Table-top games have been around for almost 5,000 years. Before there where cardboard boards and paper cards, the ancients used dice to amuse themselves with gaming. Albert Einstein said, “I shall never believe that God plays dice with the world,” ancient peoples all over the world have believed otherwise. Dicing games are among man's oldest pastimes." (1) Early in the history of humankind, Knutson noted that "aboriginal peoples all over the world have gambled, as well as told fortunes with a wide variety of “dice” made of peach stones, seeds, horn, pebbles, pottery, beaver and woodchuck teeth, or seashells." (1) Many consider Palamedes the father of dice play because he was said to have taught his soldiers how to play with dice around the siege of Troy. Dice made of bone, stone, and ivory with 4, 7, 14, 20 sides were commonplace among the first gamers during the Roman era.
The creation of board games became the next natural evolution for old table-top gaming. One of the earliest games known to exist is Senet. Peter Attia says that "board games became popular among pharaohs in Ancient Egypt. Primarily, the game of Senet. The game has been found in Predynastic and First Dynasty burials. Senet is featured in several illustrations from Ancient Egyptian tombs." (2)
At its core, Senet is a racing game between two players. The object for the players it to race on a track of tiles. The players have the same starting and ending areas and the last five tiles can either keep the player from the winner or increase their chance of winning. The players would use tokens, like smoothed or carved stones, to move the player's marker across the board. For the randomization of the speed of movement on the board, players used wooden sticks with numbers on them. This would be a similar function as
Senet is thought to be a game in which two player's race to complete a course on a track, the last five tiles either impede or increase a player's chance of winning. This is much like in a contemporary game in which a player lands on a square that says "back up 3" or "advance seven spaces". As in most "racing games on a track" some chance device is required by players to indicate how many moves they can make on the track during each turn.
The Game of 20 Squares or also known as the Royal Game of UR is a game that was "distributed from Iran to the Levant, was certainly one of the most popular board games in the ancient Near East from the mid-third to the mid-first millennium B.C. It is also known as the Royal Game of Ur, since the famous Sumerian boards from Ur in southern Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) were early versions of this game." (4)
This game is similar to Senet in that it is a relatively simple race game played between two players, similar to Backgammon. Each player has their own starting areas on the track and starts on opposite sides of the board. The players have a starting and ending area and the objective of the game is to maneuver their seven pieces, made out of wood or stone, down the track by rolling a set of three tetrahedral dice during each turn towards their exit and successfully exit all of their seven pieces. The players can experience conflict during the game by arriving at the inner track which is right before their exit. If a player has to land on a space occupied by the other player, the player's piece must restart at the beginning of the track.