Board game facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
Board Games in North America 01
Board Games in North America

A board game is a game usually played with pieces on a board, or some area with marked spaces. Many board games use pieces that may be moved, placed, or traded depending on the rules of the game. These pieces may be money, chips, pawns, or other objects. Board games may also involve some random chance with dice or cards, for example. There are many board games with a long history in some cultures. Examples of these games are chess, checkers, backgammon, parqués, and go. There are also a great number of popular board games that have been created more recently, in the past hundred years. Among these games are Scrabble and Monopoly.

Chess, and most versions of checkers, are played on a 8x8 square board with 32 white squares and 32 black squares. International checkers is played on a 10x10 square board.

History

Ancient board games

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Senet, one of the oldest known board games
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Hounds and Jackals (Egypt, 13th Dynasty)

Board games have been played in most cultures and societies throughout history. A number of important historical sites, artifacts, and documents shed light on early board games such as:

  • Jiroft civilization gameboards
  • Senet, found in Predynastic and First Dynasty burials of Egypt, c. 3500 BC and 3100 BC respectively; the oldest board game known to have existed, Senet was pictured in a fresco found in Merknera's tomb (3300–2700 BC)
  • Mehen, also from Predynastic Egypt
  • Chess, which originated in India
  • Pachisi and Chaupar, also from India
  • Go, originating in China
  • Liubo, also originating in China
  • Shax, originating in Somalia
  • Patolli, originating in Mesoamerica played by the ancient Aztec
  • Royal Game of Ur, the Royal Tombs of Ur contain this game, among others, dating to Mesopotamia 4,600 years ago
  • Buddha games list, the earliest known list of games

United States

In 17th and 18th century colonial America, the agrarian life of the country left little time for game playing though draughts (checkers), bowling, and card games were not unknown. The Pilgrims and Puritans of New England frowned on game playing and viewed dice as instruments of the devil. When the Governor William Bradford discovered a group of non-Puritans playing stool-ball, pitching the bar, and pursuing other sports in the streets on Christmas Day, 1622, he confiscated their implements, reprimanded them, and told them their devotion for the day should be confined to their homes.

The board game Traveller's Tour Through the United States and its sister game Traveller’s Tour Through Europe were published by New York City bookseller F. & R. Lockwood in 1822 and today claims the distinction of being the first board game published in the United States.

As the U.S. shifted from agrarian to urban living in the 19th century, greater leisure time and a rise in income became available to the middle class. The American home, once the center of economic production, became the locus of entertainment, enlightenment, and education under the supervision of mothers. Children were encouraged to play board games that developed literacy skills and provided moral instruction.

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The Mansion of Happiness (1843)

The earliest board games published in the United States were based upon Christian morality. The Mansion of Happiness (1843), for example, sent players along a path of virtues and vices that led to the Mansion of Happiness (Heaven). The Game of Pope or Pagan, or The Siege of the Stronghold of Satan by the Christian Army (1844) pitted an image on its board of a Hindu woman committing suttee against missionaries landing on a foreign shore. The missionaries are cast in white as "the symbol of innocence, temperance, and hope" while the pope and pagan are cast in black, the color of "gloom of error, and ... grief at the daily loss of empire".

Commercially produced board games in the mid-19th century were monochrome prints laboriously hand-colored by teams of low-paid young factory women. Advances in paper making and printmaking during the period enabled the commercial production of relatively inexpensive board games. The most significant advance was the development of chromolithography, a technological achievement that made bold, richly colored images available at affordable prices. Games cost as little as US$.25 for a small boxed card game to $3.00 for more elaborate games.

American Protestants believed a virtuous life led to success, but the belief was challenged mid-century when the country embraced materialism and capitalism. In 1860, The Checkered Game of Life rewarded players for mundane activities such as attending college, marrying, and getting rich. Daily life rather than eternal life became the focus of board games. The game was the first to focus on secular virtues rather than religious virtues, and sold 40,000 copies its first year.

Game of the District Messenger Boy, or Merit Rewarded, published in 1886 by the New York City firm of McLoughlin Brothers, was one of the first board games based on materialism and capitalism published in the United States. The game is a typical roll-and-move track board game. Players move their tokens along the track at the spin of the arrow toward the goal at track's end. Some spaces on the track will advance the player while others will send him back.

In the affluent 1880s, Americans witnessed the publication of Algeresque rags to riches games that permitted players to emulate the capitalist heroes of the age. One of the first such games, The Game of the District Messenger Boy, encouraged the idea that the lowliest messenger boy could ascend the corporate ladder to its topmost rung. Such games insinuated that the accumulation of wealth brought increased social status. Competitive capitalistic games culminated in 1935 with Monopoly, the most commercially successful board game in U.S. history.

McLoughlin Brothers published similar games based on the telegraph boy theme including Game of the Telegraph Boy, or Merit Rewarded (1888). Greg Downey notes in his essay, "Information Networks and Urban Spaces: The Case of the Telegraph Messenger Boy", that families who could afford the deluxe version of the game in its chromolithographed, wood-sided box would not "have sent their sons out for such a rough apprenticeship in the working world."

Margaret Hofer described the period of 1880s–1920s as "The Golden Age" of board gaming in America. Board game popularity was boosted, like that of many items, through mass production, which made them cheaper and more easily available. Although there are no detailed statistics, some scholars suggest that the 20th century saw a decline in the popularity of the hobby.

21st century

The late 1990s onwards have seen substantial growth in the reach and market of board games. This has been attributed to, among other factors, the Internet, which has made it easier for people to find out about games and to find opponents to play against. Around the year 2000 the board gaming industry began significant growth with companies producing a rising number of new games to be sold to a growing worldwide audience. In the 2010s, a number of publications referred to the board games as having a new Golden Age. Board game venues are also growing in popularity; for example board game cafes are reported to be very popular in China.

Luck, strategy, and diplomacy

Some games, such as chess, depend completely on player skill, while many children's games such as Candy Land and Snakes and Ladders require no decisions by the players and are decided purely by luck.

Many games require some level of both skill and luck. A player may be hampered by bad luck in backgammon, Monopoly, Risk; but over many games a skilled player will win more often, and the elements of luck can make for more excitement, and more diverse and multifaceted strategies, as concepts such as expected value and risk management must be considered.

Luck may be introduced into a game by a number of methods. The use of dice of various sorts goes back to the earliest board games. These can decide everything from how many steps a player moves their token, as in Monopoly, to how their forces fare in battle, as in Risk, or which resources a player gains, as in The Settlers of Catan. Other games such as Sorry! use a deck of special cards that, when shuffled, create randomness. Scrabble does something similar with randomly picked letters. Other games use spinners, timers of random length, or other sources of randomness. German-style board games are notable for often having less luck element than many North American board games.

Another important aspect of some games is diplomacy, that is, players making deals with one another. Negotiation generally features only in games with three or more players, cooperative games being the exception. An important facet of The Settlers of Catan, for example, is convincing players to trade with you rather than with opponents. In Risk, two or more players may team up against others. Easy diplomacy involves convincing other players that someone else is winning and should therefore be teamed up against. Advanced diplomacy (e.g., in the aptly named game Diplomacy) consists of making elaborate plans together, with the possibility of betrayal.

In perfect information games, such as chess, each player has complete information on the state of the game, but in other games, such as Tigris and Euphrates or Stratego, some information is hidden from players. This makes finding the best move more difficult, and may involve estimating probabilities by the opponents.

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Board game Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.