Board games have been through a lot of changes over the years. From a slow historical evolution to the modern burst of creativity, here are some of the critical moments in the history of board games.


3100 BC

The board game senet being is played by the upper classes in ancient Egypt. This was the first time objects were made specifically to be board games. The rules have sadly been lost to the sands of time.

2600 Bc

The Royal Game of Ur becomes popular in Mesopotamia. This was the first game to reach other classes and nations, as it was spread around world by soldiers and traders.

1400 Bc

Sophocles claimed that Palamedes invented dice in about 1400BC. Astragalomancy, from astragalos, is a Greek word refering to the knucklebone or vertebra of an animal, from which dice were originally made. A term derived from the Greek astragalos (‘dice’ or ‘knucklebone’) and manteia and applied originally to a method of telling the future from the throw of small bones (usually sheep bones), but nowadays is also applied to the throw of dice, since they were once made from bones.

500 bc

Go emerges in China. 25 centuries later, its simple mechanics and complex tactics mean that it’s still one of the world’s most popular game.

200 ad

Snakes and ladders is created in India as a morality game, designed to teach about virtues and vices. It sets a precedent both for educational games and for mindless roll and move.

600 AD

Chess is created in India. It spreads along the Silk Road to China and Europe, becoming popular both as a game and as an overused literary metaphor. Not the first abstracted wargame, but the one that would make them globally popular.

700 AD

Date of the earliest surviving mancala sets in Africa, though this style of games may have been played long before this. Mancala games remain popular centuries later.


The four-suit playing card deck is refined in Europe. Playing cards were already popular across Asia, but this deck was mass printed within 60 years and became the basis for hundreds of games, leading to the standard card decks seen today.


George von Reisswitz Jr. presents his version of Kriegsspiel, a military training wargame, to the King of Prussia. It is adopted as a standard training tool by the Prussian army, becoming the first widely played simulationist wargame.

Mass Markets


Ludo, a version of the ancient Indian game Pachisi, is patented in England. It becomes one of the first widely successful games of the commercial era, and sets a terrible precedent by ripping off other people’s work.


Elizabeth Maggie creates The Landlord’s Game, a brutal critique of capitalist rental practices. It’s then brutally ripped off and watered down by capitalists, leading to the creation of Monopoly, first sold by Parker Brothers in 1935. By 2015, Monopoly had sold a billion copies and ruined almost as many family Christmases.`

After all, haters gonna hate : )


The founding of the Avalon Game Company, later Avalon Hill, in Baltimore, USA. The company published Tactics (1954), the first in the modern genre of board war games, shaping the American market for decades.


Publication of Diplomacy. A game with no random elements and a lot of talking, it brought frantic negotiation and back-stabbing into board games.


The Spiel des Jahres awards for board games are created – the industry’s version of the Oscars.


The first ever Spieltage (games fair) is held in Essen, Germany. 36 years later, Spiel has become the industry’s biggest event of the year, with fans and publishers flocking to Essen from across the globe.


Milton Bradley and Games Workshop team up to create Heroquest. It turns the dungeon crawling adventures of roleplay games into a board game, winning a massive young fanbase and providing a template for future dungeon crawlers. Original Copies will still be sold today for hundreds of dollars.

The Modern Board Games Era


Wizards of the Coast publish Magic the Gathering, the defining collectible card game. Its endlessly expanding model leads to countless imitators while remaining hugely popular and helps make Wizards of the Coast a giant in the industry.


Settlers of Catan, another era-defining game, wins Spiel des Jahres in Germany and brings European-style games to the English-speaking market. For many, it’s the gateway drug to boardgames.

Fun fact : It’s boardgamegeek’s 13th listing.


Arguably the first worked placement game (and people really do argue over this), Bus becomes the first to popularise this important mechanic.


Carcassonne is published and quickly became a milestone for eurogamers across the world. It also introduced – Meeples – a component used in myriad of other games since then.


Boardgamegeek went live. We don’t need to say more.


The success of Pandemic popularises cooperative gaming for the first time, with everyone on the same team instead of competing against each other.


Dominion takes the deck-building element of collectable card games and puts it inside a game, so that players build their decks even as they play with them.


Kickstarter is founded. It quickly becomes a popular way to fund new games, arrange pre-orders, and obtain a bazillion beautifully sculpted plastic models.

So many Great Games….and so many not so great ones.


Risk Legacy breaks with a great taboo of gaming by making you trash the components. Players scribble on and tear up components in a series of games where each one shapes the next. Four years later, Pandemic Legacy combines two great ideas to widespread acclaim.


Well…it’s our own listing so there you have it ! Rathskellers was founded by the two Milios brothers, Thanos and Paschalis, creating heirloom gaming furniture as an extension of a family-owned furniture business that is now in its third generation (Est : 1958)


Alchemists becomes one of the first games to combine a mobile app with a board game, proving that this could add something fundamental and useful to the game.


Of course, there are many other games that could have been mentioned, and many more to come. Every year now brings something new, as we hurtle through an era of incredible variety and creativity. We are sure that people will disagree with some of the choices and absences, but hey, people are always going to argue about the things they’re passionate about, so keep the conversation below and let us know of your thoughts.

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