What Are America’s Most Popular Board Games

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When the ancient tomb of King Tut was discovered in the 1920s, archaeologists were stunned to find board games, dice and playing chips dating back more than 3,000 years! In fact, Egyptians, Romans and Greeks enjoyed games similar to backgammon, checkers, dominos and chess. In America, simple games like tops, cards and jacks came over with the first settlers, but it wasn’t until the 1840s when toy companies began to take off. Mansion of Happiness was one of the first games created by the W&SB Ives Company that had children working their way down a path of good deeds to reach eternal happiness at the end. In 1860, Milton Bradley created The Checkered Game of Life, which rewarded good deeds and punished bad deeds. In 1935, the Monopoly board game rescued Americans from some of the melancholy faced during the Great Depression, and during World War II, Americans snuck maps, escape tools and real money to our P.O.W.s trapped in Nazi war camps through the Red Cross! Later, games would be based on TV shows and popular characters to keep Americans turning to good old-fashioned fun, rather than television sets for their entertainment.

The Scrabble board game is one of the most popular educational games of all time. Initially, word-smiths would choose seven random letters from a pile and see if they could create words. The players could then build off one another’s words and would vie for the most points, which were based on numbers assigned to each letter, as well as special spots on the board that awarded double or triple points. Over the years, new versions of Scrabble came out to entice buyers. For instance, there are Scrabble board games with side games like the Presidential Edition, where you must try to “win states,” earn points for popular votes and earn the commander in chief job. There’s also a Star Trek Scrabble edition, where players can consult Klingnon dictionaries and can earn “tribble” points. There are a number of special editions for children, like Scrabble Me, Scrabble Junior, Scrabble Junior 2009, Dora Scrabble Junior and Scrabble Apple. A Milton Bradley game called “Upwords” has gained tremendous popularity as a similar concept to Scrabble, except that players earn points by stacking letters on top of one another and making more than one word change at a time. Following the absorption of the Milton Bradley Company, Hasbro has re-christened the game “Scrabble Upwords.”

When discussing board games, everyone knows Monopoly. The Monopoly board game is the top-selling board game of all-time, selling over 200 million copies as of 2004. Players amass wealth by buying land around the Monopoly board and collecting taxes from other players who land on their properties. The game keeps going and going until all the players have gone bankrupt, except for the winner of course. There is literally a Monopoly for everyone! Some versions are just sensible updates, like the “Here and Now” version, where instead of buying railroads, you buy famous American buildings and landmarks; or there is also the “City Game,” where players build cityscapes in the center of the board, instead of following the outer square; or the “Here & Now World” edition for those who have plans of world domination. You can also buy games themed after the Atlanta Braves, bass fishing, The Simpsons, cats, dogs, The Beatles, A Christmas Story, the US Coast Guard, Twilight, GI Joe, James Bond, Harley Davidson, I Love Lucy, Las Vegas, M&Ms, Disney, NHL, Nightmare Before Christmas, Seinfeld, Pirates of the Caribbean and much more.

The Sorry board game is another game that has seen many updates over the years. The objective of these board games is to be the first player to get all four pawns from the start square to home, which is achieved by drawing cards. There are slight variations to the rules to make the game more complex if you buy the Sorry Sliders edition, the Sorry Card Revenge game, Shakin Sorry, the Sorry Dice N’ Grab edition, the Fun on the Run edition, or Sorry Express (the 20-minute edition for those with short attention spans). There are editions for The Simpsons, Spider Man 3, Pokémon, Splash Mountain theme park or the Key Quest/Neopets version. Indecisive purchasers can also buy the “greatest hits” pack, which includes five different versions of this classic game.

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