Battle on a board: The ancient board games quiz

Olivia Seitz

Image: shutterstock

About This Quiz

How much do you know about the many ways ancient civilizations battled it out over wooden pawns, stone markers or stick dice? Test your knowledge of fun pastimes from centuries past!

Which of these games served as inspiration for modern-day Parcheesi?

John Hamilton brought a modified version of Pachisi, a classic Indian game, to the U.S. in the mid-1800s. He called it "Patcheesi" but switched to "Parcheesi" when it was frequently mispronounced as "pot cheesy."

What shape is a Pachisi board?

Each arm of the cross has three rows on which the pegs could be placed. Instead of cubical dice, it is sometimes played with stick dice.

Which of these games is a variant of Pachisi?

Chupar was a favorite of Emperor Akbar in the 1500's. He so enjoyed the game that he had a life-size board made in the palace courtyard and had his slaves act as pieces.

What did poor people use instead of stick dice to play Pachisi?

The shells were an unsanctioned form of money called "cowries." The value of the roll was determined by how many of the shells fell scoop side up.

Which of these games was beloved by the Vikings?

The game of Tafl, which means table, was originally known as Hnefa-Tafl, meaning king's table. The Vikings popularized the game throughout northern Europe.

Which modern game has similarities to Tafl?

Tafl includes the King, the King's men, and the Attacker's men. The King begins in the center of the board, and the Attackers try to capture him before he reaches either a corner or a side.

Which is considered to be the oldest board game?

Senet is considered to be the oldest board game. Versions of the game are depicted in Egyptian hieroglyphs and in tombs. The earliest game is considered to be - simply enough - dice.

In the game Chutes and Ladders, what originally held the place of the slides?

Chutes and Ladders originated as the game Snakes and Ladders. Snakes and Ladders was based on the Hindu game Gyan Chaupar, or Game of Knowledge.

What was the purpose of Gyan Chaupar?

The Game of Knowledge was played by adults to learn more about Hindu beliefs. For example, landing on the darkness square took a player down a snake to the anger square, but mercy would take a player straight up to the plane of creation square.

Chutes and Ladders was co-opted as a propaganda game during which major war?

Landing on a Union victory would send you shooting ahead of your opponents, but landing on a Confederate victory would send you back several spaces. The game was called the Game of Secession or Sketches of the Rebellion.

In what region did Mancala originate?

Mancala originated in Africa and remains popular. Mancala actually refers to a number of similar games, all involving moving pebbles or pieces from one pit in the board to another.

Mancala is derived from the Arabic word "naqala," which means...

Mancala comes from the Arabic word "naquala," meaning, "to move." Mancala boards vary in design.

What is the goal of Mancala?

The goal of Mancala is to end the game with the most stones (or whatever is being used for pieces). The game ends when one side of the board has no stones left, and the winner typically triumphs from superior mathematical ability.

The Indian game Chaturanga is a precursor to which modern day game?

Chaturanga roughly translates to "four arms," referring to parts of the military. The four parts of the military included in the original war game were chariots, cavalry, elephants, and foot soldiers.

Chaturanga is at least...

To date, the earliest reference to the game historians have found is from the 600s. There is evidence it may have been played as early as 200 AD.

Where did the game Senet originate?

Senet is an ancient Egyptian game which dates back to at least 2686 BC. The full rules of the game have been lost.

What did Senet players use to determine turn outcomes?

Senet players determined the outcome of each turn by throwing either knucklebones or stick dice. It would seem that the latter was more common.

What did winning Senet symbolize?

A player made it into the afterlife by successfully removing his pieces from the board. Like many ancient games, its construction was full of religious symbolism.

What did the symbols on Senet boards represent?

The symbols represented good or bad luck in some form or another. Tiles with a good symbol made it easier for the player to win the game, and vice versa with the bad luck tiles.

How old is the Royal Game of Ur?

The game is believed to have been invented in Mesopotamia (currently Iraq). It was discovered by the British in 1920.

What did the flower tiles in the Royal Game of Ur mean for players?

Because of variations of the game that survived in India, it is believed that the ornate flower tiles were very good for players to set their tokens on. Unfortunately, the full game rules are lost to time.

Which of these ancient board games used black and white circular pieces on a tiled board?

In Go, players maneuver either the black or the white pieces into position on the grid. Surrounding a piece of the opposite color allows you to capture, or flip, the piece.

What determines the winner of Go?

Since capturing the opponent's pieces allows a player to flip the pieces to their own color, the winner is determined by who is best at capturing the opponent. Thus, whoever has the most territory - the most tiles in their color - at the end of the game wins.

Where was Go invented?

Go was most likely created in China. Despite being roughly 3,000 to 4,000 years old, the rules of Go have remained unchanged.

What are the traditional materials used to construct Go?

The board is traditionally carved from wood. The pieces are usually a combination of shell and slate.

Liubo was a popular game during which Chinese dynasty?

A favorite during the Han dynasty, Liubo was a gambling game. The board included a rectangular carving in the center, with additional markings on the corners and sides.

Alquerque was a game of...

Alquerque, also known as Qirkat, was an ancient war game in which opponents tried to capture each other's pieces. Pieces were connected on the board by horizontal, vertical, and diagonal lines.

Which game comes from Alquerque?

Checkers is believed to be a descendant of both Alquerque and chess. It may also have influenced the development of Fox and Geese, a game in which the fox player tries to catch and eat the geese of the other player.

From which people did Alquerque originate?

It spread throughout the world after being introduced to Spain by the Moors. The rules of Alquerque were written down in "The Book of Games" from thirteenth century Spain.

When Alquerque was introduced to the natives in Mexico, they created Awithlaknannai. How did they change the board?

Their version of the game included a narrower board with fewer rows.The game was still won by capturing all of the opponent's pieces.

What game resulted from Tabula?

Backgammon is a direct descendant of Tabula, a game with a twenty-four segment track. The goal was to remove all your pieces from the game before the other player. Each player had three dice.

Where did Tabula originate?

Tabula was a popular game played by the Romans. The word "tabula" meant "slate" or "tablet."

To what game was Shatranj most similar?

Shatranj was directly related to Chaturanga, the Indian game that evolved into chess.

What animal in Shatranj held the place of the bishop in today's chess games?

The Fil (elephant) had to move in diagonal blocks of two. Today, in chess, the bishop pieces can move any number of squares diagonally.

Which beloved board game was actually based on a (not so ancient) game called the Landlord's Game, invented in 1903?

Charles Darrow sold Monopoly to Parker Brothers, but it was not his invention. The game was a reworking of the Landlord's Game, which Elizabeth Magie had created to reflect her political views. When she brought up copyright infringement, Parker Brothers only paid her $500.

About HowStuffWorks Play

How much do you know about dinosaurs? What is an octane rating? And how do you use a proper noun? Lucky for you, HowStuffWorks Play is here to help. Our award-winning website offers reliable, easy-to-understand explanations about how the world works. From fun quizzes that bring joy to your day, to compelling photography and fascinating lists, HowStuffWorks Play offers something for everyone. Sometimes we explain how stuff works, other times, we ask you, but we’re always exploring in the name of fun! Because learning is fun, so stick with us!

Explore More Quizzes