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The History of Puzzle, Card, and Board Games
The inventors behind life's greatest diversions.
Related Resources
Are You A Toy Inventor?
How to Sell a Million Games
Toy Inventions
Board Games
A long selection of histories behind board games including checkers, chess, backgammon, dominoes, go, mah jongg, Risk and others.
About's own Guide to board games invites you to read and learn from the people who created your favorites -- and the players who mastered them.
By Mary Bellis

Backgammon had its beginning around the 1st century A.D. Emperor Claudius was a very avid player of Tabula. It was originally called Tables or Tabula.
History of Backgammon

Barrel of Monkeys
Lakeside Toys first introduced Barrel of Monkeys in 1966. Lakeside Toys also made bendable Pokey and Gumby figures.

The History of Bingo

Card games were co-created with playing cards themselves and may have been invented by the Chinese when they began shuffling paper money into various combinations. Though where and when cards originated is uncertain, China does seem the most likely place to have invented cards, and the 7th to the 10th century the earliest probable time playing cards appeared.
Playing Card History
From the House of Cards comes a select list of articles on card playing.
History of Playing Cards
Playing cards must have been invented in China, where paper was invented.
English Playing Cards
The history of English playing cards dates probably from the mid 15th century, the first documentary evidence of their existence in this country occuring in an Act of Parliament which, upon the petition of domestic card makers, prohibited the import of foreign cards.

A board game that appeared very similar to checkers (called "Draughts" in Great Britain} was discovered in the ruins of the ancient city of Ur in modern day Iraq. This board game dates to about 3000 B.C. Checkers as we know it today has been around since 1400 B.C. In Egypt, a similar game was called Alquerque.

Chess originated in Persia and India about 4000 years ago. A very early form of chess was called Chaturanga, a four handed game played with dice. Chess pieces were carved miniature elephants, horses, chariots and foot soldiers. Modern Chess as we know it today is about 2000 years old. The Persians and Arabians called the game Shatranj. Chess and cards were introduced to North America by Christopher Columbus. Howard Staunton, the world's leading chess player of the 1840's, organized the first international chess tournament and designed the classic chess pieces used in modern matches and tournaments today.
History of Chess
The History of Computer Chess

Cribbage is a card game invented in the early 1600s by the English poet and courtier, Sir Richard Swiveller.

Crossword Puzzle
The crossword puzzle was invented by Arthur Wynne.

The word "Domino" is a French word for a black and white hood worn by Catholic priests in winter.
Domino Games
The oldest domino sets date from around 1120 A.D. Dominoes, as most of the Western world knows them, however, appear to be a Chinese invention. The name of the inventor cannot be traced.
The History of Dominos
The game appeared first in Europe in 18th Century Italy, possibly in the courts of Venice and Naples. Although domino tiles are clearly of Chinese inheritance, there is debate over whether the game played by Europeans was brought by the Chinese to Europe in the fourteenth century or, in fact, was invented independently.

Jigsaw Puzzles
Englishmen, John Spilsbury invented the jigsaw puzzle in 1767.

Charles Darrow became the first millionaire boardgame designer after he sold his Monopoly patent to Parker Brothers.

In 1971, the Japanese inventor, Goro Hasegawa created Othello - a slight variation of Reversi.

According to the Wizards of the Coast Inc., they are the world's largest publisher of hobby games. They are a leading publisher of fantasy literature and owners of one of the nation's largest specialty game retail store chains. Founded in 1990 by Peter Adkison, Wizards of the Coast is headquartered just outside Seattle in Renton, Washington. The company employs more than 1,700 people with international offices in Antwerp, Paris, Beijing, London and Milan. Wizards of the Coast created the world's best-selling games Pokémon® and Magic: The Gathering® trading card games.
Pokémon "Trading Card Game"

In 1888, Lewis Waterman invented Reversi in England. However in 1870, John W. Mollet invented "The Game of Anexation", which was played on a different board but was very similiar to Reversi.

Rubik's Cube
There is only 1 correct answer and 43 quintillion wrong ones to the most popular puzzle in history.

A Brief History of Scrabble
Dave Fisher, About's Guide to puzzles, has written this history behind the popular boardgame Scrabble invented by Alfred Butts in 1948.

Snakes and Ladders
A racing boardgame where a player's token follows a track from start to finish. One of the first and most popular boardgame, Snakes and Ladders invented in 1870.

Trivial Pursuit
Trivial Pursuit was invented by Chris Haney and Scott Abbott.

The following information comes from the instruction booklet included in the "Silver Anniversary" edition of UNO. A special thanks goes to Richard Sommer for submitting the information to us.

"Merle Robbins, an Ohio barbershop owner, loved to play cards. One day in 1971, Merle came up with the idea for UNO and introduced the game to his family. When his family and friends began playing UNO more and more, Merle took notice. He and his family decided to pool together $8,000 and have 5,000 games made. That's how UNO got its start!

So how did UNO go from 5,000 games to 125 million? At first, Merle sold UNO from his barbershop. A few friends and local businesses sold them, too. Then UNO took the next step towards card-game fame: Merle, the Ohio barbershop owner, sold the UNO rights to a funeral parlor owner and UNO fan from Joliet, Illinois. The cost? Fifty thousand dollars, plus royalties of 10 cents per game. International Games Inc. was formed to market UNO, and sales skyrocketed. In 1992, International Games became part of the Mattel family, and UNO had a new home."

General Puzzle and Boardgame History
Online Guide to Traditional Boards
This guide covers the histories of ancient board games that still have major derivatives that are played today.
Table Games
The history of table games discussed in this website include Carrom from Asia, the Billiards family including Snooker and the American derivatives, Pool and Carom Billiards, the Shovelboard and Shove Ha'penny family and the table-top versions of Skittles, Indoor Quoits and Bagatelle.
Pub Games
The history of English pub games and other unabashedly traditional English pastimes: Dominoes, Cribbage, Quoits, Shove Ha'penny, Billiards and Snooker, Skittles, Darts and a few splendidly eccentric extras for good measure like Ringing the Bull and Aunt Sally.
Play Online
House of Cards

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