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Looking back at popular games through the ages - Where it all started

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A glance back at the roots of games, their origin, and how they have evolved in digital times.


Delving a little deeper into the history of gambling shows how deeply rooted the love is for games of chance. And what you might not know is that this popular pastime has ancient roots leading back to the most-played board games.

Days of the boardgame

When you hear "board games", you might immediately think of Monopoly or other similar board games.

The truth is that there is a range of board games that have been played for thousands of years before Monopoly became the next big thing.

With the thrill of these board games came the possibility of winning more than just the game round through gambling and casino games.

Games of chance are not just alluring today. Instead, they've always captivated players with the combination of mystery and possibilities of winning. And when the element of gambling on the outcome has been added, the thrill of the game is heightened.

Some mythology even has the gods partaking in gambling. According to Scandinavian myths, the gods would sit at game tables and use dice to determine the course of mortal destiny.

Popular ancient board games

Some of the most popular games dating back centuries include Sennet, Hnefatafl, Mehen, Chaturanga, and Ludus Latrunculorum.

Senet

Senet, along with Mehen, are games that dominated the far south. Senet is an Egyptian game that dates back to about 3100 B.C. At this time, the upper-class Egyptian society played Senet on Ornate game boards. For those who had fewer resources, there was a compromise using grids scratched on tables, the floor, or any stone surfaces.

The game's objective is to throw sticks or bones to determine the number of squares you can move a piece on the 30 square board. A fun addition to the game is the ability to block your opponent from moving forward or even sending them backwards.

Mehen

Mehen is another popular game that originates from ancient Egyptian times. This game is dubbed Mehen, or the Egyptian snake game, which stems from a serpentine deity. It was played between 3100 B.C. and 2300 B.C.

It's a multi-player game with 6 players who need to move the sphere and lion-shaped pieces across the racetrack that looks a lot like a spiralled snake.

Ludus Latrunculorum (Game of Mercenaries)

This strategic game is also dubbed 'Game of Mercenaries' and was played by Roman legions trying to pass the time. This game is a two-player strategy game that was created to evaluate a player's military potential.

It can be played on grids of variant sizes, and many believe it to stem from the ancient Greek game Petteia. Today there is information on the game, but you will find that it lacks a rule set as these rules seem to have gone forgotten over time.

Hnefatafl

In areas like Scotland, Norway, and Iceland, the popular Viking Game Hnefatafl started doing its rounds. It is believed that monks may have used disc-shaped gaming boards to play Hnefatafl.

This is a Norse strategy game where a king and his defenders face off against about two dozen attackers.

Hnefatafl
This is how some of the figures of the game used to look.

The game was placed in the seventh/eighth century. It was so popular that it quickly spread from Scandinavia to Iceland, Britain, and Ireland. From there, it lost momentum as chess stole the spotlight. With Hnefatafl, the king would need to reach a sanctuary or yield to captivity to end the game.

Chaturanga

This game started in India, a game believed to be a precursor to what we now know as Modern Chess. The game refers to the four limbs of the Gupta Empire Army.

In the game, four players face off against each other and move pieces in similar patterns, as can be seen in chess today. With Chaturanga, there is an element of chance where players can cast sticks to determine the movement of the pieces.

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