Most Interesting Ancient Board Game


Without any doubt, Chess is the most popular board game ever. But unknown to most of us, there were actually similar games long before it came. Which do you think among the following would you consider as the most Interesting?


rithmomachyIf you have a hard time pronouncing the name, you may just simply call it “The Battle of the Numbers” – its actual English translation. It is very similar to chess, except that most methods of capture depend on the numbers inscribed on each chip. There was a point in history when Rithmomachy was in the level of chess in terms of popularity in Europe. The game disappeared from the 1600 until the late 1800. It was only rediscovered by historians in early 20th century, which makes us wonder how it would have fared in this generation had it been popularized along with chess.



tabulaIt is recorded as an invention of a Greek soldier of the Trojan War. Like most board games winning this game is also a mixture of luck and strategy, although luck has mostly the greater contribution. A player may have himself in a strong position to a very weak one after an unfortunate dice roll. It is generally thought to be the direct ancestor of modern Backgammon. The major differences is that Backgammon has only 2 dice whereas Tabula has an extra one. Tabula has also been through several modifications which may also include the ones we see in casinos and carnivals today.



alquerqueBelieved to have originated in the Middle East, it is a very simple game governed by Algebraic notations. The players however doesn’t need to understand the rules of Algebra to play it. The game is played in turns, with one player taking the white chips while the other would use the black ones. As the pieces are laid out in the board, only one vacant slot is open, which means only a single move can be done by the player who’s meant to make the first move. Chips must be devoured in every attack, as the other player does the same. no player is allowed to move a piece backward. Bravery is indeed the most notable trait that the game instills.



patolliVariants of this game was played by many pre-Columbian cultures and was known all over Mesoamerica. In order to win in this, strategy must be accompanied with luck, which makes every outcome far from being predictable. Patolli is can be viewed as a semi-racing game with a heavy emphasis on gambling. Players would bet blankets, precious stones, food or just about anything. Some would even go as far to betting their homes and social status. For all the extreme and dirty realities surrounding Patolli, it is the game that was loved by commoners and nobles alike.



liuboAccording to legend, it was invented by Wu Cao a minister to King Jie, the last king of the Xia Dynasty. The game existed in China no later than the middle of the 1st millennium BCE andIt became truly popular during the Han 202 BCE to 220 CE. Facts about Liubo has increased in recent years with archaeological discoveries of game boards in ancient tombs, as well as discoveries of Han Dynasty artworks depicting players delving themselves into the game. After the collapse of the Han Dynasty, it wasn’t too famous anymore, possibly due to the existence of other games such as of Go, one of the most popular Chinese board games.



konaneThe mechanics of the game revolves around one simple goal: the first player unable to capture an enemy piece is the loser, which declares the other player as the immediate winner. Invented by the ancient Hawaiian Polynesians, the game on its earliest years was played using small pieces of white coral and black hardened lava on a large carved rock which doubled as both board and table. Although modern versions are never like this anymore, Konane remains one of the best past times in Hawaiian lands among the young and the old.




senetPeople are depicted playing this game in a painting in the tomb of Rashepes, as well as from other tombs of the Fifth and Sixth Dynasties in Egypt. This suggests that Senet is one of the oldest board games in existence. It was conceived as a representation of the journey to the afterlife meaning the game itself is affiliated with religion and the supernatural in the perspective of ancient Egyptians. Players who are fond of this were known to regard every Senet game as some kind of spiritual experience. It was also played by people in neighboring cultures, and it probably came to those places through trade relationships between Egypt and the surrounding local tribes.



chauparThis one can be hardly categorized as a board game since its main mechanism is made of wool or cloth, not of a wooden board. This game is usually played in a rather humorous manner, and it is quite common for players to mock each other’s strategies with the hope of distracting their opponent. Players may crack their knuckles, snort, or make absurd noises just to spoil the opponent’s turn. There are famous stories from generation to generation about people of royal blood who played Chaupar making this game one of the most magnificent of its kind.



reversiAlthough it was known to be invented in 1883 by two Englishmen, there has been speculation that the game has older origins. As the name suggests, its main rule is to “reverse” the chips so it would be in the same color to the chip of the attacking player. Though just a simple game at a glance, the mathematical undertones that Reversi projects is very complex as indicated by its varying versions throughout the generations. Its most notable modern version is Othello – an arcade game console which is now played with in international tournaments.



shatranjThis board game is thought to be the courier of the “command and conquer” mantra that is undoubtedly the chief mindset of most rulers during the ancient times. To simply put it, Shatranj is the ancestor of chess. The initial setup of the game was essentially the same as in modern chess except that the position of the white king on the right or left side was not fixed – the king and the queen positions may be directly in line with each other. Shatranj originated in India, which made its way into the Middle East, and then into Europe, which modified it into Chess, and popularized it into various parts of the world.


Which among these should be ranked as No. 1?

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