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William and Stephen B Ives via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

15 Centuries-Old Board Games

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William and Stephen B Ives via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Good family fun isn’t a new invention. Board games have been around since antiquity—the oldest evidence of the Egyptian game Senet dates back 5000 years. Here are 15 games people used to play before the 20th century:


In this 1790 game, players moved through different stages of life, from infancy onward. Players moved backward or forward on the game board according to the moral character of the square they landed on. Landing on the “drunkard” square sent a player back, while landing on “The Assiduous Youth” sent a player forward. Landing on a career like “The Romance Writer” or “The Dramatist,” per 18th century social mores, sent players backward.


Image Credit: Bodleian Libraries

This 1860 children’s game was played with a teetotum, a spinning top, and involved moving birds around numbered spaces. Alternative titles included “Kindness to dumb animals,” “Wrong and the right,” and “Reading to the sick.” 


Image Credit: William and Stephen B Ives via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

In the early 1800s, this was the most popular board game in Britain. It centered around ideas of vice and virtue, as players attempted to reach the “mansion,” a heavenly reward for the pious. Think of it as Chutes and Ladders meets Sunday school. 


Image Credit: Bodleian Libraries

First published in 1815, players raced across European cities from Oporto, Portugal to London by spinning a teetotum. Per the rule book, landing on a capital city garnered a player a bonus spin, and the first one to land exactly on the London square won the game. 


Image Credit: Devidasa of Nurpur via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Chaupar, a gambling board game, has been played in India for millennia and was especially popular in royal courts. Often using a cross-shaped cloth board, it’s played with three dice and 16 pieces. The modern game Parcheesi is an adaptation of a variant of chaupar called pachisi. 


Image Credit: Bodleian Libraries

In this 1835 board game, players spun a “circle of chance” that dictated whether they moved forward, backward, left, or right, journeying through a village and up to a castle on a hill, encountering impassible waterways, robberies, and other obstacles on the way. 


Image Credit: Tamago915 via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0

In Tori Shogi, a Japanese variant of chess, all the pieces are types of birds, including phoenixes, cranes, and swallows. The game was invented in 1799 [PDF]. 


Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

This two-player game was invented in the 1880s by an American surgeon who named it after an ancient Greek word for “jump.” Halma declined in popularity in the 1900s with the introduction of Chinese checkers, a game with similar rules that could accommodate more players.


Image Credit: Bodleian Libraries

The rulebook for this whimsical zoo game hasn’t survived, but it seems to have involved numbered animals, and it came with great artwork. Maybe it was a paint-by-numbers sort of thing? 


This game, whose name in English means “assault,” appeared in Germany as early as 1803. One corner of the board was the fortress, and it had to be defended by one of the players against attack from the other. Most of the pieces were designated foot soldiers, while just two pieces were officers that could move more freely across the board. The goal was to capture the opponent’s pieces and win the battle. 



Image Credit: ItsLassieTime via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

The McLoughlin Brothers publishing house released this game in 1886. By moving pieces around a board, players competed to see who would become the president of a telegraph company. 


Image Credit: Bodleian Libraries

This two-person game was designed to teach children the geography of England, Scotland, and Wales. Players placed locomotives at a certain start point and rolled dice to determine how far they traveled.


Image Credit: Victoria & Albert Museum, bought out of the funds of the Bryan Bequest

A French board game that roughly translates to “new game of marriage” (though that last word also means hymen), its artwork appears on this porcelain tray from around 1725. The squares map the trajectory of a romantic relationship, with references to Ovid, the Odyssey, and other classical texts. 


Image Credit: Alfonso X of Castile via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

The game of astronomical tables—or seven-sided backgammon—was included in the Book of Games, an encyclopedia commissioned by Alfonso X of Spain in the 13th century. The seven sides were for the seven planets then known to astronomers (the moon and the sun were included, but Uranus and Neptune were not). The medieval book called the game “very noble and very strenuous and very elegant, and of great intellect for the wise,” according to one translation


Image Credit: George Mason University via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Board game legend Milton Bradley debuted the Checkered Game of Life during the Civil War. The game begins with infancy and ends with old age, with stops for "crime," "industry," "politics,” and “Cupid” along the way. Bradley's first game eventually morphed into the Life board game we play today.

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Courtesy Umbrellium
These LED Crosswalks Adapt to Whoever Is Crossing
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Courtesy Umbrellium

Crosswalks are an often-neglected part of urban design; they’re usually just white stripes on dark asphalt. But recently, they’re getting more exciting—and safer—makeovers. In the Netherlands, there is a glow-in-the-dark crosswalk. In western India, there is a 3D crosswalk. And now, in London, there’s an interactive LED crosswalk that changes its configuration based on the situation, as Fast Company reports.

Created by the London-based design studio Umbrellium, the Starling Crossing (short for the much more tongue-twisting STigmergic Adaptive Responsive LearnING Crossing) changes its layout, size, configuration, and other design factors based on who’s waiting to cross and where they’re going.

“The Starling Crossing is a pedestrian crossing, built on today’s technology, that puts people first, enabling them to cross safely the way they want to cross, rather than one that tells them they can only cross in one place or a fixed way,” the company writes. That means that the system—which relies on cameras and artificial intelligence to monitor both pedestrian and vehicle traffic—adapts based on road conditions and where it thinks a pedestrian is going to go.

Starling Crossing - overview from Umbrellium on Vimeo.

If a bike is coming down the street, for example, it will project a place for the cyclist to wait for the light in the crosswalk. If the person is veering left like they’re going to cross diagonally, it will move the light-up crosswalk that way. During rush hour, when there are more pedestrians trying to get across the street, it will widen to accommodate them. It can also detect wet or dark conditions, making the crosswalk path wider to give pedestrians more of a buffer zone. Though the neural network can calculate people’s trajectories and velocity, it can also trigger a pattern of warning lights to alert people that they’re about to walk right into an oncoming bike or other unexpected hazard.

All this is to say that the system adapts to the reality of the road and traffic patterns, rather than forcing pedestrians to stay within the confines of a crosswalk system that was designed for car traffic.

The prototype is currently installed on a TV studio set in London, not a real road, and it still has plenty of safety testing to go through before it will appear on a road near you. But hopefully this is the kind of road infrastructure we’ll soon be able to see out in the real world.

[h/t Fast Company]

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Here's How to Turn an IKEA Box Into a Spaceship
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Since IKEA boxes are designed to contain entire furniture items, they could probably fit a small child once they’re emptied of any flat-packed component pieces. This means they have great potential as makeshift forts—or even as play spaceships, according to one of the Swedish furniture brand’s print ads, which was spotted by Design Taxi.

First highlighted by Ads of the World, the advertisement—which was created by Miami Ad School, New York—shows that IKEA is helping customers transform used boxes into build-it-yourself “SPÄCE SHIPS” for children. The company provides play kits, which come with both an instruction manual and cardboard "tools" for tiny builders to wield during the construction process.

As for the furniture boxes themselves, they're emblazoned with the words “You see a box, they see a spaceship." As if you won't be climbing into the completed product along with the kids …

Check out the ad below:

[h/t Design Taxi]


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