shaped gaming board was used to play Tafl, a Norse strategy game having widespread played as early as 400 A.D., according to the Oxford History of Board Games.y. It was played in Scandinavia along with Britain and Ireland.

A popular variant of the game, Hnefatafl, ...

Ludus Latrunculorum

A variant of the ancient Greek game Petteia, this two-player strategy game was popular in ancient Rome. The board game had a grid of varying sizes, as documented in the first century BC.

A primitive combination of checkers and chess, Ludus Latrunculorum, also known as

Patolli

  • Invented in Mesoamerica, The Aztec game of Patolli was an early gambling game with cross-shaped track used to move pebbles, along with a dice made of drilled beans.
  • Also called Patoliztli, this game was extremely prevalent in the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan, pl...

Chess

Originating from the ancient Indian war strategy game called Chaturanga, the game of Chess had pieces resembling kings, queens, infantry, cavalry, chariots and elephants moving in diverse patterns on the square chessboard. The early version also had an element of chance, which was elimin...

Backgammon

  • A two-player game with thirty pieces on the board, Backgammon had the objective to get each player to remove, or ‘bear off’ all of their pieces off the board.
  • Skill and luck are mixed potently in this board game featuring twenty-four triangles, with many historians writing about th...

Go: The Game

  • Arising 3000 years ago in China by the name of Weiqi, Go is a game of territorial occupation and is deceptively complex.
  • Players play using stones in a 19 by-19 square grid and have to capture enemy pieces while controlling maximum territory. Japan further develop...

The Game of Mancala

Also called naqala, this family of games was seen between 3000 to 1000 BC in Africa, the Middle East and southern parts of Asia.

A variant of Mancala, named Oware, is considered the most popular version where two players play with a board of rows and holes, where...

The Game Of The Goose

  • This game of pure chance was one of the earliest commercially made board games.
  • First referenced in Spain back in the 16th century, the game had beautiful themes, along with colourful illustrations and designs.
  • The players had to roll the dice and send their respective p...

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