The Boardgame Book by R. C. Bell, 1983.I love board games! I like playing them and collecting them and learning about new ones. Throw in the history of board games, and it's even better. This book has all of these things because, not only does it tell you the history and rules of board games, but the games are also playable. The book contains a special sheet of playing pieces that you can use to play on the provided boards. R. C. (Robert Charles) Bell was an authority on board games and their history and wrote other books on the same topic, but this one is a favorite of mine because of the playable boards.
The book begins with a section about the general history of board games. It explains a little about different types of board games, like those that are based on pure chance, those based on strategy, and those that include a combination of the two. It also describes other categories of games such as race games and battle games, and it explains the evolution of these types of games. For example, race games, in which players compete to progress on a track toward some kind of goal, come in a great variety today but are all based on the oldest known game of this type, which is the Game of the Goose. There are many children's games patterned after this game, and if you've ever played Candy Land, you would recognize the basic format.
There are games from around the world in this book, although the author notes that he wasn't able to include certain types of games because they wouldn't fit the format of the book very well. Specifically, the Mancala family of games would be difficult to put into a book like this in a playable form because they require cups or pits for holding playing pieces. (I have seen a playable Mancala game in a book from the Klutz series for children, but I do see the difficulty involved in having room for all of the necessary pieces on a flat board.) However, the author does describe some of the history and variations of the Mancala family of games, and although he doesn't provide a playable board, he does explain the rules for two versions.
The history section of the book also discusses how variations of some popular games have been influenced by world events, like how Asalto evolved from Fox and Geese during the "Indian Mutiny" and how chess sets can have different styles of pieces to represent real-world conflicts. It also explains the connections between religion and board games. A number of board games, especially ancient ones, have religious connotations or were used for religious teaching. For example, the classic children's game Snakes and Ladders was derived from Moksha-Patamu, which was used to teach the principles of virtue and reincarnation on the journey to Nirvana in Hinduism. Some games, both ancient and modern, have also been used for fortune-telling.
There are also explanations for how certain games changed over time, including the evolution of Chess and its pieces from its original form in India, when it was known as Chaturanga. The picture below shows different types of dice that have been used in different countries and for different types of games over the years. Among the earliest known dice are two-sided stick dice (used by the Ancient Egyptians and Ancient Greeks, they can land either face up or down, and the combinations on landing for different numbers of sticks might have different meanings), cowrie shells (used similarly to the stick dice), and astragali (the knuckle bones of animals, precursors to the modern cube dice).
Each of the sections for the playable games explain more about their history and evolution. Most of the oldest games have undergone many changes as they were carried from their countries or regions of origin, popularized, and spread around the world.
The playable games with rules are:
Chess and Maharajah - Explains its origins in India and how it has changed over time. Maharajah is a Chess variant, one of many.
Gala - A German Chess variant, probably Medieval in origin.
Chinese Chess - Different playing pieces from modern standard Chess. Developed c. 800 AD.
Draughts/Checkers – with a few variants - Developed from much older games, using a Chess board with Backgammon style pieces and moves like the moves in Alquerque. It probably reached its modern form c. 1000 AD.
Halma - Invented in England around 1880, the precursor of Chinese Checkers
Nyout - from Korea, c. 1000 BC.
Tablut - similar to Fox and Geese, from Medieval Lapland
Zohn Ahl - from the Kiowa tribe of North America
Fighting Serpents - Zuni Indians of New Mexico, 16th century, variation on Alquerque
Agon - Late 19th century
Mu Torre - from the Maori of New Zealand
Palm Tree - Ancient Egyptian, c. 2000-1788 BC
Hyena - from Sudan
Liar Dice - from Mexico
Fox and Geese - from Iceland, c. 1300 AD
Asalto - variant on Fox and Geese, India in the 19th century
Solitaire - played on a Fox and Geese board, invented in 18th century France (some say it was during the French Revolution, but other sources indicate that it is older)
To Bed with Venus - Ancient Greece and Pompeii, it appears to be a risque gambling game
Tablan - from India
Pentalpha – with variants - from Ancient Greece
Cows and Leopards and Lau Kati Kala - from Southern Asia
Sixteen Soldiers and Tiger - from India
Rebels - from China
Faro - gambling game, probably from Italy originally
The Hare and the Tortoise - Game of Goose variant based on the Aesop's fable, from England in 1849
Up to Klondyke - race game, probably from late 19th century United States
Craps - gambling game that developed from the Medieval gambling game of Hazard
Seega and High Jump - similar games from Egypt and Somalia
Senat - Ancient Egyptian, an ancestor of Backgammon
Ludus Duodecim Scriptorum - Ancient Roman
Chasing the Girls - from Iceland
Backgammon and Doublets - Backgammon evolved from other ancient games, but may have reached its modern form in Persia, Doublets is a variant from Iceland
Sugoroku - Backgammon variant from Japan
Puluc - from the Ketchi Indians of Guatamala
Surakarta - from Java
Siege of Paris - from France in the 1870s
The Game of Race - from 19th century England
Bizingo - from North America in 1850s
Shut the Box - from the Channel Islands in the 18th century
Patolli - Aztec
Pachisi - from India
Ludo - from the UK, 1896, a Pachisi variant
Crown and Anchor and Chuck-a-Luck - from the UK
Ringo - origin unknown
Jungle - from China
Coiled Snake - Ancient Egypt
Snail - from 19th century England
Go – with variants - from Ancient China
Conspirators - from France
Pope Joan - from early 19th century England
Konane - from Hawaii
Snakes and Ladders - originally from India, adapted into the modern children's game by the English in the mid-19th century
Rithmomachia - in the Eastern Mediterranean region, developed before the 11th century
Music Masters - from 19th century Germany
Game of Goose - from Italy, c. 1574-1587
Nine Men’s Morris – with variants, including Tic-Tac-Toe and Noughts and Crosses - from Ancient Egypt
Alquerque - from the ancient Middle East
Zamma - from North Africa
Fanorona - from Madagascar
Dablot Prejjesne - from Lapland
Chinese Checkers - variant of Halma, developed in 19th century United States (the Chinese connection was a marketing tactic, this game was also originally called Hop Ching Checkers)