Most of us can’t remember how long board games have been a part of human culture. One could say that this form of entertainment dates back to the time when human beings began to communicate with each other, an evolved hand in hand with communication practices as man learned better and more efficient ways to communicate. Board games also represent a milestone in the history of man, as a non-violent form of competition. In the earlier days most forms of competition involved violent themes, and probably death for the loser. Although board games made way for another type of vice, called gambling, losers may have walked away broke, but kept their head in their shoulders.
We cannot deny the early existence of non-violent games in the history of human civilization. Evidence of inscriptions found by archeologists resembles what seem to be instructions on how to play these games. Although our early ancestors lacked the knowledge and technology we enjoy today, they were not illiterate. Some rudimentary form of communication has been part of civilization as far back as the Sumerians, and the dwellers of Mesopotamia between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The existence of communication allowed them to inscribe rules for their games, which we are only starting to discover today.
The “Senet”, or translated from Egyptian “the passing game’, is the oldest recorded board game in history, dating as far back as 3500 years B.C. Evidence on the existence of this game have been found in pre-dynasty periods, as well as part of the artifacts put inside burial chambers. This game seems to have become quite popular during the period of Egyptian Pharaohs, between 3,000 and 1,050 B.C. Egyptian superstition attributed the ability to play this board game to being favored by the gods. Additionally, the game seems to have had some kind of purpose in the afterlife, since it became customary for rulers and influential people to be buried with them.
Another early example of a board game is “To Go”, available in Chine around 548 B.C. Legend has it that Emperor Yao was a one of the people responsible for the development of this board game. As the legend goes, his motivation for the game was his son. There are also stories that mention this game as being used as a fortune telling device. Used by warlords in China, they would use this game as a tool to recommend their army formation before an attack. As with most board games in the early ages, this game was only meant for the rich. After becoming popular in china, the game spread to Korea and Japan in the period following the next five centuries.
As “The Senet” evolved over the years, it turned out to be the Backgammon we know today. It was refurbished by Ludus Duodecim Scriptorum to have two rows with twelve points each. Around the year 600 A.D., it’s name was changed to Alea, which became increasingly popular during the Middle Ages. It was also known as “Tabula”, which translated into modern day English means “board game”.
These are just a few examples, which we are now able to confirm through archeologists documentation. It should not come as a surprise for other games, or variations of the ones already discovered to be revealed. However, we learn more about ourselves and our culture when we trace back the origins of one of our most basic entertainment forms.
Artifacts from ancient civilization in the Far East indicate that many popular board games existed in some form and most commonly in the aristocratic society. Dating back thousands of years ago, boards and game pieces from something that resembled the classic board game of backgammon were uncovered in Egypt and Rome as well as discoveries even farther back in time in Persia. A version of the game evolved in 800 AD, again in Persia, and this game very closely represented what we see today with traditional backgammon. It’s rules and moves may appear simple however with each turn, players can quickly change the course of the competition.
The board played on thousands of years ago, as with the board now, has 12 points for each ‘side’ which were said to represent the 12 months in the year. The total combined is 24 points for 24 hours in a day, and 30 playing pieces, whether you call them checkers, stones, chips or men, the number was to signify the days in a month. It’s a game that is rich with symbolism. Historically they would have constructed the boards and pieces using a wood surface. The playing pieces would be molded out of bits and pieces of bones, pottery or simple stones. The first appearance in English culture was back in approximately 1025 AD and names ‘tables’. It rose in popularity throughout the Middle Ages and soon appeared as a favorite past time for those frequenting taverns and pubs. This evolution was due to the Backgammon one on one gaming nature making it easily adapted into a form of gambling. The church and law makers stepped in to prohibit play because of the element of betting and wagering involved.
While the game is fairly simple in terms of its design, the method of play is largely based on standard strategies used since the inception of play. The one element that is out of the players control is still always going to be the roll of the dice. While the component of luck plays a part in the classic game of backgammon, players are still left with a collection of moves to decide upon and this is where the skill and experience will change the face of game play. Unlike some traditional games like checkers and chess, you win when all your pieces are gone!
Think you can build a better hotel casino than Caesar’s Palace or the Luxor? Prove it in Vegas Showdown, a game where millionaire investors compete to build the most famous resort in Vegas! Fill your casino with slots, table rooms, lounges, night clubs, restaurants and buffets in order to corner the market. Publicize it to the world and turn it into the most famous resort on the Strip. And like most things in Vegas: Winner takes all!
The story behind Vegas Showdown is that you and a few of your millionaire friends decided to buy a plot of land on the Vegas Strip in order to build hotel casinos on it. Being the rich gambling sort that you are, the bunch of you decided to add a bit of a wager into this deal: the owner of the most famous resort at the end of a year gains ownership of the entire plot! So the competition begins to build the best rooms and facilities to create the glitziest resort on the plot.
Vegas Showdown is primarily a bidding game. Each player starts with an empty 7×5 building lot, and will need to fill this up with various types of rooms. Each player earns income based on the current state of their hotel casino, and uses the cash to bid on different types of rooms and facilities to add to their resort. These bids are crucial as there are limited numbers of each type of room available in the game. At the end of the game, everyone scores fame depending on what their final hotel configuration is like and how much fame they acquired during the game, and the resort with the highest fame is the winner.
