What is a Board Game?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

A board game is a game played across a board by two or more players. The board may have markings and designated spaces, and the board game may have tokens, stones, dice, cards, or other pieces that are used in specific ways throughout the game. The board game is certainly not a new invention. In fact board games found near Jordan in archaeological digs are dated as at least 7000 years old.

Pieces for chess, a board game.
Pieces for chess, a board game.

The earliest board games that have been found seem similar to the once again popular game of Mancala. Senet, a board game with pawns, somewhat resembles chess or checkers. Senet boards have been found in tombs dating back to 3500 BCE. Further, there are numerous artistic depictions of Egyptians playing Senet.

A board game can encourage a family to spend quality time together.
A board game can encourage a family to spend quality time together.

Backgammon appears in 3000 BCE. Most of the early board games appear to have been two player games. Early references to Parcheesi or Pachisi do not occur until about 500 BCE. Parcheesi can be played with up to four players. Chess is also a relative later board game, not occurring until about 600 BCE.

Board games often have tokens, pawns, dice, cards, or other playing pieces that are used in specific ways throughout the game.
Board games often have tokens, pawns, dice, cards, or other playing pieces that are used in specific ways throughout the game.

Since these early board games, numerous varieties have been tried and gained popularity. For some time during the Victorian Era and prior, cards were often played instead. Adults would play games like whist, which often included gambling. Board games were more popular among children.

Some board games are aimed at young players.
Some board games are aimed at young players.

While card games continued to be popular in the 20th century, the board game in all its varieties began to be enjoyed by both adults and children alike. This was particularly the case after WWII, and is often attributed to the rising middle class. Playing a family game of strategy or chance is often how the 1950s middle class nuclear family is depicted.

During this time, several specific board games rose to prominence. These included Monopoly, Risk, and Scrabble. Parcheesi remained popular, and variants of Parcheesi like Trouble and Sorry also appeared during these times. Many modern board games depend on dice rolls for movement. A few are more complicated, like Risk, which clearly has extremely strategic elements. However, most often the modern board game relies at least in part on luck. Even a good Scrabble player can be cursed with poor tiles.

Some board games were particularly aimed at young players. Among these, Candyland and Shoots and Ladders, or Snakes and Ladders were particularly popular. Candyland introduced very young players to the idea of moving pieces along the board to be the first player to reach the end of the game. Snakes and Ladders actually dates at least to the 19th century, and was a wonderful way to introduce children to counting, and the fickle nature of luck.

As children aged, they could play with each other or parents in more challenging games like Monopoly, another great way to use math skills. Risk was excellent at teaching children strategy. Two player games like checkers, chess and backgammon continued to be popular but emphasis was, in many games, on family play.

The board game became even more popular with the introduction of Trivial Pursuit in the 1980s. With the popularity of television shows like Jeopardy, Trivial Pursuit quickly captured a huge audience. Other games like Pictionary and Imaginiff followed to continue to entice the public with new offerings.

The modern board game now often includes an electronic element. Most popular are the DVD board games that focus on movie trivia. Many board games have also been turned into computer games and continue to remain popular. Some companies have worked hard to establish the concept of “family game night,” and advocate setting aside one night a week to play a board game with the whole family.

It’s not a bad concept since it does promote family quality time, while also promoting game sales. Even though board games continue to evolve, old standbys like Monopoly are still popular. Games like Snakes and Ladders and Candyland continue to be excellent choices for children.

A parent and child may be able to play board games on a computer.
A parent and child may be able to play board games on a computer.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


If you want to talk modern games, then you need to look at games with ideas that have come out since 2000. These include great titles like Ticket to Ride, Pandemic, Carcassonne, Dominion, etc. If you haven't heard of these, check them out. Game ideas are still evolving, and new titles are being released every year.


I am doing research about board games and I need a lot of information about them. Could somebody help me please?


I also liked monopoly and have felt the same as icecream17, so I designed a board game that is a business simulation.


SurfNturf- I loved that game too. I know that Cranium board game, Scrabble board game and Candyland are all really fun and educational board games that kids love.

My absolute favorite board game is Monopoly. As I kid I loved the intensity of this real estate game and when I grew up, I always was interested in anything to do with real estate.

I used to love owning homes and hotels in that game. The only thing that I did not like was the fact that the game can sometimes be endless. Now I play the game with my children and they love it too.


I used to love playing the Clue board game. It was always fun to figure out who committed the crime and what was the weapon or object used in the commission of the crime.

The game really makes you think and it is an excellent game to play with the whole family.

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