Top 5 Ancient Board Games
It seems like for as long as parents have needed to keep their cooped-up children occupied on rainy days, they have had board games to help. These games come and go, but which have been around the longest? We rounded up some of the world’s oldest board games, which have been played for centuries or in some cases, millennia. They have elegant rules, deep strategy, and tactical opportunities, and they all continue to delight modern-day gamers of all ages.
Go was first played in China more than 3,000 years ago. It’s believed to be the oldest continuously played board game. Today, the game is so popular in Japan that newspapers run columns about the game. Known as wei ch'i in China and baduk in Korea, it roughly translates to mean "board game of surrounding" or "encircling game." It is truly the grandfather of all board games. Do not let this game fool you, the rules may be simple, but the strategy is thought to be more complex than chess.
In August 2018, archaeologists with the Book of Deer Project in Scotland unearthed a game board in what they think was a medieval monastery.
The researchers are looking for signs that the buried building was inhabited by monks who wrote the Book of Deer, a 10th-century illuminated manuscript of the Christian gospels in Latin that also contains the oldest surviving examples of Scottish Gaelic writing.
The ancient game board was scratched into a circular stone that was found above buried layers in the building dated to the seventh and eighth Centuries.
Historians think it was used to play hnefatafl, a Norse strategy game sometimes called Viking chess, although it is not actually related to chess. The game pits a king and 12 defenders in the center against 24 attackers arranged around the edges of the board.
Across China: "Go" museum traces history of traditional Chinese board game
Wang Tongling shows a Go piece at the Go Museum in Luoyang, central China's Henan Province, May 14, 2019. Wang Tongling displays more than 30,000 exhibits related to Go (Weiqi), showcasing historical development of the Chinese board game in her private Go museum. Go is an abstract two-player strategy board game, in which players compete to surround more territory than their opponent. With a history of about 4,000 years, it was regarded as one of the most refined skills that an ancient Chinese intellectual could have. (Xinhua/Li An)
ZHENGZHOU, July 9 (Xinhua) -- Wang Tongling displays more than 30,000 exhibits related to Go (Weiqi), showcasing historical development of the Chinese board game in her private Go museum.
Go is an abstract two-player strategy board game, in which players compete to surround more territory than their opponent. With a history of about 4,000 years, it was regarded as one of the most refined skills that an ancient Chinese intellectual could have.
"I can never work too hard to have more people know and love the game," said the 67-year-old curator.
Wang has produced Go pieces for more than 30 years, establishing "Shuangyuan," China's leading Weiqi brand.
In the 1990s, when talking with clients, Wang found that there were controversies about the origin of the game, and she felt obliged to find the truth by herself.
"It was not easy, as there was no professional market or circle concerning the private collection of Weiqi," Wang said. "But I never give up. I knew I had to dig out the roots and show people where Weiqi came from."
Wang combed through historical materials and consulted experts while collecting Weiqi-related products from around the world.
According to the collector, in the early days, Go pieces were handmade polished stones less than 2 cm in diameter. In the Tang Dynasty (618-907), agate, shell, and jade were all used to make the pieces.
"When Weiqi culture flourished in the Song Dynasty (960-1279), people engraved birds, corals, flowers and other exquisite patterns on the pieces," Wang said.
Thanks to years of perseverance, Wang opened China's first Weiqi museum in 2014 in the city of Luoyang, in central China's Henan Province, to spread Weiqi culture and cultivate Go players.
"I have collected all kinds of Weiqi pieces and its related products dating back from the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220) to the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), presenting them in chronological order with an introduction of the history of Go," Wang said.
Now, her museum cooperates with primary and high schools as well as training institutes "to have more Chinese, especially children, learn and love the game."
"We organize students to visit our museum where they can learn the history of Weiqi and do Go-related activities. We also teach them how to play," she said.
During the process of collecting Weiqi pieces, Wang has not only clarified the evolution of the game but also learned how it was spread to the world.
