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What is the oldest board game for 3 or more people? The oldest one I'm aware of is Halma from 1883 or 1884. Interestingly, Chinese Checkers was supposedly derived from it a few years later, even though that game came from Germany, not China.

Anyway, 1880's is pretty modern. I'm hoping there's some much older, maybe even ancient, board game for 3 or more people.

For it to be a board game, it has to involve a board space in which pieces are placed or moved around. So no card games, and no dice games like yatzee.

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That honour probably goes to the Ancient Egyptian game, Mehen which dates back to pre-dynastic times. The rules of the game are not known, but surviving examples have been found with up to six playing pieces, and it is believed that these were counters for up to 6 players.

Mehen

An instance of the game being played by a group of four players is portrayed in a scene from the tomb of Rashepses, Vizier to the Fifth Dynasty Pharaoh Djedkare Isesi:

Playing Mehen

The hieroglyphic inscriptions above the players on either side of the board simply read hꜤa mHn or "playing Mehen".


The game of Mehen is discussed in some detail in a paper by Timothy Kendall (available as a pdf download from Academia.edu (registration required)). This paper includes the image of the game being played, from the tomb of Rashepses mentioned above, as figure 4.16.


A modern version of the game, with a board broadly identical in form, is called Hyena Chase. This game also originates from North Africa.

  • But if the rules are unknown, can we really be certain it has 6 players? From the wikipedia page, I found Hyena and Senet. It mentions pictures of people playing Senet. Where are those pictures? I want to see if it's more than 2 people. We can ask the same thing of Mehen. Any ancient Egyptian pictures of 3+ people playing Mehen? EDIT lol you beat me to it with your edit, but can you link to that picture? – DrZ214 Jun 7 '18 at 23:20
  • @DrZ214 The image is included in the pdf I linked (fig 4.16). I also found this image from a Google search, but I'm not sure about the copyright status of that one. – sempaiscuba Jun 7 '18 at 23:26

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