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The Evolution of Board Games

A look at some classic games and their ancient roots

by Amanda Kudler

Checkers Around the World

  • United States: Checkers
  • Great Britain: Draughts
  • Spain: Dama
  • Italy: Dama
  • France: La Jeu de Dames
  • Poland: Warcaby
  • Germany: das Damenspiel

You've played these classic board games since childhood, yet have you ever wondered where or when games like Checkers and Chess were invented? Believe it or not, some of our favorite games have ancient roots that date back 4000-5000 years. Here's a look at the origins of some popular games people play still today.

Checkers

Although no one knows its exact origins, checkers likely originated from the ancient game of Alquerque. Evidence for early forms of this game have been found in ancient Egypt and date back to at least 600 BC. The game is documented as Quirkat in an Arabic manuscript dating to at least 976 AD. It is believed that Alquerque was brought to Europe by the Moors during their invasion of Spain. It was not until it's migration to Spain that it became known as Alquerque, from the Spanish translation of El-Quirkat.

Alquerque was played on a 5 x 5 point board, with the pieces arranged in a non-symmetrical pattern. The shift from the 5 x 5 point board to the 8 x 8 square board probably occurred in Southern France around 1100 AD when the game was played on a chess board, with 12 pieces on each side. Though Americans play Checkers on a 64-square board, the game is referred to as Draughts in England, and various adaptations are played throughout the world. One example is Polish Draughts which is played on a 100-square board.

Chess

Backgammon

Dominoes

Parcheesi

Parcheesi dates back to around 1300 years ago when it was known as Astapada. The game became known as Parcheesi which is derived from the Indian word "pacis" meaning 25. It was so called becasue 25 was the highest score that could be attained with the cowry shells it was orignially played with. Parcheesi is still very popular in India and has become the National Game of India.

Mancala

Mah Jongg


Did you know?
For more than a billion Muslims around the world, Ramadan is a "month of blessing" marked by prayer, fasting, and charity.
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