Most hobbies come with deeply rooted traditions, lore, and structures that feel like they've been in place since the dawn of time. In reality, our favorite pastimes evolve over time, but that evolution carries fascinating stories that have helped shape the culture of the games we've grown to love. Board game tables are no exception. While we can't explore the pre-history context of board games, there is plenty to dig into when it comes to board game table history spanning from over 5,000 years ago to the modern-day.
The First Known Board Game Tables
The history of board game tables is closely tied to our known history of board games. As far back as 5000 years ago, in the year 3000 B.C. there is documentation of the first "table games" in Persia. Games such as Backgammon and its many variations were played and shared throughout ancient Persia, Egypt, Rome, and China.
Archaeologists have been able to recover stone game playing surfaces used in ancient Rome as far back as the 2nd century. While these ancient board games didn't incorporate the use of a standard table, as modern board game tables have, the playing surfaces are clear predecessors to the board game tables we use and love today.
One of the oldest recovered board game table sets is the Gloucester Tabula Set which has been dated to the 11th or 12th century and was discovered at Gloucester Castle in 1983. From what was recovered, the game of tabula consisted of 30 pieces and may have been a predecessor to backgammon.
Over the following centuries, board games and variations of board game tables continued to evolve, with references to tabletop gaming being found in 14th-century artworks and as you move closer to the modern-day, more and more intact board game sets and tables have been recovered.
Interestingly, Henry VIII passed a law in 1512 that "prohibited the common man from taking part in sporting activities such as real tennis, skittles, bowls or card, and dice games." The idea was to have the common man save his energy for work. Thankfully, we don't live under such laws today!
The Evolution of Board Game Tables
As card games and board games became more and more popular, board game tables that better resemble our modern game tables began to emerge. The example below is a tripod card table from the early 18th century and features a captivating needlework top. For contemporary board game enthusiasts, it's hard not to see the resemblance to Settlers of Catan in the shape of this table.
As you get closer to the modern-day, you can find some amazing advancements in board game tables, in particular during the 18th century when Louis XVI game tables rose to popularity. These board game tables closely feature solid wood tops, four legs, and a smooth playing surface that most modern tables provide. In some cases, chess boards and other game boards were built into the tabletop, making the table multi-purpose.
As you enter the Victorian era gambling and card games became increasingly popular, but with the games themselves not evolving, there was a tendency to add ornamentation to the game tables. Craftsmen would go to great lengths to carve intricate tripods for the base of the table and even develop folding tables to allow for easy storage throughout the house.
Modern Day Board Game Tables
In the 20th-century board games began to evolve in a way the world had never seen before. Thanks to advances in manufacturing, new materials allowed for an explosion in creativity when it came to board game pieces, game board designs, and the complexity that could be added to games via game instructions and printing technologies, all of which could now be produced and distributed at scale.
Because of these advancements, board game culture changed, allowing for role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons to develop, along with strategy games and story games of all varieties to come to life. The impact of these games on the board game table cannot be understated.
Many modern board game tables now feature card slots, game piece holders, dice bins, and even cupholders across multiple player stations, allowing for each player to keep their game components organized without interfering with the playing area or board game playing surface.
Some of the most advanced modern board game tables can convert from a dining room table to a tabletop game table simply by removing the dining top. This allows for the dining room in a home to have multiple uses, making it easy to switch from dinner time to game night without much fuss at all. Unfortunately, these tables won't do your dishes. At least not yet.
If there is one thing that has remained the same throughout the history of board game tables, it's the desire to build them with high-quality hardwoods and other high-end materials that bring a vibrant aesthetic to the game playing experience.
Build Your Own Table
Interested in building your own board game table? Bandpass Design offers a unique dining room board game table that is perfect for tabletop games. Whether it's for family game night, hosting a party, or gathering with your favorite board game enthusiasts, these tables are made of the highest-end materials on the market.
With multiple sizes available, Bandpass' Dresden Board Game Table allows you to customize a wide range of features including:
- An inset with velveteen or speed cloth and your choice of color
- Your choice of dining top or no top at all
- Various style packages include mid-century modern, Danish, Craftsmen, and more.
- Your choice of hardwood, including Walnut, Cherry, White Oak, and Maple.
In need of additional customizations or a size, we don't offer? We can take custom orders as well.