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Board Games

Board games are invented and played by people with leisure time, and by military strategists. In ancient times, this meant royalty and the upper classes. Most early board games were race games; get to the end of a course before the opponent does. The earliest board game is Senet, from predynastic Egypt. Senet was popular with people of every class for centuries. It is possible that there was a Senet craze. It even took on religious significance, since Egyptians believed the soul faces numerous hazards on its way to heaven. Late dynasty wall paintings show people playing against a spirit, not to avoid death, but to learn necessary afterlife skills. Senet enjoyed a renaissance in the late 1970s. Several companies still produce senet boards. There are also online Senet games. Most Mesopotamian race games resemble, online games like Farmerama or prefigure backgammon, which experienced a huge craze in Imperial Rome and is still popular worldwide. There are backgammon associations, national and international competitions. It even has its own World Series. A comparable game from India is Parcheesi, where four pawns are raced around a track. The Chinese game Go is about 2500 years old. Players enclose and capture their opponent's pieces, creating patterns which frustrate the opponent's attempt to do the same. It can be understood by young children, but its endless possibilities fascinate men and women of all ages. Chess originated in India in the 6th century A.D. and was spread by the Persians and then by the Muslims, who brought it to Spain. It is a strategic game requiring concentration and intense practice, with elements of psychology, pattern recognition, and mathematics. Its complex system of competition is as avidly followed by enthusiasts as any sport. The first computer designers created programs for computers to play chess. Nowadays, grand masters play against computers, and sometimes lose.