Spotlight on Games > Ludographies
Board Games Time Line
Wed Dec 5 01:53:05 UTC 2007

When did the board and card games of the world come into existence?
Recently someone requested a timeline of game invention, so I thought I would start one.

2600s BC Senet Found in many Egyptian ruins – four in Tutanchanun's tomb alone – this seems to be a multi-piece racing game with movement controlled by dice, which have been found as far back as 6000 BC in Egyptian pyramids. It's very similar to today's Backgammon. The first racing game. The first board game employing dice.
2500s BC Royal Game of Sumer Found in the ruins of Ur, this is similar to Senet.
2400s BC
2300s BC
2200s BC
2100s BC
2000s BC
1900s BC
1800s BC
1700s BC
1600s BC
1500s BC Tic-Tac-Toe Found in a temple in Egypt. Reminds that the cat was a very popular animal in ancient Egypt.
1400s BC Mancala Stone boards have been found in Egypt and it may be even older than this. The game may have evolved from boards and counters used for accounting and stock tracking. The first acquisition game.
1300s BC
1200s BC
1100s BC
1000s BC
900s BC
800s BC
700s BC
600s BC
500s BC Go The earliest mention appears in the Chinese Analects of Confucius (551-479 BC) and it may well be considerably older, although some of the legends claiming it invented by an emperor some four thousand years before present lack evidence. This seems to be first game primarily about placement and position.
400s BC
300s BC
200s BC
100s BC
4 AD Pachisi This racing game originated in India, but there's an obvious relationship to Senet. Both employ dice to direct the movement of multiple pieces to a goal with the ability to hit the opponent. Now more than just two can play however and probably for that reason all travel in the same direction. The game may be far older, otherwise it's hard to explain that the pre-Columbian Aztecs played something very similar which they called Patolli.
100s AD
200s AD
300s AD Hnefatafl A moving and surrounding game invented in Scandinavia. The first assymmetric (uneven strength) game. Perhaps the first war game.
400s AD Chess Although not finalized to its present form until the 1600's. Another war game, but now highly abstract of course. Origins are vastly disputed, but generally thought to be in China, India or Persia. The first specialized powers game.
500s AD
600s AD
700s AD
800s AD
900s AD Poker Likely invented in China possibly using dominoes. Chronicles record that in 969 the Emperor Mu-tsung played "domino cards" with his wife. Another possible origin is the Persian game As Nas. The first card game. The first gambling card game. The first bluffing game.
1000s AD
1100s AD Checkers
Shut the Box
"Draughts" was first played in 12th century Europe, probably France or Spain.
The dice and gambling game popular in pubs and ships apparently started in France. A Chinese version is called Boc Tin. The first gambling board game.
1300s AD
1400s AD Tarot The game was invented in northern Italy. The cards, also used for divination, appear to go back to a century and may come from the Islamic world or even further back from India where cards were used to teach religious principles. The first trick-taking card game.
1500s AD
1500s AD
Appeared first in China, the tiles perhaps derived from a dice gambling game. The first tiles seem to have shown different combinations of dice rolls.
Card game ancestor of modern Cribbage. The first adding card game (card values are added together as they are played.)
The gambling game began as an Italian state-run lottery (hence Lotto). US players employed beans, hence Beano, which became Bingo.
1600s AD
1784 AD Conversation Cards On the topic of courtship, half the cards had questions, the other half answers. Players drew a question at random and then read an answer at random. Ensues: general hilarity. The first party game. The first American game. B
Traveller's Tour Through the United States
Panguingue (Pan)
Across The Continent
Players spin to move on a map of the United States, read directions depending on where they land and answer questions to advance. The first "roll-and-land" game. The first trivia game. B
Card game that seems to have arisen in the Western part of the United States. The first draw-and-discard, aka Rummy-style, game. B
Players have a list of US cities they must visit. In some sense the first pick-up-and-deliver or traveling merchant game. B

  More to come!

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