Top Ten Ancient Board Games

This week I’m publishing my review of Go, which is easily the oldest game in the current BGG Top 100. Go is believed to have been invented by a Chinese emperor (or a member of the royal court) more than 4,000 years ago. In anticipation of that review, I’ve reconstructed what the best board game rankings would have looked like around 1000 BC:

Ye Olde Board Game Geek Toppe X

  1. Go (~2200 BC) A game of balance, discipline, and patience in which players place stones on a 19×19 grid. Takes several moments to learn and several lifetimes to master.
  2. Backgammon (~3000 BC) A classic game that involves throwing dice and moving stones around a board. Best played in a smoke-filled room.
  3. Mancala (~1300 BC) News of this exciting new game is spreading quickly. It has a fascinating new stone-moving mechanic!
  4. Senet (~3500 BC) Egyptian Backgammon.
  5. The Royal Game of Ur (~2500 BC) Sumerian Backgammon.
  6. Nine Men’s Morris (~1400 BC) This game features a stone-placing mechanic AND a stone-moving mechanic, as players try to get three in a row.
  7. Marbles (~3000 BC) The inventive game in which you propel round things at other round things to knock them out of a round thing.
  8. Tic-Tac-Toe (~1300 BC) This clever new game challenges you to place three of your stones in a row! A different game each time you play it, as long as you don’t play it more than twice.
  9. Knucklebones (~3000 BC) No stones required for this game. Instead, you throw sheep knuckles and see how they land.
  10. Fight to the Death (~????) In this game, two people literally fight to the death. Stones not required but recommended.

Based on the above list, we learn two things: First of all, component quality has really improved in the past 3,000 years. Secondly, Go has far more depth and complexity than other ancient games. For my full review of Go, please check back on Friday!


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