Colonial Games

game piece

Commercially Printed Board Games

During this period of history, board games were being printed commercially. Printing companies were making their own versions of classic games and developing new, specialty games. In the early days of the American colonies, printed board games had to come from Europe, but as life in the colonies became more settled and industrialized, American printers began producing their own games. Some of the companies that later became major game manufacturers began as general printing companies, getting into board game production because producing board games involved the same sort of printing techniques and paper or card stock that their other printing services used. Commercially printed board games became more affordable and widely distributed later, during the Victorian Era, but I wanted to talk about some of the games that were available during the Colonial Era in America and in Georgian England (1714 to about 1830–37). Note: The Regency Era was a subsection of this period in English history that took place in the early 1800s. For this section, I'm only focusing on the 18th century, the period of the American Revolution and years leading up to it and shortly afterward. This period is when the American colonies started to break off culturally as well as politically from their European roots, so after about this point, you can expect more variations in styles of games between England and the United States. Even when they played similar types of games, they used ones made by their own manufacturers. I already have a section about Victorian games, and I might later do a page specifically about the Regency Era for the benefit of Jane Austen fans.

In the 18th century, printed board games could be played with dice or a teetotum (spinning top marked with numbers - dreidels are a variation of teetotum) to control movement on the board. At some points, teetotums were preferred to dice. The markers or playing pieces used in games were sometimes called "pillars." Many children's games were designed to teach useful lessons or impart moral principles. Board games were also designed to be folded, put into a slip case covered in decorative paper with the title of the game on the outside, and stored on bookshelves. The technique for printing games used engraved metal plates (steel or copper). After the printing, which produced the basic outline of the design, a colorist would hand paint the image with water colors. Sometimes, colorists used stencils to apply the paint more precisely, but usually, they just painted freehand. Because the colors were added by hand, they could vary from copy to copy of the same game, according to the whims of the painter. Later, around 1840, this printing technique was replaced by lithographs, although some printers still continued to use hand painting for the color. It's unknown exactly how many copies of games were printed during this period, but at least some games were apparently printed in the thousands in England. Once printed, individual games were played continuously over a period of years (Whitehouse 2-3, 5).

My main source for these games is Table Games of Georgian and Victorian Days. by F.R.B. Whitehouse, and I have the games grouped by theme, as Whitehouse does, for convenience. I haven't included every game in my sources. The games I've chosen are ones within this period of history and which have the most complete information and descriptions.

Geography Games

These games are map-based, using real countries and places on Earth, with players' pieces traveling between locations during the game. When the games were originally printed, they would have used national boundaries and place names that were in use at the time of printing, which are obsolete now (Whitehouse 4-5). Many of these games are similar to The Game of Goose; players would follow a path from one geographical location to the next, trying to be the first to get to the end of the path.

Game Title Publishing Date Publisher Description
A Journey through Europe,
or The Play of Geography
1759 Carrington Bowles,
Map and Printseller,
The board contained a colored map of Europe with a path leading through numbered locations. The rules were written directly on the board and specifically state that the game play is the same as The Game of Goose. The goal is to reach the end of the path, and there are special actions to be performed by players landing on each of the numbered spaces.
Royal Geographical Amusement,
or the Safe and Expeditious Traveller though all the Parts of Europe by Sea and by Land
1774 Robert Sayer,
Map and Printseller,
The game has a subtitle that describes it as "An Instructive Game Calculated for the improvement of the Young Learners of Geography by DR. JOURNEY." The board showed a map of Europe, and players traveled on a path that began at Calais and ended in London.
Royal Geographical Pastime 1794 Laurie & Whittle,
The board for this game had a map of England and Wales, with the rules printed directly on the board. Players traveled to numbered locations in these countries, but the numbered locations were not immediately next to each other, forcing children to learn where each place was on the map in order to navigate their way through the game.

History Games

At the moment, I only have one game of this type listed, and it's another variation on The Game of Goose.

Game Title Publishing Date Publisher Description
Royal Genealogical Pastime of the Sovereigns of England 1791 E. Newbery and John Wallis Full title: Royal Genealogical Pastime of the Sovereigns of England from the Dissolution of the Saxon Heptarchy to the Reign of His Present Majesty George the Third. Players follow a track with 52 British monarchs, racing each other to the end of the track. The game was intended to teach children the history of the monarchy, and the pitctures of rulers were accompanied by information about them. Later editions of the game were updated with rulers through Queen Victoria.

Other Games

Game Title Publishing Date Publisher Description

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