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The History of Board Games (diceygoblin.com)
91 points by attiapete on Apr 8, 2015 | hide | past | favorite | 15 comments

Pretty good article. I think it should have been split in two. Ancient games and modern games (possibly even three with the current age of KS/youtube gamsessions etc.). It's really hard to compress the history of board games into such a short post. Germany is often credited as "the board game country" (somewhat unfairly in my opinion there's other countries with very strong board gaming traditions) but I've always wondered why games are so popular here. My working hypothesis is that it is somewhat related to the post WW2 social climate (escapism?). I'm also curious if a widespread "gaming tradition" has positive effects on other areas of life. Games tend to require critical thinking, creativity and most importantly create interesting social situations.

Disclaimer: I'm a very avid board gamer (collection stands at around 210 games and 75 expansions). I guess that was inevitable since I'm German and a graduate of the University of Essen (Duisburg-Essen these days) with an AI focus in my degree. We always skipped classes to attend the Spiel :D

Oh yeah and just in case someone doesn't know it, the leading board game site is https://boardgamegeek.com (their UI is pretty "interesting")

I'm also curious if a widespread "gaming tradition" has positive effects on other areas of life. Games tend to require critical thinking, creativity and most importantly create interesting social situations.

TED Radio Hour podcast just had an interesting episode about the benefits of play, check it out: http://www.npr.org/programs/ted-radio-hour/390249044

Interesting history but incomplete without mentioning the mid 70's to early 80's Avalon Hill/Yaquinto/TSR/metagaming era. I think an argument could be made that the modern euro board game movement would not have happened without that era preceding it...

Yeah; it skipped the most important 100 years by skipping from Monopoly to Catan. People like Sid Sackson, Phil Orbanes, Richard Hamblen, Francis Tresham and others created the modern era - and amazing, modern-feeling games such as Square Mile[1962] would sometimes appear out of nowhere.

edit: Seriously - German Family games don't even exist without Kohle, Kie$ & Knete and Acquire. Lastly, the influence of Gary Gygax on the landscape can't be overestimated. This is really not useful for understanding modern gaming.

edit2: I want to add so much more to this that it's better to just stop now - but a history of board games that reduces Parker Brothers to Monopoly (which they stole), Risk (which is French), Sorry (which is Parcheesi), and Trivial Pursuit but gives a paragraph to the Conan Board Game is not a good history.

Tom Vasel called Sid Sackson "the Jules Verne of modern board gaming", which is so right.

Focus is just an amazing lightweight abstract strategy. http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/789/focus

Incredible article! I would not have expected that a 4 sided was an early die with it so uncommon today. I'm going to introduce my kids to The Royal Game of Ur.

I was distracted by an early sentence. Does the "That’s higher than Google, which sees about 20% growth year over year." lead resonate? Does it help others relate to the growth? I found myself having to restart my enjoyment engine after that line. Did the hook work on you?

What are related term for this pattern, so I can do further reading on it?

Thinking further on this. I'm trying to picture the relative growth between gaming and google and haven't figured out a way to stack Google logos and board games such that I think it would impress. What type of Google growth am I representing? For board games is it revenue?

For my own purposes I'm going to test if I can sketch such a comparison before I use it.

/me well down the rabbit hole

Not sure where they're getting 25-40%. The North American numbers have been closer to 10-15% year-over-year for the past 6 years.


I found this part hard to believe too. After quick googling found this article, though it doesn't state how it came up with these numbers, so I'm still sceptical:


Wil Wheaton's TableTop show has gone a long ways towards introducing people to what board games are capable of. For the longest time I thought that Monopoly and Risk were the gold standard, that everything else would be gimmicky and boring, but then I saw the episode for Elder Sign and my whole perspective was changed.

Now I've got dozens of board games lining my shelves and not nearly enough opportunity to play them all.

This history misses many important board games. If this topic interests you check out Tom Vasel's board gaming channel on YouTube.


These guys seem to know more about board gaming then anyone I've ever encountered. And I've been playing board games for ~30 years.

The idea that chatauranga evolved from tafl, rather than tafl being loosely inspired by chess, seems pretty speculative to me.

Kind of weird to skip straight from mancala to The Landlord's Game to the Spiel des Jahres. The games of the 19th century were generally pretty bad, from a contemporary perspective, but there was a lot of important development that led up to 20th century designs.

George Parker founded his game company in the 1880s and started publishing games like Chivalry (1887) and Rook (1906) that have continued to be played since then (Camelot at least sees play despite being out of print for decades). The Landlord's Game is nice, but it's a footnote to Monopoly (1933). http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/117864/chivalry

> The game gets it’s name from it’s founding within the Royal Tombs of Ur in Iraq.

A very good article, but boy do I find these typos grating in an otherwise well-written article.

Fixed the "It's" typos, please do let me know if you see anymore :)

> [Table Top] garnishes several hundred thousand views per video.

It should be 'garners'. Garnish means to put something ornamental on.

"Any more."

Sorry, couldn't help myself.

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