A board game is any game played with a premarked surface, with counters or pieces that are moved across the board. Simple board games are often seen as ideal "family entertainment" as they can provide entertainment for all ages. Some board games, such as chess, have intense strategic value and have become lasting classics.
There are many different types and classifications of board games. Some games are simplified simulations of real life. These are popular for they can intermingle make-believe and role playing along with the game. Popular games of this type include Monopoly, which is a rough simulation of the real estate market, Clue, which is based upon a murder mystery, and Risk which is the most well known of thousands of games attempting to simulate warfare and geo-politics.
Other games only loosely, or do not at all, attempt to imitate reality. These include games like chess and checkers and word games, the most popular of which is Scrabble. Trivia games, the most popular of which is Trivial Pursuit, can also be placed in this category.
Board games have a long history and have been played in most cultures and societies; some even pre-date literacy skill development in the earliest civilizations. A number of important historical sites, artifacts and documents exist which shed light on early board games. The most of important of these include:
- The Royal Tombs of Ur contain the oldest board games known to have existed, including the Royal Game of Ur. They were excavated by C. Leonard Woolley and his books contain limited information on the games found. Most of the games found here are now on public view at the British Museum in London.
- Buddha games list is the earliest known list of games.
- The Alfonso X manuscript, also known as the Libro de los juegos, it is a text commissioned by Alfonso translating a large number of Arabic documents on games into Spanish. Many of these original Arabic documents have been lost to us, so Alfonso's book is the first known codification of many classical games.
- The roof of the temple at Kurna , Egypt, dating from around 1400 BC, has seven board games etched into it. Many of these boards are the earliest of their type known.
A few books are most prominent in their coverage of the history of board games they are,
- R.C. Bell's Board and Table Games
- Willard Fiske's Chess in Iceland
- H.J.R. Murray's History of Board Games other than Chess
- Falkner's Games Ancient and Oriental
Note that these works, although prominent, suffer from cultural bias, in particular Murray's work, which despite being the standard reference in this area tends to assume a superiority of western cultures.
- 2560 BC - Board of the Royal Game of Ur (found at Ur Tombs)
- 2500 BC - Paintings of Senet and Han being played made in the tomb of Rashepes
- 2000 BC - Drawing in a tomb at Benihassan depicting an two unknown board games being played (depicted in Falkner). It has been suggested that the second of these is Tau.
- 1400 BC - Game boards including Alquerque, Three Men's Morris, Nine Men's Morris, and a possible Mancala board etched on the roof of the Kurna Temple . (Source: Fiske, and Bell)
- 200 BC - A Go board pre-dating 200 BC was found in 1954 in Wangdu County . This board is now in Beijing Historical Museum . (Source: John Fairbairn's Go in Ancient China ).
- 1 BC-8 AD Ovid's Ars Amatoria contains the first reference to Ludus Duodecim Scriptorum and the smaller merels .
- 220-265 Nard enters China under the name t'shu-p'u (Source: Hun Tsun Sii )
- 1100 - Invention of Draughts (source: Bell)
Board games first became widely popular among the general population early in the twentieth century when the rise of the middle class with disposable income and leisure time made them a receptive audience to such games. This popularity expanded after the Second World War, a period from which many classic board games date. Computer games are closely related to board games, and many acclaimed computer games such as Civilization are based upon board games. Almost all board games have been turned into computer games. The rise of computers has also led to a relative decline in the most complicated board games as today games with elaborate calculations are far easier handled on a computer.
Luck and strategy
One way of defining board games are between those based upon luck and strategy. The most respectable games, such as chess, have virtually no luck involved. Children's games tend to be very luck based with games such as Sorry having virtually no decisions to be made. Most board games have both luck and strategy. A player may be hampered by a few poor rolls of the dice in Risk or Monopoly, but over many games a player with a superior strategy will win more often. While some purists consider luck to not be a desirable component of a game others counter that elements of luck can make for far more complex and multi-faceted strategies as concepts such as expected value and risk management must be considered. Still most adult game players prefer to make some decisions during play, and find purely luck based games such as Candyland quite boring.
Luck is introduced to a game by a number of methods. The most popular is using dice, generally six sided. These can determine everything from how many steps a player moves their token, as in Monopoly, how their forces fare in battle, such as in Risk, or which resources a player gains, such as in 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. Trivia games have a great deal of randomness based on which question a person gets. German-style board games are notable for often having rather less luck factor than in many North American board games.
- The Boardgame Book, USA 1983, Exeter Books
- Sackson, Sid. A Gamut of Games. ISBN 0-486-27347-4
- Schmittberger, R. Wayne. New Rules for Classic Games. ISBN 0-471-53621-0
- List of board games
- List of board game publishers
- List of Japanese board games
- German-style board game
- Solved board games
- game classification
- Computer Olympiad
- Card game
- Mind sport
- Zillions of Games
- Games table desk
For games that can comfortably accommodate ten players, see Party games.
- BoardGameWiki - a wiki dedicated to board games.
- BoardGameGeek - a board gaming database; includes user reviews, strategies, and session reports.
- Games-db - features a quite complete board game database
- The Little Woodshop - A brief history of board games, from past to present
- Traditional Games - includes information on classical games.
- 1970s Vintage Boardgames - UK 1970s rare vintage board games.
- Carrom Board Games - Traditional Asian game played all over the world
- The Board Game Designers Forum - a forum for amateur and published board game designers with chats, workshops, competitions, news, game reviews and, of course, forums on design, prototyping, publishing and many other subjects.
- The Games Journal - a boardgaming monthly; good source for in-depth articles about boardgaming.
- International Journal for the Study of Board Games
- Boardgame Players Association - World Boardgaming Championships
- Origins Game Fair
- World of Board Games - about 50 board games to play online for free. A big community of active board gamers gather around this site.
- Board Games - a collection of board games to play free online.
- Kurnik Online Games - yet another free online gaming site with board and card games.
- Board Games - A webpage with free board games to download.