"Weiqi was created by the wisdom of Chinese and is shared by all mankind," Wang said.
Sports & Games In China | 5 min read
It is inevitable that with such a long history and great culture China should have developed several unique and traditional sports and past times.
Although China has long been associated with the martial arts, sport in China today consists of a small variety of competitive sports played in China.
Chinese Kungfu(also called “Wushu”) has one of the longest histories of martial arts in the world, and with hundreds of styles, it is probably the most varied. The origins of Chinese martial arts can be traced over 3,000 years ago to self-defense needs, hunting activities and military training in ancient China.
Hand-to-hand combat and weapons practice were important components in the training of Chinese soldiers. From this beginning, Chinese martial arts proceeded to incorporate different philosophies and ideas into its practice—expanding its purpose from self-defense to health maintenance and finally as a method of self-cultivation.
Conversely, the influence of martial arts ideals in civilian society can be found in poetry, fiction, and eventually film. Chinese martial arts are now an integral element of Chinese culture.
Taijiquan or taijiis translated as “the great ultimate” and is understood to be the ideal of existence. Yin and yang represent the contrasting qualities of reality and experience. The “supreme ultimate” creates yang and yin, movement generates yang when its activity reaches its limit, it becomes tranquil.
Through tranquillity, the supreme ultimate generates yin. When tranquillity has reached its limit, there is a return to movement. Movement and tranquillity, in alteration, become each the source of the other. The distinction between the yin and yang is determined and the two forms stand revealed.
By the transformations of the yang and the union of the yin, the 5 elements (Qi) of water, fire, wood, metal, and earth are produced. These 5 Qi become diffused, which creates harmony, so Yin and yang produce all things, and these in their turn produce and reproduce, thus making these processes endless.
Chinese Acrobatics: Acrobatics is a performing art which combines physical strength and skill. Chinese acrobatics has long been used to promote cultural exchanges between Chinese people and people in other countries, like the Eastern Roman Empire, India or Japan etc.
Chinese acrobatics, music, and dance spread to other countries through both land and sea routes of the Silk Road as an important part of Chinese culture. Magic and acrobatic acts such as knife swallowing, fire-spitting, tree growing and tightrope walking were often performed at dinner parties held in foreigner royal palaces.
Traditional Chinese culture regards physical fitness as an important aspect, and, since the 20th century, a large number of sports activities, both Western and traditional Chinese, are popular in China.
A Brief History of Chinese Chess
Chinese chess, or Xiangqi as it is called outside the west, became popular in China long before China was even a concept. Often thought to have spread to the far east from India, the game was already being played in the courts as early as the Warring States period (475-221BCE).
It is hard to tell just when Xiangqi arrived in China or whether it originated there from the start. Part of the confusion springs from the linguistic ambiguity of the character Xiang. Whereas modern Chinese combines single word characters to form larger and clearer meanings, ancient Chinese relied on one character to convey a singular meaning. Thus, Xiangqi could plausibly mean “Elephant Game,” “Figure Game,” or “Constellation Game.” As such, the game has divided scholars along these three terms.
Those who interpret the characters to mean “Elephant Game” believe that the game evolved from an earlier Indian counterpart, likely influenced upon its arrival in China by the pattern of troops in the Warring States period. Others, primarily Chinese scholars, hold that Xiangqi evolved from a Chinese game called Liubo, an early iteration of backgammon that uses dice. Proponents of such a theory typically believe that the game is a simulation of astronomy, with game pieces mimicking the movements of objects in the night sky.
