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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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'Puggle,' 'Emoji,' and 298 Other New Words Added to Scrabble Dictionary
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Scrabble aficionados and wordsmiths around the world will soon have some new reading material to bone up on. In celebration of National Scrabble Day today, the makers of the classic word game announced that 300 new words will be added to Scrabble’s official dictionary.

The new words will be published in the sixth edition of Merriam-Webster’s The Official Scrabble Player’s Dictionary, which will be released this fall, according to Mashable.

Here are just a few of the new additions:

Emoji (noun): A small computer symbol used to express emotion
Ew (interjection): Used to express disgust
Facepalm (verb): To cover the face with the hand
Macaron (noun): A cookie with filling in the middle
Puggle (noun): A kind of dog
Sriracha (noun): A spicy pepper sauce

Some players of the 70-year-old game may be surprised to learn that “ew” isn’t already a word, especially considering that Scrabble recognizes more than 100 two-letter words, including “hm” (another expression), “ai” (a three-toed sloth), and “za” (slang for pizza). If played strategically and placed on a triple word square, “ew” can land you 15 points—not bad for two measly letters.

New Scrabble words must meet a few criteria before they’re added to the official dictionary. They must be two to eight letters long and already in a standard dictionary. Abbreviations, capitalized words, and words with hyphens or apostrophes are immediately ruled out.

Peter Sokolowski, editor at large at Merriam-Webster, told Entertainment Weekly, “For a living language, the only constant is change. New dictionary entries reflect our language and our culture, including rich sources of new words such as communication technology and food terms from foreign languages.”

The last edition of the Scrabble dictionary came out in 2014 and included 5000 new words, such as "selfie," "hashtag," "geocache," and "quinzhee."

[h/t Mashable]

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25 Double-Letter Scrabble Words to Have in Your Back Pocket
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The best Scrabble players are the strategic ones who keep adding words to their player vocabulary. Once you've mastered a number of two-letter words and the high-scoring ones (that are admittedly very difficult to play), start looking to double-letter words to take advantage of the multiples on your tile rack.

1. AGLOO

seal on snow
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Don't have an I for IGLOO? Use an A for AGLOO, meaning an air hole through the ice made by a seal.

2. ALLEE

allee
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Instead of an ALLEY, use this double-double-lettered word meaning a tree-lined walkway.

3. BETTA

betta fish
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Rather than BETA, use that extra T to mean the freshwater fish.

4. BRATTICE

Coal mine
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A BRATTICE now means a heavy curtain or barrier in a mine to help direct air flow, though the medieval meaning was simply a temporary partition along a wall.

5. DRESSAGE

Dressage
Adam Ihse, AFP/Getty Images

The fanciest of all horse training and equestrian events, DRESSAGE is the obedience and discipline riding competition, rather than the racing.

6. FUGGY

man holding his nose because of terrible smell
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To FUG is to make something stuffy or odorous, but its adjective form (FUGGY) and past and present participles (FUGGED, FUGGING) will take care of any extra Gs on the board.

7. GHYLL

two people looking into a ravine
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Not only will GHYLL, which is a deep ravine, utilize a double-letter, but it will help if your tile bar is sorely lacking in vowels.

8. GRAAL

gold chalice
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GRAAL is an older form of the word GRAIL, but it's also a technique used in glassblowing.

9. HEELER

Shoemaker holding high heels
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Don't have an A for HEALER? A HEELER is a person who puts heels on shoes (as well as an Australian cattle dog).

10. HELLUVA

cursing key on keyboard
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If you're having a HELLUVA time getting rid of a few letters, this nonstandard combination word is actually Scrabble-approved.

11. INNAGE

worker examining containers
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INNAGE is the quantity of goods remaining in a container when received after shipment.

12. LARRUP

man defeating other man at video games
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To decisively defeat someone or trounce them is to LARRUP.

13. MAMMEE

tropical island
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Another double-double-letter word, a MAMMEE is species of tropical tree with large red fruit.

14. MOGGY

cats
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A MOGGY or MOGGIES (plural) is the cat equivalent of a mutt.

15. OLLA

Salad in glass jars
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A quick word to tack onto some common board letters, an OLLA is a wide-mouthed pot or jar.

16. OUTTELL

woman with megaphone mural
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OUTTELL, OUTTELLS, and OUTTELLING all refer to speaking out or declaring something openly.

17. PERRON

outdoor staircase
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A PERRON can refer to both large outdoor stairways or the stone platforms of certain columns and edifices.

18. PIGGERY

pig in pig pen
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You're surely prepared with PIGGY, PIGGIE, and PIGGISH, but a PIGGERY is a pigpen.

19. QUASSIA

Quassia amara
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Score extra points with a well-place Q. A QUASSIA is another tropical tree whose bitter bark is sometimes used as a digestive aid or an insecticide.

20. SCABBLE

clay in hands
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No, not Scrabble. SCABBLE means to shape roughly.

21. TIPPET

tippet
Metropolitan Museum of Art, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

A TIPPET is a covering for the shoulders, or a ceremonial scarf worn by clergy.

22. TYPP

balls of yarn
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A TYPP (or TYPPS, plural) is a unit of yarn size. It's an acronym for thousand yards per pound.

23. VALLUM

Vallum at Hadrian's Wall
Optimist on the run, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

The VALLUM was part of the defensive wall of earth and stone surrounding Roman camps.

24. WEEPIE

man and woman crying in movie theater
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While WEEPY is an adjective for tending to weep, a WEEPIE is a very maudlin movie.

25. WELLY

child wearing wellingtons
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According to the official Scrabble dictionary, WELLY is an acceptable form of WELLIE, the British rainboots.

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