The First Board Games Invented, Chronicled by Casey Grove

Penn State: The first board games invented, chronicled by Casey Grove

Casey Grove shares that board games are an ancient form of recreation, but the modern era kicked off with a few still-loved classics.

The history of board games extends way beyond Monopoly cars and letter tiles to the pharaohs of Ancient Egypt, Casey Grove, an award-winning game creator, reports. Before entering eternity in their opulent tombs, these leaders loved to engage in various recreational activities, including the earliest board games known to man. 

Early board games

Even before the actual board game concept became more refined, mankind was engaging in gameplay with dice and other chance-based game pieces dated to prehistoric times.

In Ancient Egypt, games like Senet showed the development of a formal board and a pawn system, creating the opportunity to navigate a game board strategically with elements of chance still in play. Many games from the present-day Middle East also became popular in what is now considered Asia before local board games began to evolve there.

As history progressed, games started to evolve when Backgammon and a historical predecessor became the first big board game. Chess and checkers became additional options, and various die-based, card, and other games evolved through the early 1800s. 

Early evolutions

As Puritan influences waned in the new United States, board games started to grow in popularity in the 1800s along with leisure time, Casey Grove reports. A duo of Traveler’s Tour options became the first board games printed in the U.S., and religious-based journeys soon became a repetitive theme, eventually yielding to games based around daily life. These used a roll of the dice to progress gameplay across a board to an endpoint.

Modern board games

The story modern board game era often uses Monopoly as a starting point for a new type of game that would retain appeal for decades and generations. Board game mainstays Parker Brothers acquired the rights to a Monopoly predecessor, the Landlord’s Game, in the 1930s. The game continued the throw-and-move aspects of gameplay while incorporating additional elements of chance into the game.

Casey Grove explains that other life-based games and games of chance and skill, such as Scrabble and Yahtzee, also became household names and retained their popularity through the decades.

In the present day, these options remain popular alongside more complex games focused on intense strategy and world creation. Many popular board games also moved into the digital era with web-based versions that make it easier to play with remote friends. Smartphones pushed these efforts further forward with classic board games offered with touch-based play.