The first ever game, to the board games that we play at home now, we have a fascination with games of all types.

In this infographic, we summarise where table games Since ancient times humans have been drawn to playing games together. From Senet, possibly came from and how they evolved over time. You will also find out more about key games and their effect on table games as a whole, which we have split into ancient, classic and modern games.

 

Key Games

The Ancients

Senet (Cir. 3100BC)

History: Board games were highly popular in ancient Egypt and one of the first games was Senet, meaning ‘the game of passing'. A Senet set was found in Tutankhamun's tomb, showing that even the Pharaohs themselves enjoyed a boardgame in their lifetimes.

Rules: The game board had a grid of three by ten squares, with each player having seven game pieces that they had to move safely off the board. In order to move, players threw sticks or bones, each decorated on just one side.

Interesting Fact: While the rules of the game are not completely understood, many people in Egypt still play to this day using their own variations.

Royal Game of Ur (Cir. 2600BC)

History: The Royal Game of Ur, or the Game of Twenty Squares, is an example of the evolution into a more sophisticated style of board game. An original game board was discovered by Sir Leonard Woolley, a British archaeologist, during his excavation of the Royal Cemetery at Ur. 

Rules: The board has twenty squares, each made of shell. Five squares contain circled dots, five have flowers, five have eyes and the remaining five have a variety of designs depicting dots. The aim of the game was a race for each player to get their pieces to the end of the board before the other.

Interesting Fact: It's difficult to tell what each image is supposed to represent, but historians believe that the flowers are symbols of luck.

Tabula (480AD)

History: Possibly one of the first gambling games, Tabula is the ancient ancestor of Backgammon and was much loved by Emperor Claudius of Rome. Tabula had its roots in the Egyptian game of Senet, which was still being played in Rome at the time that Tabula became popular

Rules: The object of the game is the same as in Backgammon – for players to exit the opposite side of the board. It was even played on a board that is nearly identical to modern-day Backgammon.

Interesting Fact: Emperor Claudius love Tabula so much, he even had a portable version of the game in his carriage so that he could play on the go

 

The Classics

Chess (Cir. 600AD)

History: Possibly the most popular tabletop game in the world, chess has been a favourite of strategists for over a millennia.

One of the first inspirations for chess came from India in the form of Chaturanga in 500AD, which also featured specific pieces with their own ways of moving across the board, like the Raja (King) and Ashva (horse or knight).

The game of chess was meant to simulate a battle, making it popular in military circles around the world: it was even among the seven skills that knights were told to acquire. It became the pastime of the elite and a symbol of high culture, with notable players being English kings and queens. 

Rules: The aim of chess is to put the opponent in ‘checkmate', which is achieved by positioning your pieces in a way that the opponent cannot move their king without being captured. To do this, different pieces, many of which have their own distinct movement rules, must be manoeuvred around a checkered board.

Interesting Fact: In 1834 competitive chess was born, but because time-restrictions didn't exist back then some players would deliberate over a single move for hours, which led to sandglasses being used in 1861.

 

Poker (1829AD)

History: One of the most popular card games in the world, the game of poker conjures up the image of cowboys playing around a table, with one inevitably having an ace up their sleeve.

It's likely that poker as we know it now came from primero, a Spanish game of betting and bluffing that came around in the 16th century. Primero became the game of poque in 17th century France, which was brought over to American settlements like New Orleans and eventually became poker.

After becoming more widespread in America during the Civil War, poker was brought to Europe after Victoria asked for the rules from the U.S. minister to Great Britain.

Rules: There are many variations of poker, but all involve each player trying to make the best hand of cards, such as a flush (all of the same suit), straight (consecutive numbers) or three of a kind (three of the same number). Players will often bluff by betting like they have a better (or worse) hand than they actually have. This makes reading expressions a valuable skill when it comes to playing poker.

Interesting Fact: Poker is widely believed to be a game of pure luck, but this is definitely not the case. The game requires a great amount of skill, which is why the best players in the world can be found in the finals of tournaments time and again.   

 

The Moderns

Monopoly (1935AD)

History: Monopoly has a strange history that began all the way back in 1903 with Elizabeth Magie's The Landlord's Game. Magie was a noted left-wing progressive who wanted to highlight the inequalities inherent in a monopolistic society. "It is a practical demonstration of the present system of land-grabbing with all its usual outcomes and consequences," she said of The Landlord's Game, which bears more than a little resemblance to Monopoly.

Years later, a version of Elizabeth's rules found its way to engineer Charles Darrow, who sold it to the Parker Brothers under the name Monopoly and made a killing from the sales. Until recently, poor Elizabeth didn't get any credit for the creation of the game.

Rules: In Monopoly, players must buy properties around the game board in order to receive payment from other players. When a player lands on a property owned by someone else, they must pay up. The player with the most money at the end of the game is the winner.

Interesting Fact: When Darrow first submitted the game to the Parker Brothers, they said that it was "Too complicated, too technical, [and it] took too long to play".

 

Settlers of Catan (1995AD)

History: Catan was the creation of Klaus Teuber, a German dental technician who escaped the unhappiness of his working life by creating a board game in his workshop. To date it has sold more than eighteen million copies globally, allowing Teuber to leave the job he hated and become a full-time board game designer.

Rules: The goal of the game is simple – you must be the first to get 10 points by building a settlement. Through trading things like sheep, wheat and brick with others, players combine resources to create roads and settlements.

Interesting Fact: Catan became the first German-style board game – meaning a game with simple rules, strategy and player interaction – to break out of Europe and into the rest of the world. This paved the way for the modern gaming age with Euro titles like Carcassonne, Agricola and Puerto Rico becoming popular all around the world.