There are several contenders for the championship among board games. Since archaeologists cannot establish the exact date of the origin of the gambling finds, the most ancient board games are considered to be Mancala, the Royal Game of Ur and Senet, which appeared before our era.
Under the general name Mankala (from the Arabic naqala - moving), a whole family of games has been assembled, the essence of which is shifting pebbles. The first variants of this game found by archaeologists, dated back to the 5-3 millennium BC, were holes carved in parallel in two rows on the stone. The "chips" for the game were simple pebbles or grains.
The homeland of the games of Mancala is the territory of modern Syria and Egypt. The peoples of Africa and Asia today continue to have fun with games from this family, which have various names: oua, ovari, togyz kumalak, pallantuji, olinda keliya, gabata, bao, omveso, apfelklau, kalah. The latter was widespread in the countries of the USSR. The rules for different types of games can vary significantly. But the main goal of the game remains unchanged - you need to capture the largest number of opponent's stones or lead the game to such an outcome when the opponent is unable to make a move.
In addition to the entertainment function, the games of the Mancala family illustrate the transition of mankind from collecting to agriculture, because the main rule applies in them: whoever sows better will collect more. The movement of pebbles in a circle is considered a symbol of the cyclical nature of the year, the process of unfolding "chips" - sowing and harvesting, and unfilled holes - hunger and crop failure. Notable is the fact that this game lacks an element of luck. Only the intellect and attention of the players can determine its outcome.
Royal game of ur
A game that looks more like modern board games with portable game boards has been found in the royal tomb of the Ur dynasty in Iraq. According to scientists, it is about five thousand years old. The game is a playing field with twenty squares, arranged in such a way that there are 12 squares in one part of the board, followed by a bridge of 2 divisions, which goes into a small block of 6 squares.
The royal game of Ur symbolizes a military campaign. Players had to move from most of the field to a smaller one and return to their original position, along the way collecting "war booty" - the enemy's chips. This game was used as a fortune-telling about whether the upcoming military campaign would be successful or the army would be defeated.
Senet was a fairly common board game in Ancient Egypt. Archaeological excavations indicate that Senet was played more than five thousand years BC. The ancient Egyptians associated this entertainment with a journey to the afterlife, in which riddles and labyrinths await them, and victory symbolized unity with the god Ra.
The ancient rules of Senet have not survived. Their reconstruction allows us to assume that the game is characterized by a field consisting of 30 cells arranged in three rows of ten cells each. Each player had 5 tokens, which the ancient Egyptians called dancers. The peculiarity of this game is that the felled chip did not leave the field, but changed places with the one that was chopping. Four sticks of wood were used as dice, with a mark on one side. The players threw them up and counted how many fell a mark down. According to the rules, the opponents took their pieces along the s-shaped route in reverse and removed them from the board.