Historical Games

game piece

This page is for people who would like more information about the site and how and why it was created. If you have any other questions or comments, my contact information is at the bottom of the page.

How It Started

This site originally started as a final project for a web design course I was taking. I've always loved history and games, and I had recently read a book about Medieval holidays and games. For my final project for the course, I designed a small website about games that were played in the Middle Ages. That small sample site became the basis for the Medieval section on this site, although I've made some changes since then.

After the course was over, I wanted something to work on to sharpen my skills and allow me to experiment a little more, so I decided to expand the original project with games played in Ancient Egypt. From there, it just kind of snowballed, but I've been having fun.

About the Games

When I chose the games for this site, I tried to pick games that readers could play themselves with very basic boards and pieces or party/parlor games that need little or no special equipment or skills. I have provided basic boards for most of the board games (except for Chess and Checkers, which are so common that most people will already have boards themselves) and tips on creating or improvising playing pieces. Most of the pieces could be easily created from scraps of colored paper, or you could use other small objects, such as stones, buttons, or coins.

There are games for both children and adults here both because I hope that the site will appeal to a wide range of people and because the divisions between what we consider children's games and adult's games were different in the past. It was common for adults in other periods to play parlor-type games that we would now think of as games that are played at children's birthday parties. Similarly, people in past generations allowed their children to play games that we would now consider inappropriate. I have not included any of the more dangerous games here, such as the ones involving knives or fire (yes, there were children's games like that), although you will find ocassional references to gambling or kissing games. I decided not to create a specific section on kissing games, although they've been around for centuries, because, when it comes right down to it, pretty much any game could be turned into a kissing game, if that's what the players really want to do. Some of the Victorian kissing games are surprisingly boring anyway, so you aren't really missing much.

There are many variations on the games that I describe here, so don't be too surprised if you've heard of these games before under different names or played them with different rules. I tried to present the games as they were played in certain time periods, but that can be a difficult task. The games that were played in Ancient Egypt were particularly difficult because no one knows for certain how they were played, and we have to rely on scholarly re-creations of the original rules. Even with better-known games, it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly when certain sets of rules came into play, and there can be many variations on rules even within a specific time period. Rules could vary depending on the places where the games were played or the preferences of the people playing them.

If anyone would like to recommend variations on rules or other sources that may help clarify how certain games were played at certain times, please let me know. I would also be interested in recommendations for other games to include here. This site is still a work in progress, and I may be expanding it to include other time periods and locations in the future.

Possible future expansions for the site include:

Ancient China
Many games have origins in Ancient China.
Feudal Japan
I have some friends with an interest in this time period, although there is some overlap with Chinese games, so the two may eventually be paired into one section.
India is home to a number of fascinating games, including Pachisi and an early version of Chess. (This will likely be the next addition to the site, partly due to the request of a site reader, but I want to finish some of my site edits and create new graphics first.)
Regency England
I also have some friends with an interest in this time period, although many of games that were played then are already covered under Colonial America and the Victorian Era. If there is enough interest in seeing a separate Regency section, I might still create one, or I could at least create a list of games as a reference.
The Renaissance
This one is a bit tricky. It should really center around Italy, which was the home of the Renaissance, but often, people tend to lump it in with the rest of Europe around the same time, like Tudor England. There would also be considerable overlap with the Medieval period.
The Americas
This would be about games played by Native Americans, including those of North, South, and Central America.

About the Sources

Since this site is divided into different time periods, I've created separate bibliography sections for each one. There is also a master bibliography accessible from the main portal page. So far, I've been using only books for my sources to avoid duplicating other websites, although to I do provide links to some other useful sites. Since this is more of a hobby page/design experiment than a scholarly study, I haven't sought out articles from historical journals. However, if anyone would like to recommend books or other authoritative sources to improve the web site, just let me know. I would like to expand on the information I have here.

On the bibliography page in each historical period, I also have other recommended books about everyday life in different periods of history and about games in each historical period. I'm also taking recommendations for other books to add to the reading lists. They can be either children's books or adult books. I plan to add more of both over time.

Even though I'm not trying to be too scholarly on this site, you'll notice that I've given sources for each of the games I discuss, either at the beginning of the instructions or in parenthetical citation within the instructions. This might seem a little formal for a hobby site like this, but I thought that it was important to make it clear where the instructions and information for the games came from, partly because there can be many variations on the rules for games and some people might want more clarification on certain variations from the sources where I learned about them. Also, this can make a fun project for students writing history reports, and it may help them to know where to look for more information on specific games from certain periods of history.

About the Site Design

No matter when you read this, this site is under construction! Watch for falling gifs.

When I first began this project, I was using XHTML Transitional 1.0, but since then, I've been learning HTML5. As I've been slowly converting the site to HTML5, I've been tinkering with the basic structure and design, adding elements, changing graphics, etc. This is very much an experimental site, so if anyone notices any errors caused by my tinkering, please let me know so that I can fix it. Suggestions on how to improve the site's appearance and organization are also welcome. As I continue to tinker with things, notes about additions and improvements will appear either here or on the main portal page.

All of the graphics on the site are ones that I created myself. I used GIMP to create the buttons, headers, and other drawn graphics, including the game boards. The photographs are ones I took myself. The game boards are free to anyone who would like to print them out and play with them (they fit on standard 8 1/2 by 11 inch paper and can be resized if necessary), but they are not to be sold for profit. (These games are all public domain, anyway. You can make something on the same basic layout yourself, if you want.) Classroom use is fine for teachers who would like to supplement a history lesson or for students doing a report on a historical period or games in general (just remember to cite me as the source). Aside from the game boards, none of the other graphics, including the backgrounds of each section are to be reproduced without permission. Permission may be granted in special circumstances as long as you contact me and credit me as the creator. The creator retains all rights.

Contact Information

If anyone has questions, comments, corrections, suggestions, or requests for other information, you can reach me at:


Portal Bibliography