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Ancient Board Games That Make Great Gifts

Updated on October 7, 2013
Monopoly Board Game
Monopoly Board Game

Classic Games As Gifts

With the holidays fast approaching thinking of gifts to give can be a challenge. Trying to find fun things to do with the family on any given evening can be a task not worth venturing. Since it seems today's kids favor their Wii’s, X-box and computer games it is hard to get them to sit down and play a good old fashioned game. Many kids have never even played Parcheesi, Checkers or Chess. They wouldn't even consider doing a game like this for the lack of action. For many, the old games that many adults played as kids are just boring and they do not realize how stimulating they can be. Many of these games make you use your brain, require strategy and patience. Some games that we grown-ups played have been around for decades and some have been around for centuries. Obviously they must be good if there are people out there still playing them. Some games that are played today are based on these ancient games. They have elegant rules, deep strategy, tactical opportunities, and they all continue to delight modern-day gamers.

The Games


First played in China more than 3000 years ago, and is so popular in Japan today that newspapers run columns about the game. Known as Wei Ch'i in China and Baduk in Korea, Go is truly the grand-daddy of all board games.


Mancala has its origins in either Africa or the Arab world, depending on which scholar's theory you choose to believe. Archaeological digs put the game back to 7,000 to 5,000 BC in present-day Jordan. This game, which by some estimates is 7000 years old, challenges players to move pieces from bin to bin and has many rule variations.


The ancient game of Seega has been played for centuries throughout Egypt and other parts of the Middle East. This game involves plenty of strategy and thinking once you are playing. This game also has variations on how to play. Hard to find this game but there are online sites that show you the set up.


Senet was an immensely popular game in ancient Egypt, and was played by both commoners and nobility. May have been the influence for Backgammon.

Hounds and Jackals

Another ancient Egyptian game that came after Senet around 1300 B.C. The actual name is not know but is referred to as Hounds and Jackal. This game is another one that is hard to find but has references online.

The Royal Game of Ur

This game is based upon an ancient Sumerian board game.Discovered in a royal tomb at Ur in the Near East, the original board game can be dated to 2600 BC.


How can one not mention Chess? Thought to have originated in India in the 6th century. It has had some modifications over the years and the first modern chess tournament was held in 1851 in London. In the 1400s, the bishop and queen were added to Western Chess.


Based on the game Senet played in ancient Egypt and may have some roots in the game Royal Game of Ur. Backgammon is still popular today and played by many.


The origins of Checkers or Draughts as it is called in England is not definite but may have arose around 2000 BC. Some say it has its origins in Africa and some put it in the Middle East.


There are Domino sets that date bate to the early 1100’s. Most likely have its origins in China.  This game is still a favorite and played world wide. 


Still played today Crib got its start in England in the 17th Century. According to some it was started by the poet Sir John Suckling and was based on an early game called “noddy”.


This game has its origins in India and created around 500 BC. The American adaptation is still popular and still has wide world appeal.


I know this is not an ancient game but sometimes after playing it that is how I feel. We all know this is the most popular board game of modern times. Very young compared to the other games listed. This game may have first been patented in 1903 by the name of “The Landlords Game”. Was submitted to George Parker of Parker Brothers and was declined. It went through a number of name changes and legal issues before becoming the game we know today.  There are those that say this game does resemble some of the ancient games and I would have to agree.

Lasting Influence on the Gaming World

After reading about these games and others it is a test of time to see that some are still here today. Many of these games influenced the games we still play today. Today as we struggle to work and keep our families close, it gets harder to achieve this everyday. With the holidays approaching maybe it is time we step back and consider going "old school" when it comes to buying games. There is nothing like sitting around a table playing a game and actually engaging in conversation with each other instead of talking to a screen. Our children grow too fast to sit back idly and watch as time slips by faster than we had intended.

For those those that are into video games and have a Nintendo Wii check out, Best Selling Wii Games for 2010 and 2011. There are also some great games for your kids and young teens mentioned in this Hub.

Gift Ideas For $50 or Less.


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    • teriyaki profile image

      teriyaki 6 years ago from Croatia

      Very nice hub! I particularly enjoy Mancala (played with Wari ruleset) and recommend it wholeheartedly. This game has such an awesome range that you can play it casually with a 6-yr old all the way up to the complexity level of Chess or Go. It's well worth looking for a nice portable wooden version you can take to a cafe or an airplane and share with a friend or a stranger!

    • Sith Penguin profile image

      Sith Penguin 8 years ago

      Excellent hub. I thought about buying my friend a go board for Christmas, but she beat me to the punch. I hadn't thought about using some of these other games as presents though. I'll keep them in mind when I go gift hunting.

    • mkott profile image

      Michele 8 years ago from Reno, Nevada

      Thanks Bk,

      I too grew up on games and have also gotten my daughter interested too. It is a lot better than having them glued to a game on their Xbox or on the computer.

    • BkCreative profile image

      BkCreative 8 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      Love mancala and mah jong! I come from a long line of game-players. We grew up this way (luckily) and I shared it with my children. These games help you learn to play with others - and they make you think.

      What a great gift idea - ancient games!

      Thanks a lot!