There are 3 categories of rooms you can build. The blue tiles represent hotel-type eateries such as the restaurant and buffet, and generally provide a population increase. The yellow tiles represent casino rooms such as the slots room and the table games room, and generally provide financial income. The green tiles are general entertainment rooms like the lounge, night club and theater, and generally provide fame (and here’s hoping they’ll release an expansion that will let you put entertainers like Cher and Bette Midler in your theater). The tiles are also split into 2 levels: basic and premium. The basic rooms such as the restaurant, slots and lounge are always available for bidding (while supplies last), while the premium rooms will appear on the board randomly. The tiles also vary in size and appear as either 1×1, 2×1 or 2×2 tiles.
Players take turns being the starting bidder, and each turn begins with players receiving income (in the form of poker chips!) depending on how much cash and population your resort can generate. The starting bidder then reveals a random event. These events have a variety of effects such as reducing the minimum bid of rooms or giving everyone extra cash. Once that is resolved, players take turns to perform an action: either bidding on tiles, renovating or doing publicity.
Each tile comes with a specific minimum bid (which decreases each turn that it remains on the bidding board). Players bid by placing their markers on the board, either meeting or exceeding the minimum bid. If you get outbid, you can bid again on the same tile, or move your bid to another tile, or choose to perform the renovate or publicity actions instead. Once you win a tile, you must place the tile onto your resort board or in a reserve area. Renovating allows you to rearrange your board, letting you take tiles out of the board into the reserve, and then letting you place tiles from the reserve onto your board. Doing publicity gives you instant fame and lets you place one tile from your reserve onto your board.
There is also strategy involved in deciding what tiles to bid on. Most premium tiles have a prerequisite, for example you need to have built a lounge first before being able to build a night club. Tile placement is also crucial. The edges of each tile are either entrances or walls, and the tiles must be placed and oriented so that visitors can access them from either the casino entrance or the hotel entrance of your resort. Another requirement is that casino tiles must be accessible from the casino entrance, and hotel tiles must be accessible from the hotel entrance. However, just meeting these technical requirements won’t win you the game. At game end, players will also score bonus fame depending on the layout of their resort.
The game ends when one of three stacks of premium tiles runs out. When that happens, players earn extra fame depending on how many of the objectives they meet. If you manage to completely fill your casino section with yellow and green tiles, you gain bonus fame. The same goes for the hotel section. Bonus fame is also awarded for connecting your hotel and casino entrances, and for strategically arranging your premium tiles. You will also score if you have high income and population. There are many ways to win in this game (sadly, none of them involves Bette Midler).
Vegas Showdown is a great board game that is suitable for all skill and experience levels. It also doesn’t take very long to learn or play. If you like bidding/auction games like Power Grid, tile placement games like Alhambra, or just the entire premise of owning a casino, then Vegas Showdown is perfect for you!
board game. That’s right, sales of many old prepong favorites such as Monopoly, Chutes and Ladders, and Operation are increasing, while sales of video gaming systems such as PlayStation are dropping. Spurred by a combination of recessionary belt-tightening by shoppers, and a tendency to wax nostalgic during hard times, board game sales have increased 5% since May 2008 while toy sales in general have decreased 2%, with electronic games sales off by 12%.
Toy manufactures are responding to this new trend by updating their familiar games to have a more current feel. For example, the depression era game Monopoly has replaced it’s familiar shoe playing piece with a laptop. You can also purchase property using the new credit card machine. In place of removing a wishbone in the game Operation, you can now remove a cell phone finger, and the board game Clue has new characters, including a dot-com billionaire.
Marketing of board games is also being updated. Hasbro , the manufacturer of games such as Operation, Candy Land, and Scrabble has begun to promote “family game night” in response to the growing board game trend. Their Website features “games of the month” along with suggestions on how to host your own “game night”.
Technology has recently made its debut into the board game world. with a game called Scene It?. This game uses a DVD to display movie and television clips along with the traditional playing board to engage players in this fun trivia-style game.
So, what are going to be the hot board games for Christmas 2009?
A top seller in many stores continues to be the strategy game Settlers of Catan. In this game, geared for ages 10 and above, the players battle to collect resources, building settlements and cities that ultimately determine the winner.
Another top seller this year is Quiddler, a quick paced word lovers game in which players attempt to create words from dealt cards. Like Scrabble players try to use high point letters to get the highest score. Points are also given for most words, so even small words can help you win.
What serious board-gamers are picking as their top game overall is Puerto Rico. If your looking for a super fun strategy game that can teach your kids lessons in economics and commerce, this is it. Recommended for ages 12 and above, players of this game take on the roles of various plantation owners around the 1800′s. The winner is determined by who positions themselves best to deliver their product across the sea to Europe.
With a combination of gambling and trivia, Wits & Wagers may again be top seller for 2009. In this fast paced, easy to learn game, players not only try to answer fun, and sometimes crazy questions, but also bet on the accuracy of other players answers to crown a winner.
If you’re looking for a game which can be as enjoyable for a five year old as well as an adult you have to try Blokus Classics Game by Mattel. In this strategy game which lasts about 30 minutes, you place colorful pieces on the board in an attempt to be first to play all your pieces before your opponents. Blokus is a fast game, easy to learn and fun for both adults and children.
With the economy still in the dumps, and many board games selling for under $20.00, they are sure to be a popular present found under the Christmas tree this year. So pick up one while there’s still a good supply on store shelves. You’ll find out like many others already know. You forgot how much fun playing a board game with your family and friends can be.