From the archives: The history of games

The oldest game in the world with the original rules; a game of pool with three “lives”; Medieval dice chess; and the forgotten chess pieces: couriers, henchmen, spies, and fools.

Royal Game of Ur
British Museum [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

The Royal Game of Ur has been played for five thousand years, and we still have the rules thanks to a a Babylonian scribe named Itti-Marduk-Balāṭu.


Pool hall
Leslie’s magazine [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Players of life pool, a 19th century ancestor of snooker, got three “lives” and were eliminated when they lost them all.


Medieval Dice
The Portable Antiquities Scheme/ The Trustees of the British Museum [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Around the 11th century CE, you could play chess with dice.


Courier chess
Lucas van Leyden [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Before chess settled on the standard set of pieces, Medieval variants included many others: sages, henchmen, spies, jesters, couriers, runners, and fools.

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