Many books have been written on the subject, each scholar convinced that his theory is the correct one. Much more solid evidence exists for the timeline of the solidification of the game’s rules, however. The first reference to gameplay comes from the Tang dynasty (618-907CE) story Cen Shun. In the story, the titular character dreams he is visited by a messenger of the Golden Elephant Kingdom who says that his kingdom would soon go to war with the Tian Na Kingdom. The messenger asks Cen if he would like to watch, and suddenly Cen’s room turns into the gate of a castle prepared for a great battle. A military adviser comes to the Golden Elephant King with a unique strategy: “The flying horse (knight) goes diagonally and stops at three (third line), the general moves all over the field, the wagon (rook) proceeds straight into the enemy’s territory, and soldiers should not move sideways.” The king follows the advice and the war is won in a day. Later, Cen digs up a board game, Xiangqi, that uses the same strategy put forth by the adviser.
Regardless of its origins, Xiangqi is undeniably a popular board game even to this day. It is in the same family as Western Chess and its play involves similar levels of strategy and forethought. Visitors to China can catch a glimpse of its play in parks and on street corners, with aunties and uncles absorbed in plans of attack just as their forebears were thousands of years before them.
10 Most Important Board Games In History
For thousands of years, board games have been a source of entertainment for people across the world. Evidence of board games pre-dates the development of writing&mdashand in many cultures they have even come to have a religious significance. What is particularly striking about a number of these games is how their original ethics and morals have been stripped by big business realising they could make a quick buck off them. Here are ten of the most important board games from ancient and modern history:
Tafl was a very popular game among the Vikings. One player aims to get his king from the centre of the board to the edges, while the other does everything he can to capture him. Tafl spread across Europe (just like Viking genes) and became the chess of its day noblemen would boast of their skill on the board.
Tafl was the inspiration for the game Thud , based on Terry Pratchett&rsquos Discworld series. There is still the occasional World Championship&mdashbut the fact that these take place on an island with a population of eighty-six makes me doubt how much of a &ldquoworld&rdquo championship it really is. A bit more pillaging may be in order.
The Landlord&rsquos Game was invented in 1903 by Maryland actress Lizzie Magie. The game board consisted of a square track, with a row of properties around the outside that players could buy. The game board had four railroads, two utilities, a jail, and a corner named &ldquoLabor Upon Mother Earth Produces Wages,&rdquo which earned players $100 each time they passed it.
This should all sound quite familiar: the fact is, The Landlord&rsquos Game was patented three decades before Charles Darrow &ldquoinvented&rdquo Monopoly and sold it to Parker Brothers.
The Landlord&rsquos Game &mdashlater known as Prosperity &mdashwas intended to illustrate the social injustice created by land ownership and &ldquorent poverty.&rdquo It also offered a solution to this injustice: players could opt to have rent from properties they owned paid into a communal pot, which would then be shared out, making things better for everyone.
The great irony of the story is that when the idea was stolen by Darrow, the prosperity-for-all ideal was removed completely&mdashand the game that went on to be played by more than one billion people ended up encouraging them to make their opponents bankrupt.
The sixteenth century Indian game of Vaikuntapaali &mdashalso known as Leela &mdashwas a tool for teaching morality and spirituality. It was the game that went on to be launched as Chutes and Ladders in America (and Snakes and Ladders elsewhere). In the original version, the climbing of a ladder was supposed to show players the value of good deeds in the search for enlightenment the chutes&mdashor snakes&mdashwere meant to show that vices such as theft and murder would bring spiritual harm to the sinner.
The Victorians altered the moral teachings when they brought the game to England in the late nineteenth century. Although in the original one could achieve a state of eternal Nirvana, the British fondness for understatement meant that in the Western version, one simply achieved &ldquosuccess.&rdquo By the time Milton Bradley brought it to America in 1943, all anyone really wanted was a bit of distraction (something must have been weighing on people&rsquos minds in the early 1940s), and so the game became what it remains today: a basic race to the finish.
A precursor to Tick-Tack-Toe, Nine Men&rsquos Morris is a game in which counters are placed on a grid with the aim of creating lines of three. Once all the pieces are down, they can be moved one space per move. Whenever a player forms a row of three, he can remove one of his opponent&rsquos pieces from the board. The first player down to two pieces loses.
