We all grew up playing games. But board games are probably the games we hardly ever play today. All we needed in those times was a family or friends gathering. Or a sudden black-out in the evening, when there could be no TV watching. Or we just played them when we were bored with the other games.
I bet all of you have played “The Game of the Goose” and Bingo when you were children, moving up to more “strategic” games like Monopoly or even Risk when you grew up.
What these games have in common, besides being games to play with other people, is that they are played on a “board”, on which the players display different pieces that correspond to them.
Each game has a set of rules that players must learn and remember.
Did you know that board games have been played in many different cultures throughout history?
Curiously enough, archaeologists have found examples of early board games in important historical sites and documents. The first example of board game seems to be the Egyptian game Senet, which was illustrated on the wall painting in an Egyptian tomb.
The Romans played the game of ‘Tabula’ which is similar to the modern game of Backgammon. The Anglo-Saxons played draughts, using pieces made of horse teeth, and also the Vikings played a board game called “Hnefatafl”!
Board games can be based on the player’s luck or on his strategic skills. or both. The games based on luck are all the games that are played with a board, pieces and a dice.
Top strategic games are the game of chess (probably the oldest game), or draughts (invented in France in about 1100), while Risk (1957) or Monopoly (1935) are a combination of luck and strategy, as they involve both the player’s skills and the tossing of the dice.
Monopoly is a game in which the board represents streets and building in a city. The aim is to gain control over the whole city with careful financial investments, leading the opponent players to bankruptcy.
The game board of Risk shows a map of 42 territories located on six continents, and the object is to “conquer the world” eliminating one’s opponent players.
The game of Scrabble (1950) is a letter crossword game. Players use letters of the alphabet to write words on a board, getting points for each word. The winner is of course the player who gets the highest score.
Scrabble is, as also other games, partly based on luck (picking random letters) and partly on one’s skill at forming words.
The list of board games could go on and on for days. There are board games testing your knowledge on different subjects, like Trivial Pursuit, or entertaining games in which the players have to make guesses, like Pictionary, have become very popular in social gatherings.
A very different kind of game was Dungeons and Dragons (1974). It was originally a fantasy role-playing game. The first role-playing games were very different from board games in that they involved a great deal of imagination. Indeed, you needed a great fantasy to play. You also needed some friends who loved fantastic settings and characters like you, and with whom you would experience a wonderful adventure. You had to build up your character, who could belong to fantastic races and who possessed different qualities and skills. You needed good problem solving abilities to solve dilemmas during the game. You also had to fight monsters, whether to get knowledge or a treasure. These games were open-ended and could go on for more than one game session.
However, we are living the Computer Age. And although board games and role-playing games may still be played, somewhere in this world or in other worlds, on the sand, drawing a board with a finger and using a pebble as a player’s piece, technology rules. Many games have now become obsolete and new versions of computer games have replaced them, as Ben Jogan will tell you about in the next post. But looking at the past I have somehow the feeling that we’ve lost something, and that technology has robbed the future generations of an important stage in their growth.
Do you think video games are better than the old-fashioned games? What games or board games can you remember? Which have you enjoyed playing most? Do you still play any of them?