This afternoon while cruising the NPR website “Salt” I came across an article about a cookbook based on the popular German board game Settlers of Catan, a civilization-building board game with a cult following. To be honest, it was the picture of the salad that caught my eye, yet a seed was planted. How much do we really know about our beloved American board games? So of course, I scoured the internet looking for the most unique nuggets of trivia out there. Some I knew and some surprised me. I hope they surprise you too. Here are:
7 things you don’t know about board games.
The Research School CNWS, Leiden University, in the Netherlands offered a class in 2009 titled “Game Board Studies” as part of their “Research School of Asian, African, and Amerindian Studies” department. No, I don’t get it either, but the course material offered a few interesting tidbits.
Board games go all the way back to ancient Egypt. Most Egyption games were religious in nature and taken very seriously. The snake-shaped god Mehen was assigned as the “God of board games”. The next time victory is slipping away, invoke his name. It can’t hurt.
The game of RISK, originally called “La Conquête du Monde”, was created by Albert Lamorisse,French film maker who won the Academy Award for Best Writing/Best Original Screenplay for his short film “The Red Balloon” in 1956
In the 19th century, Milton Bradley introduced the British board game the Mansion of Happiness. This game had been very popular with the British since its debut in 1864. American board gamers did not take to it until Bradley changed the game’s name to “Life”.
My personal favorite, Monopoly was created in 1934 and to date there have been 1240 different versions made (I have six). During World War II, “special edition” Monopoly games were used to help POWs escape by including hidden maps, compasses, bank notes and other tools within the game.
The world’s most expensive chess set is the Jewel Royale Chess Set is made from gold, platinum, diamonds, emeralds, rubies, pearls and sapphires and valued at over 9.8 million dollars.
Before it was marketed in the U.S. as Chutes and Ladders, the game was known as Snakes and Ladders (it is still known by that name in certain parts of the world). The game originated in India, and was a Hindu teaching instrument. The game taught children the value of good deeds and the negative impacts of bad deeds (karma). Ladders represented sound morality and snakes represented vices and poor judgment. Think about that the next time you’re playing a relaxing game with your kids.
And now you know!
The Research School CNWS, Leiden University, http://www.boardgamestudies.info/pdf/issue2/BGS2-complete.pdf
4 thoughts on “7 things you don’t know about board games”
Six versions of Monopoly? Are you practicing for a financial takeover?
I love them! I love the boards and the pieces. Too bad the game hasn’t taught me to manage my finances better.
I knew about the antiquity (and ubiquity) of board games, but much of what you say is new to me. The MP & the HG version of Monopoly I didn’t know — but it doesn’t surprise me that it exists — and Mansion of Happiness / Life is a surprise, despite its British origins. We still call it Snakes & Ladders here in the UK (never knew about the Chutes version) and it makes sense that it was devised as a teaching tool; our grandsons still struggle with failure though!
I’ve been asking for the HG edition for a few years now. I have a feeling my son won’t buy it as it will mean playing at least one game with me. He always loses.
The Life trivia was hard to pin down as I saw three origin stories. I stuck with that one because it was part of the college course material I found.
Don’t we all struggle with failure? Maybe we should all sit down and play a game of Snakes and Ladders once in a while.