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11 Ancient Board Games

Some of these games have been around for over 4000 years, and although some have disappeared from history, archaeologists have worked tirelessly to discover the rules.

1. Senet

Hieroglyphs depicting Egyptian Senet players date all the way back to 3100 BCE. Even King Tut had a copy—it spent around three millennia lingering in his tomb before modern archaeologists got their hands on it.

2. Latrunculi (or “Mercenaries”)

One might call this Rome’s answer to chess: The elegant strategy game required armies of black and white pieces to duke it out across boards made with wood, marble, stone, or silver.

3. The Royal Game of Ur

Ur (aka: “The Game of Twenty Squares”) has been around since at least 3000 BCE and took hold in ancient societies from Egypt to India. Try it out for yourself with the British Museum’s free shockwave version. Fair warning: it’s way more addictive than solitaire!  

4. Patolli

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Throughout the Aztec empire, noble families and peasants alike were known to relish patolli. Participants threw dotted stones or beans to determine how their pieces would move over a cross-shaped board. Gambling was usually involved.

5. Mehen

rob koopman, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Experts aren’t sure what the object of this ancient Egyptian game was, but, in any event, it involved a board shaped like a coiled snake. Marbles may have also been involved.  

6. Petteia

Think checkers, except instead of eliminating an opponent’s piece by leaping over it, you’d sandwich it between two of yours. A staple in ancient Greece, Petteia parables proved irresistible to many great thinkers. Take, for instance, Aristotle, who claimed that “a citizen without a state may be compared to an isolated piece in a game of petteia.”

7. Go

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

This one is still very much alive and kicking. Go likely originated in China between 2500 and 4000 years ago (Confucius himself even wrote of it). Fast-forward to the present age, in which the American Go Association’s e-journal reached 13,000 subscribers as recently as 2011. Now that’s longevity!

8. Duodecem Scripta

An ancient Roman duodecem scripta table can be seen in Turkey’s Ephesus Museum. Unfortunately, the instruction manual is nowhere to be found, and nobody knows exactly how it was played. 

9. Unidentified Turkish Game

In 2013, archaeologists unearthed what have been described as 49 “board game tokens” from a grave site dating back to 2900 BCE. According to Ege University’s Haluk Sağlamtimur, who ran the dig, “our gaming pieces were found all together in the same cluster. It’s a unique finding, a rather complete set of a chess like game.” (He adds that his team is still “puzzling over its strategy.”)

10. Mancala

Adam Cohn, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

The Egyptians might have enjoyed a primitive version of mancala as far back as 1000 BCE. Back then, it was likely played on surfaces made with stone or ivory. Today’s enthusiasts, in contrast, largely prefer wood.

11. Terni Lapilli

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Terni Lapilli boards were akin to tic-tac-toe grids and a fairly common sight during the Roman Empire.

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Courtesy Ben Barrett-Forrest
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Learn All About Fonts by Playing With These Poker Cards
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Courtesy Ben Barrett-Forrest

Want to learn about fonts? Try playing poker with the Font Deck, a pack of cards designed to help users learn the finer points of typography and font design.

The deck is the work of Canadian designer Ben Barrett-Forrest, who runs a graphic design studio based out of Ontario and the Yukon. In 2014, Barrett-Forrest designed the precursor to the Font Deck, a product called the Design Deck that aimed to teach users about the ins and outs of graphic design. Some of the Design Deck cards feature typography lessons, but the Font Deck—available for $17 a deck on Barrett-Forrest’s website or on Kickstarter—gives the topic a deeper dive.

A male hand holds fanned-out cards next to a Font Deck box and a stack of playing cards.
Courtesy Ben Barrett-Forrest

The deck includes topics like letter anatomy, old style typefaces, the difference between a font and a typeface, and profiles of specific typefaces, like Helvetica. The cards themselves are printed by the same company that makes popular playing cards like Bicycle and Bee, so they’re gambling ready, if you feel like betting your fortune on that slab serif card.

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Dungeons & Dragons Gets a Digital Makeover
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Since the 1970s, players have been constructing elaborate campaigns in Dungeons & Dragons using nothing but paper, pencils, rule books, and 20-sided dice. That simple formula has made D&D the quintessential role-playing game, but the game's publisher thinks it can be improved with a few 21st-century updates. As The Verge reports, Wizards of the Coast is launching a digital toolset meant to enhance the gaming experience.

The tool, called D&D Beyond, isn’t meant to be a replacement for face-to-face gameplay. Rather, it’s designed to save players time and energy that could be better spent developing characters or battling orcs. The resource includes a fifth-edition rule book users can search by keyword. At the start of a new campaign, they can build monsters and characters within the program. And players don’t need to worry about forgetting to bring their notes to a quest—D&D Beyond keeps track of information like items and spells in one convenient location.

"D&D Beyond speaks to the way gamers are able to blend digital tools with the fun of storytelling around the table with your friends,” Nathan Stewart, senior director of Dungeons & Dragons, said in a statement when the concept was first announced. "These tools represent a way forward for D&D.”

This isn’t the first attempt to bring D&D into the digital age; videogames inspired by the fictional world have been produced since the 1980s. Unlike those titles, though, D&D Beyond will still highlight the imagination-fueled role-playing aspect of the game when it launches August 15.

[h/t The Verge]

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