Monopoly, Risk and Clue have roots buried deep in the sands of ancient Mesopotamia. f95
British archeologist Charles Leonard Woolley unearthed the earliest known board game in the late 1920’s. He was excavating a burial tomb in Ur, what is now southern Iraq. The game, buried with other treasure, had been interred nearly 4,500 years earlier. The Royal Game of Ur is the earliest known board game. Not only did Woolley find the game board and game pieces, he also found instructions for playing the game. They were engraved in cuneiform texts located at the site. The Royal Game of Ur, or the ‘game of 20 squares’ was a race game with two players racing to the end of the board. Since that time similar game boards have been found throughout the ancient world, from Egypt to India. The game Woolley found can still be played today, just as the ancient Sumerians enjoyed it.
Board games have been popular in nearly every known civilization. Many civilizations were playing board games before they developed any form of written language.
Board games come in two basic types. The first uses strategy to win the game. The object is to block or capture opposing game pieces or to capture larger portions of the game board. Monopoly and checkers are both examples of the strategy game. Strategy alone does not insure victory.
Chance plays a significant role in most board games, but not all. Some of the most respectable board games, chess for example, focus on skill with very little luck involved.
Purists feel that luck is an undesirable element. They feel the games should be based entirely on strategy and skill. Others feel the element of chance gives these games more complexity with many more possible strategies. These people feel the element of luck makes these games more exciting. On the other hand, games that are completely games of chance, where no or few decisions are made, quickly become boring to most adults. Many children’s board games are games of luck with few decisions to be made.
The second types of board games are race games. Two or more players move pieces in a race from one point on the board to another. Backgammon is an example of a race game. Again, the element of chance is an essential ingredient in these games.
Luck is introduced into the game in a number of ways. One of the popular ways is by using dice. The dice can determine how many units a play can move, how forces fare in battle or which resources a player gains. Another common method of introducing change is by using a deck of special cards. In yet other games spinners or other such devices are used to determine the play.