Board games have been played in most cultures and societies throughout history. Archaeological evidence has revealed such games dating back as far as 3100 BC. The oldest board game known to have existed is called “Senet”. It is pictured in a fresco found in Merknera’s tomb (3300–2700 BC) in Egypt.
Backgammon originated in ancient Mesopotamia over 5,000 years ago. Chess and Pachisi originated in India. Go and Liubo originated in China. The oldest record of a board game in Europe dates back to Homer’s Iliad (written in the 8th century BC), in which he mentions the Ancient Greek game of “Petteia”.
The earliest board games published in the United States were based upon Christian morality. “The Mansion of Happiness” (1843), for example, sent players along a path of virtues and vices that led to the Mansion of Happiness (Heaven).
Some board games – such as chess – depend completely on player skill, while many children’s games such as Candy Land and Snakes and Ladders require no decisions by the players and are decided purely by luck.
Many board games require some level of both skill and luck. A player may be hampered by bad luck in backgammon, Monopoly, or Risk; but over many games, a skilled player will win more often. Luck may be introduced into a game by a number of methods. The use of dice of various sorts goes back to the earliest board games. These can decide everything from how many steps a player moves their token – as in Monopoly – to how their forces fare in battle, as in Risk.
Other games such as Sorry! use a deck of special cards that, when shuffled, create randomness. Scrabble does something similar with randomly picked letters. Other games use spinners, timers of random length, or other sources of randomness.