Board Games

Board Games

One of the most popular and enduring types of games are board games. Also called table games, board games have a set of rules governing the play that usually have a defined beginning and end as well as a competitive element in trying to beat the other player. The games are played on game boards, and there is a huge variety of games suitable for play by children and adults depending on their complexity.1

Evidence of early board games can be seen as early as around 3500 B.C. in Egypt and the Fertile Crescent. The Royal Game of Ur was discovered in the Royal Tombs of Ur in Iraq and is often determined to be one of the earliest known board games along with the game, Senet, which was unearthed in the tomb of King Tutankhamen. Some even believe that games from northern Africa, such as Mancala or Wari, were played even earlier, though they are difficult to date. China had the Game of Go (Wei-qi), which could be dated as early as 2300 B.C. and the Chinese game of Mah Jongg is nearly that old.2

Early game boards were carved in wood, etched in stone, drawn on slate, sewn on fabric, and woven into baskets. Game pieces were often stones, seeds, or carved pieces of ivory, wood, or clay. By the late 1700s games were printed on linen-backed paper or on regular paper by European companies.3 Most commercially produced board games today consist of a game board that is printed on a sheet of paper and pasted onto a piece of cardboard. These boards are often folded to be stored in a box.4

Most board games are designed to be played by two to six players, and there are two main types of board games: race games and positioning games. Race games can be set up as a path, track, or circuit. Path games have a starting point of the race with one or more paths to the finishing point, such as in Chutes and Ladders. Track games are a race to be the first player to get all his pieces around the board once like in the games of Backgammon and Parcheesi. A circuit game like Monopoly allows players to continue circling the board until one player has achieved whatever is required to win the game. Positioning games are usually played on a grid and require players to block, capture, or eliminate the other player’s pieces like in Checkers and Chess.

Board games offer an opportunity for families to interact with each other in an entertaining way. Parents can use playing board games to help their children gain skills in problem solving, rationalization, and strategy. Logical thinking is exercised, and many games expose children to real life situations that expand their knowledge.5 Memory, math, and deductive reasoning skills are also exercised when playing many board games.6 Children can also learn to be good losers as well as winners in a game situation, which develops their self-regulation skills needed for the real world.7

Some timeless board games include:

  • Monopoly – First produced in 1935 by Parker Brothers, this financial game offers opportunities to gain properties, amass fortunes, and bankrupt other players.
  • Risk – Another Parker Brothers game, this game of conquest has a map divided into territories for players to conquer as they play to conquer the world.
  • Scrabble – A letter crossword game, players use letter tiles to form words on a board to earn the most points to win the game.
  • The Game of Life – Invented by Milton Bradley in 1860 as The Checkered Game of Life, the object of the game is to be successful in life and to be the first to advance to the end of the game board.
  • Clue – A murder mystery is presented in this game with the winner solving the mystery after receiving clues throughout the game play.
  • Candy Land – This simple child’s game uses cards with colors drawn from a deck to move their game piece towards the nearest color indicated on the card.
  • Chutes and Ladders – Known as Snakes and Ladders in the 1800s, it was originally based on a moral theme of good and bad deeds, which would move the players forward or send them back by the roll of the dice.8

Several board games have become classics. Candy Land, Checkers, The Game of Life, Monopoly, and Scrabble have all been inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame.9

  • 1. Whitehill, Bruce. “What is a Game?” The Big Game Hunter. < > 9 Sep. 2011.
  • 2. “A History of Board Games.” Astral Castle. < > 24 Jan. 2012.
  • 3. Whitehill, Bruce. “Games: 6000 Years and Counting.” The Big Game Hunter. < > 26 Jan. 2012.
  • 4. Op. cit., Whitehill, Bruce. “What is a Game?”
  • 5. “Benefits of Board Games.” Games Information Depot. < > 9 Sep. 2011.
  • 6. Finotti, M.C. “Board games can teach and build relationships.” The Florida Times-Union. April 26, 2011. < > 9 May 2011.
  • 7. Whitehall, Bruce. “Games in Family Life.” The Big Game Hunter. < > 26 Jan. 2012.
  • 8. “History of Board Games from Early 1900s to the Present.” The People History. < > 9 Sep. 2011.
  • 9. “Inducted Toys: Alphabetical List.” National Toy Hall of Fame. < > 26 Jan. 2012.