The simplicity of the game board meant that people across the world could create their own without much hassle. Boards dating as far back as 1440 B.C. have been found carved into steps and rocks in Sri Lanka, Bronze Age Ireland, ancient Troy and the Southwestern United States&mdashnote to Mormons: this is not archaeological evidence in support of the Book of Mormon.
Not content with scarring the landscape alone, it seems that fans through history carved the board into seats, walls, and even tombstones across England. For all the concern over World of Warcraft , we&rsquoll know computer game addiction has become truly serious when people start vandalizing their nearest graveyard for a quick fix.
When Parker Brothers republished The Mansion of Happiness: An Instructive Moral and Entertaining Amusement in 1894, they claimed that it had been the first board game published in the US&mdashway back in 1843. The game was in fact probably the second game published in the US but it is still noteworthy as a successor to the &ldquorace to the afterlife&rdquo theme common in many older religious games.
The game designers had to use technicalities to get past the the then-sinister connotations of gambling (a six-sided die is Satanic, a six-sided spinner not so much). The board consisted of a basic roll-and-move track&mdashsaturated with more Puritanism than should rightfully fit on a piece of cardboard. Sabbath-breakers are sent to the whipping post (whips sold separately), and the vice of Idleness will land you in Poverty. The game also includes what is perhaps the worst rule ever prescribed in the history of board games, with a player sometimes required to wait &ldquotill his turn comes to spin again, and not even think of happiness, much less partake of it.&rdquo
Luckily, &ldquodo not partake of happiness&rdquo is a rule that didn&rsquot really catch on.
Senet is the oldest board game known to exist. Sets have been found in burial chambers from as far back as 3,500 B.C.&mdashincluding four in Tutankhamen&rsquos tomb. Game boards were three squares wide and ten squares long, and sets typically had five to seven pieces for each player. Though the original rules have been lost, there is general consensus that the aim is to race one&rsquos pieces across the board, using thrown sticks as an equivalent for dice.
Though it began as a secular form of entertainment, Senet soon took on a religious significance for the Egyptians. The squares were marked with various symbols representing the gods and other aspects of the afterlife. When you play modern board games, the best you can hope for is entertainment but players completing Senet &ldquoritually joined with the sun god while still alive and thus assured their survival of the ordeals of the netherworld even before dying.&rdquo Handy.
Mancala refers to a family of games with the same basic method of play. Known as count-and-capture games, there is some evidence to suggest that they may be the earliest games played&mdashpredating even Senet but further verification is needed. To play the game, all you need is a patch of soft ground and a handful of seeds or pebbles. Rows of holes are dug alongside one another, and players distribute counters one at a time in a path round the board. There are a number of goals but the key to victory in every version is basically to count really fast.
Mancala was little-known in Europe and America until relatively recently. A report from the Smithsonian Institute described it as the &ldquonational game of Africa.&rdquo
The Indian game of Chaupat and the closely-related game Pachisi are the original cross-and-circle games, of which the best known example in the West is the much-simplified Ludo . Players aim to race their pieces around the board, with moves determined by a throw of cowry shells. An opponent&rsquos pieces can be captured by landing on the same square, and two of a player&rsquos pieces on the same square can merge into a &ldquosuper-piece&rdquo.
The Mogul Emperor Akbar I played the game on a giant board, using slave-girls instead of pieces. How two of these &ldquopieces&rdquo merged into a &ldquosuper-piece&rdquo is unclear&mdashand a Google search for &ldquoslave girl pieces&rdquo returns results about, shall we say, other things.
Chaturanga is a game that deserves to be known, if only because of its enormous legacy: chess.
There are few games as widely known as chess. Chess became an extension of the Cold War in 1972 it has ousted all contenders in Europe for the title &ldquoGame of Kings&rdquo&mdashand the western game is not alone. The Chinese have Xiangqi , the Japanese play Shogi , and there are equivalents in Korea, Thailand and India. Chess is sometimes used as an analogy for life itself, and in the popular mind it is a symbol of genius.
