history of games

Which Highly-Accessible Games Were Once Surprisingly Exclusive?

Tuesday 14th Nov 2023 |

Many of our favourite board games and card games were once far more exclusive than they are now, with only the rich and the famous able to play them. How have these games developed over the centuries to become as popular as they now are?

Lotteries and the Evolution of Bingo

With millions of people all over the planet regularly spending relatively small amounts of money to buy lottery tickets, it’s one of the most common pastimes that the majority of the population can enjoy. Yet, when we look back at the early lottery-type events, we discover that the first official lottery was run in England by Queen Elizabeth I in the mid-16th century with the aim of funding state projects. Each ticket cost ten shillings, which was close to three weeks’ wages for many citizens.

Bingo evolved out of an Italian lottery game and, in this case, its current widespread appeal is helped by the way it’s evolved online. The variety of online bingo games includes some with free games while others have different values on the cards. This means that online bingo has become an even more accessible way of playing that attracts different types of players and can be carried out easily in different ways.

Senet Was Played by Egyptian Royalty 

When we investigate the oldest board games in the world, an Egyptian game called Senet sits at the top of the list. The fact that it’s now available online means that anyone can try it, although it’s unclear whether the current version is identical to the original since information about it is so scarce.

However, among the information that we know about it is that famous people like Tutankhamun and Nefertari are seen playing it in images that have survived to our days. It appears that noble families played on beautifully-crafted tables, while in more humble homes people had to scratch the playing grid onto any surface they could find.

The Royal Game of Ur is possibly even older but, despite its name, we don’t know if it was played exclusively by royalty. Its name comes from the fact that archaeologist Sir Leonard Woolley first discovered the pieces at the Royal Cemetery at Ur, in modern-day Iraq. Examples have since been found in many other parts of the region.

Chess Was Once More Exclusive

With chess tables now available at very low prices and online games widely played, there’s no barrier stopping anyone from trying it. Chess passed through many phases across the planet before reaching its current popularity, and it was particularly in Medieval Europe that it became known as a game for aristocrats.

This can be seen in some of the wonderful examples of historic chess sets like the Lewis Chessmen on display at the British Museum in London. In current times, hand-carved chess sets are still regarded as elegant, sophisticated ornaments that add a touch of style to any room.

All of these games have stood the test of time over centuries and have expanded their appeal by reaching out to new players in new ways. We expect to see them continue to evolve and gain new fans.