Board game

From Academic Kids

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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 abstract strategy 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 Tomb of Merknera contains the earliest indication of ancient Egyptian Senet. Senet is the oldest board game known to have existed.
  • The Royal Tombs of Ur contained, among others, the Royal Game of Ur. They were excavated by C. Leonard Woolley, but his books document little on the games found. Most of the games he excavated are now housed in 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.


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.

Nowadays many new and classical board games are available as computer games. Here we have to discern two categories:

  • either the computer works as an opponent (e.g. in many chess programs)
  • or the virtual board on the computer screen simply replaces the physical board and thus allows two or more players to play with each other over distances (via the internet etc). In these cases the computer program may function (among other things) as a adjudicator, for example it may check the validity of a chess move, keep the time etc.

Many computer board games allow you to switch between these two modes.

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, strategy and diplomacy

One way of defining board games are between those based upon luck and strategy. Some games, such as chess, have 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 Top Trumps quite boring.

The third important factor in a game is diplomacy. This generally applies only to games played with three or more people. An important facet of Settlers of Catan, for example, is convincing people to trade with you rather than with other players. In Risk, one example of diplomacy's effectiveness is when two or more players team up against another. Easy diplomacy consists of convincing other players that someone else is winning and should therefore be teamed up against. Difficult diplomacy (such as in the aptly named game Diplomacy) consists of making elaborate plans together, with possibility of betrayal.

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.


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