Victorian Board Games

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In the 18th and 19th centuries, board games were intended mainly to be educational. Many different games were invented not only for entertainment during long winter evenings but also to teach useful facts or impart moral values. Several of these games are still played in one form or another today.

The game boards were richly illustrated and usually coloured by hand or stencil. They often had protective card or cloth cases and original cased games are much sought after by antique collectors.

The game designs were extremely varied with numbered circuits or routes in every conceivable arrangement including rambling routes, side to side, round in a spiral or branching routes which allow a choice of paths for the counters to follow. Booklets were included which contained useful information associated with the game, or sometimes descriptive passages were printed on the board itself.

Dice or Teetotums (like a spinning top with flat sides) were used and players usually had a counter or marker made of card although other objects such as buttons or dried peas were also used to mark the player's position on the board.

Many of the games were straightforward race games along a numbered route from start to finish. Other games had hazards or rewards (linked to the theme of the game) which were designed to impede or advance a player's progress. A board game based on Geography and travel for example might allow extra moves forward if you land on an English speaking country or a step back if you land in a desert - or the sea!

Games were also based on History showing scenes from the past, famous people and battles for example. Natural history, astronomy and the arts were also popular. Some games were designed to teach morals in which the triumph of good over evil was the objective.

Modern board games still follow the same principles but are more usually designed for entertainment rather than education. There are still straightforward race games including traditional favourites such as Snakes and Ladders. Some games include hazards, forfeits or bonuses which sometimes require the player to pick a card to get an instruction.

In addition to race games, there are games in which the winner is the first to achieve an objective. These usually require more skill as well as the luck of the dice throw. They include games such as Nine Men's Morris (Merels), Fox & Geese, Draughts, Chess, Halma and Brax.


Design and make a race type board game based on a local route or track near where you live (e.g. local footpaths, a tour of sites of interest, a heritage railway line or canal). The aim of the game is to win the race and also to learn something about the places visited on the board.

Include forfeits (e.g. move backwards if you land on private land, cows are loose in a field, traffic lights are on red, roadworks, a level crossing barrier is down or a bridge raised). Include also some bonuses (e.g. find a shortcut, hitch a lift, get right of way). These might be triggered by the square landed on or the need to pick a card, throw a second Dice or spin a Teetotum.

See Racing Board Game for more ideas and some details of the materials and construction methods which might be used.

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Kraft Brown Card Assorted A2 Mountboard Clear Sticky-Back Plastic Coloured Gaffer Tape Wood Draught & Backgammon Pieces Probability Spinners Game Counters Wooden Stick Square Balsa Wood Pack PVA Glue Washable Adhesive