Traditional Board Games

Games of All Kinds

Children's Games by Pieter Bruegel.
Children's Games by Pieter Bruegel.

Traditional board games are often classified by the human activities they try to portray. Three activities that are often depicted are the race, the battle, and the hunt.

The most well-known race game is backgammon. Both players race to get their pieces across the board first. Nearly all race games use dice, or similar ways of randomising, though there are some exceptions. Halma-style games can be thought of as races, too, but they use pure strategy.

Chess and draughts are the most famous battle games. Most battle games have two or more sides of identical forces, and are usually played without dice or other random elements.

Hunt games are less widespread now than the other two, with fox & geese being the best-known example. There are two sides, having the roles of hunters and prey. Hunters are more numerous, and have to trap the prey. The prey is usually more powerful than the hunters, in order to even out the imbalance; in some games paradoxically only the prey can kill, while in others the prey is more manoeuvrable than the hunters.

These three activities don't cover all the games, and people often form extra categories to cover such games as n-in-a-row games. These could be described as a fourth human activity, that of building: be the first to build 3, 4 or 5 in a row, for example.

Some games do not fit neatly into these categories. Hnefatafl, for instance, has uneven sides like a hunt game, but plays more like a war game because both sides have similar powers of capture and movement. Nine men's morris plays like a war game, with capture, but the form of capture is more akin to building rather than any warlike activity. Many cases of games that fall outside one category can be accommodated by allowing games to occupy more than one: in the case of hnefatafl it is listed both as a war game and a hunt game.

Race Games

These are games in which the goal is to get your pieces to a certain place before your opponent does. Some race games can be played by more than two players, while others can be played as partnerships like some modern card games are. Sometimes the objective for each player is in a different place, and sometimes each player gets to the same finish line by a different path. (read more...)

Battle Games

These are games in which the two or more sides fight against one another, trying to capture enemy pieces or trap a particular enemy piece. In most of these games, the forces are identical at the start of the game: two equal armies facing each other across the battlefield. (read more...)

Hunt Games

These are games in which one piece, or a small number of pieces, forms the prey, and a larger number of pieces are the hunters. Because of this imbalance, the prey is often more powerful or more agile than the hunters. For example, a tiger may be able to eat the hunters, while the hunters can only immobilise the tiger. Another example is where the prey is more agile than the hunters, and can win the game by making ... (read more...)

Building Games

These are games in which the object is to build something before the opponent does. This is usually a row of a certain number of pieces of your own colour. Some hybrid games use building as a means to another objective, such as games where building a row of three allows you to capture an enemy piece; these are more properly battle games with a building component. (read more...)


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