View Full Version : Chess- how old is it?

10-27-2013, 11:56 PM
Exactly how old is chess ? I know there is an ancient Egyptian version of it, can't remember what it's called, but I don't know how old the game itself is. Also, if you know of any other old games that would be lovely.I need to give my medieval characters something to do when they're playing the waiting game, and chess is a good mind-sharpener . Also, would it be plausible to have a game like chess in a fantasy setting?

10-28-2013, 12:22 AM
I believe Chess is Indian, not Egyptian. Chaturanga is over 2,000 years old. Modern chess with the current rules is only around 500 or so. Might also try 9 men's morris. Games like Parcheesi and Backgammon are also of ancient origin.

10-28-2013, 01:17 AM
Some variation of dicing/marbles would probably be popular as well.

Drachen Jager
10-28-2013, 02:13 AM
Mancala (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mancala#History) goes back to the 6th or 7th century. It's very simple to play, all you need are a bunch of small rocks and a way to make divots (egg carton, holes in the ground, holes in wood, whatever).

In spite of the simplicity, there's a surprising depth to the strategy.

King Neptune
10-28-2013, 02:25 AM
I decided to try searching for the information after realizing that the story that I knew might be false. There are several origin stories for chess, and all of them seem plausible.

If you want medieval people to play, then do so, but there are other games that might be more likely.

10-28-2013, 04:28 AM
Why not just use a fictional chess analogue? Make the game chess-like enough that everyone gets what kind of game it is, but replace the pieces with your own.

10-28-2013, 07:24 PM
Go - Chinese game - supposedly originated between 2500 and 4000 years ago. Still played in the same form.

10-28-2013, 10:32 PM
As far as I know: Chess was invented in India toward 500 AD (at least that's the earliest evidence we have); the game was called "Chaturanga", and the exact rules aren't known, but can be inferred to a good degree from the games that developped out of Chaturanga, in the west and in the east.

The first game of "chess" we know the rules of is Shatranj, the Persian version of the game, that developed pretty early and was the version that came to the west.

However, the transformation of Shatranj into modern chess was a gradual developement: the ability of pawns to move two squares on their first movement, and the subsequent en passant rule, appeared in the 14th century; the current movement of the queen and bishops, as well as the modern rules of castling, were established around the late 15th century. Some details were only established quite late in the history of the game (the rule that white always starts only became official in the late 19th century).


As far as I know, the most ancient games (at least from what is attested by archeological evidence) are race games (like backgammon), where the goal is for each player to be the first to remove all of his pieces from the board, and movement is generally determined by a roll of dice (but there is still a tactical element brought by the fact that for any given roll of the dice, a player usually has many different possible movements).

Very old racing games include senet (could be as old as 3500 BC), ancient persian variants of Backgammon (aka Tables, 3000 BC) and the Royal game of Ur (2600 BC). A notable trait of race games is that they seem to have been invented independently several times: the mezoamerican game of Patolli (attested from at least 200 BC), which is a race game, ressembles indian Parcheesi a lot, but seems to be unrelated to it.

In the middle ages, race games would thus already been present in almost all of the old world, and parts of the new world as well, whereas other games had much more restricted distribution.

10-28-2013, 10:41 PM
Google medieval board games; there are a lot.

We have pieces for many games that we're not sure how they were played.

See also: Fidchell (Irish) and "Gwyddbwyll" (Welsh) and Tafl/Hnefatafl (Old Norse).

10-29-2013, 12:25 AM
I just looked up Checkers (Draughts in British English), and it also has a long history, and has had more variations on rules and board size than I would have imagined: