Historical Games

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 the 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 improving playing pieces. Most of the pieces could be easily created from scraps of colored paper, or you could use other small objects, like 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 section on kissing games, although they've been around for centuries. (Some of the Victorian ones are surprisingly boring anyway.)

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.

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.
India is home to a number of fascinating games, including Pachisi and an early version of Chess.
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.

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 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.

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 Dating System

Speaking of being scholarly, someone may notice that whenever I give dates, I use A.D. and B.C. instead of C.E. and B.C.E. Yes, this is done intentionally. My first degree was in history, and I am aware that C.E. and B.C.E. are considered politically correct these days and they are the designations used in scholarly reports, but we all have pet peeves, and this is one of mine. There are three reasons (the third is the one that I think is most compelling):

  1. Tradition: I'm a traditionalist at heart. The use of A.D. and B.C. is older than C.E. and B.C.E. and is widely recognized. It's nice to stick to things that people know and understand. (I don't follow the convention of putting A.D. in front of the year because most people don't in informal writing, either.) Besides, A.D. and B.C. were the designations actually used during all of the A.D. eras described here (not duing the B.C. eras for obvious reasons), so using them also adds a little historical flavor.
  2. Typos! Mistakes happen. A.D. and B.C. look very different from each other, and it would be difficult to either misread or mistype these two. C.E. and B.C.E. differ by only one letter, and although the context should be enough to clear up any misunderstanding, it still annoys me.
  3. Plagiarists: I don't think it's really likely that anyone will try to copy anything here for a school report, but these days, one never knows. I figure that anyone who is so lazy that they're just going to copy and paste something they found on the Internet and turn it into their teacher (shame on you!) will probably be too lazy to read this section of the site and fix all the A.D.s and B.C.s to the C.E.s and B.C.E.s that their teacher will expect. I'm not in school, and I don't have to please anyone's teacher. Ha, ha! (Note to students: It's not going to work anyway. By now, your teacher knows how you write and how you talk, and he or she can tell if you suddenly start sounding like someone else. If you found this site through the almighty Google, your teacher can too, just by Googling a single sentence from "your" report. If you're looking for a more honest shortcut, just check out the sources I recommend in my bibliographies and use them to write something yourself.)

This is about as deep and controversial as I'm going to get on any issue on this site, so for those of you who really don't care either way and are bored: Congratulations for making it to the end of my pet peeve! We can move on now.

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.) 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