Board games are one of the oldest forms of entertainment and have been played by people from different cultures and regions for thousands of years. Chess is perhaps the most famous and influential board game in history, but it is not the only one. There are many other board games that have their own history, rules, and strategies, and some of them are still popular today.
In this article, we will explore some of the board games other than chess that have existed in different parts of the world, how they were played, what is known of their history and development, and their ultimate origin. We will mainly rely on the book A History of Board-games Other Than Chess by H. J. R. Murray[^1^], which is a comprehensive and authoritative source on this topic.
Types of Board Games
Murray classified board games into four main types according to their objective and mechanism: race games, war games, alignment games, and mancala games.
Race games are those in which the players compete to move their pieces from one end of the board to the other, usually with the help of dice or other random devices. Examples of race games are backgammon, senet, pachisi, and snakes and ladders.
War games are those in which the players try to capture or eliminate their opponent's pieces by moving them on a grid or a network of lines. Examples of war games are draughts (checkers), go, xiangqi (Chinese chess), and shogi (Japanese chess).
Alignment games are those in which the players try to form a certain pattern or configuration with their pieces on the board, such as a row, a column, a diagonal, or a square. Examples of alignment games are tic-tac-toe, nine men's morris, gomoku, and connect four.
Mancala games are those in which the players try to capture or distribute seeds or stones among a series of holes or cups on the board. Examples of mancala games are oware, kalaha, bao, and congkak.
Origins and Development of Board Games
The origins and development of board games are not always clear or certain, as they depend on archaeological evidence, historical records, linguistic analysis, and cultural transmission. However, some general trends can be observed:
The earliest board games seem to have originated in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia around 3000 BC. Some of the oldest examples are senet from Egypt and the royal game of Ur from Mesopotamia. Both are race games that involve moving pieces along a track with the help of dice or sticks.
Board games spread to other regions through trade, conquest, migration, and cultural contact. For example, senet was adopted by the Phoenicians and later by the Greeks and Romans; the royal game of Ur was transmitted to India and Persia; backgammon evolved from ancient Persian and Roman race games; draughts originated from ancient Egyptian war games; go was introduced to Japan from China; chess was derived from an Indian war game called chaturanga; mancala games were developed independently in Africa, Asia, and Oceania.
Board games also changed over time due to local variations, innovations, adaptations, and influences. For example, chess underwent several modifications in its rules, pieces, and board as it spread from India to Persia, Arabia, Europe, and beyond; draughts developed different variants such as Turkish draughts, Brazilian draughts, and international draughts; mancala games diversified into hundreds of forms with different names, boards, rules, and strategies.
Board games other than chess have a rich and diverse history that reflects the creativity and diversity of human cultures. They have been played for fun, education, socialization, competition, ritual, and symbolism. They have also influenced art,