Chaturanga &mdashwhich dates from as far back as the seventh century A.D.&mdashis the common ancestor of all the modern versions of chess. The board and most pieces are the same, though the exact rules are sadly forgotten. But it seems that the creators of Chaturanga hit upon the formula that would go on to spread the game throughout the world: The pure battle of skill. The almost infinite complexity. The scope for beauty. And the resemblance to much of real life.
The Royal Game of Ur is the oldest-known board game for which the original rules survive. The oldest sets, discovered in Iraq in the 1920s, date to around 2600 B.C. The Royal Game of Ur is a race game, much like Senet , in which one throws dice to move one&rsquos pawns towards the goal.
The game had been thought long-dead&mdashsuperseded by backgammon 2000 years ago&mdashuntil game enthusiast Irving Finkel (who had poetically discovered the game&rsquos rules carved into an ancient stone tablet) stumbled upon a surprising photograph of a game board from modern India. A small amount of detective work later, Finkel met a retired schoolteacher who had played what was basically the same game as a youngster&mdashmaking this the game that has been played for longer than any other in the history of the world.
You can play it by clicking the link here. As you play, bear in mind that it has outlasted all of the world&rsquos greatest empires, and is older than all the world&rsquos major religions. That&rsquos the power of board games. Don&rsquot let this one die at the hands of the Playstation.
Our editors will review what you’ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article.
Halma, (Greek: “jump”), checkers-type board game, invented about 1880, in which players attempt to move a number of pieces from one corner of a square board containing 256 squares to the opposite corner. The first to transfer all of his pieces is the winner. In the two-handed game, each player has 19 pieces in the four-handed game, each has 13 and the players may compete as two partnerships. The game can also be played by three, but the player without an opponent in the opposite corner is at a disadvantage.
Pieces may move one square at a time in any direction onto any empty square, or they may jump over adjacent pieces, their own or an opponent’s, onto an empty square beyond. Pieces are not removed from the board when they are jumped. Any number of jumps may be made in one turn of play. Players try to form ladders—strings of their own pieces spaced so that they jump several squares at a turn.
Chinese checkers, a game for from two to six players, derived from Halma, was introduced in the United States in the 1930s. It is played in the same way as Halma, except that the pieces are usually marbles (each player has 10 or 15) and the board, in the shape of a six-pointed star, has holes instead of squares.
Bits and Pieces of Other Sections
Chapter 2. Section 11. Compensation stones
Chapter 3. Section 17. Placing of stones
Chapter 3. Section 19. Forbidden points
Chapter 3. Section 20. Reappearance of the same board position
1. In a ko fight, if a player recaptures on the next move, the move is declared invalid and the player loses his turn.
2. At the end of the game, in accordance with the principle which forbids reappearance of the same board position, the `moonshine-life' position is considered dead (e.g., the black stones in the lower left in Diagram 3 are dead).
Diagram 3. Moonshine life
3. In rare situations such as triple ko, quadruple ko, eternal life, and round-robin ko, if neither side will yield, the referee may declare a draw or a replay. See Diagrams 4 to 7.
Diagram 5. Four kos among three groups
Diagram 6. Eternal life
Diagram 7. Double-ko seki with double ko stones
4. According to the principle which forbids reappearance of the same board position, a player cannot refuse to end the game by reason of the position in Diagram 8 or any other similar positions.
Dear reader : Do you have any suggestions for the site's content?
Ideas for new topics, and suggested additions / corrections for old ones, are always welcome.
If you have skills or interests in a particular field, and have suggestions for Wikenigma, get in touch !
Or, if you'd like to become a regular contributor . . . request a login password. Registered users can edit the entire content of the site, and also create new pages.
( The 'Notes for contributors' section in the main menu has further information and guidelines etc.)