The Origin Stories of the World’s Most Popular Board Games

There’s never a bad time to break out a good board game. They are fun and bring family and friends together while teaching children social and cognitive skills. Hundreds of new board games are published yearly. Some of the popular board games that you enjoy have been around for quite some time and it’s fascinating to know their origins. Let’s take a look at five of them.

1. Game of Life

The Game of Life was originally created by Milton Bradley in 1860 and was first called The Checkered Game of Life. Bradley owned a lithograph studio and sold a picture of Abraham Lincoln who, at the time, was running for president. Through a letter to Lincoln, a little girl convinced him to grow a beard. The people who Bradley had sold the picture to didn’t want it anymore and wanted refunds. With his business failing, Bradley began working on a board game with a checkerboard and a top as a dice. The game depicted the struggles of life. The goal was to land on the right square and accumulate 100 points. Bradley established Milton Bradley and Company which we look to for board games.

2. Monopoly

Monopoly was designed by Elizabeth Magie, a stenographer from Washington, in 1903 as a protest during the Gilded Age. Families such as the Rockefellers and the Vanderbilts were gaining much wealth and controlling all the industries. The game was created to educate the masses of this issue and it was called The Landlord’s Game. Patented in 1904, it became a popular folk game. Charles Darrow discovered the game, made his own version and sold it to Parker Brothers. Parker Brothers paid Magie $500 for the rights to The Landlord’s Game and two of her other games; however, Magie got no real credit for her work.   

3. Scrabble

Scrabble, originally named Criss Cross Words, was developed by Alfred Mosher Butts after he lost his job during the Great Depression. He first sold the game in 1933 and continued to improve it over time. He attempted to patent it twice but failed. Twelve years after he stopped selling the game, James Brunot bought manufacturing rights to the game with the understanding that Butts would get royalties on every copy sold. The name was changed to Scrabble and over time, millions were sold. Brunot sold the trademark rights to Selchow and Righter in 1971.

4. Pictionary

Rob Angel created Pictionary in 1981 and played the game at parties. It involved picking a word from the dictionary, drawing it and having people try to guess the word. After seeing its potential and that there was a market for it, Angel refined the game by making cards and a board and getting words that could be used. He invested some money into the venture and sold some copies. Thomas McGuire, who was a salesman at Selchow and Righter, a board game company, quit his job and started selling Pictionary. Western Publishing Group Inc. published the game and it became a bestseller. Hasbro acquired Western’s game division in 1994.

5. Candy Land

The children’s game, Candy Land was developed in 1948 by Eleanor Abbott, a retired teacher. Abbott contracted polio and was admitted to hospital in San Diego. She created the game and it became popular among the children on the hospital ward. It involved no reading, no counting and it was easy to play, making it suitable for all children. Milton Bradley later produced the game and it was a great success. 

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