Board games are old, but have you ever wondered how old? Allow me to introduce some of the world’s oldest board games, all of which are still played today!
Played since: 7th & 15th centuries
Chess in it’s current form was codified in 15th century Europe. However this modern form was a descendant of an earlier game called Chaturanga. Chaturanga originated in India, though some argue for China, sometime around 600CE. This version had the same checkered board, but used 4 divisions of pieces starting in the corners of the board. Throughout its life and in all of its iterations Chess has been a game of pure strategy, and remains world renowned for the complexity it offers.
Nine Men’s Morris
Played since: 1400 BCE (possibly)
The exact age of this game is undetermined, but it has been around since at least the Roman Empire. It has a lot of alternative names, including Nine Man Morris, Mills, The Mill Game, Merels and Cowboy Checkers. Based around forming three piece lines that allow the removal of opponent pieces, the game resembles a combination of noughts and crosses and checkers.
Played since: 2000 BCE
Also known as Weiqi, this incredibly old game originates in ancient China. The game is compared to chess, although it is larger and based on adding pieces to create complicated spreading arrangements. It was one of the four arts considered essential for any cultured aristocrat to master, the others being painting, calligraphy, and playing the Guqin.
Played since: 3000 BCE
Dating back thousands of years to ancient Persia, backgammon is one of the oldest examples of a “race” game. Player’s roll dice to move their checkers round the board in opposite “horse shoe” loops, racing to complete their loop before their opponent can. Rules on legal moves and allowing players to knock out each other’s pieces allow for deeper strategy.
Played since: 3000 BCE
A relatively simple game of hopping over your opponents pieces, checkers has had several forms over its long life. Credited by multiple sources as being Egyptian in origin, it is also known as Draughts. Checkers rules vary considerably by region, with over twenty local variants acknowledged.
Played since: 3500 BCE
Finally we come to the game that holds the title of oldest board game in the world, Senet. Originating in Ancient Egypt over 5000 years ago it is also known as Senat or Sen’t. No complete record of the rules of Senet exists today, though that doesn’t stop retailers selling modern sets. These modern Senet games use rules pieced together from fragments of text spanning a thousand years, and likely differ greatly from the original.