Dice and card games are almost as old as human history itself. Today we are gaining a historical overview of these two ancient forms of entertainment that have been popular in all levels of society for thousands of years and are still part of recreational activities today.


Card games - from China to Europe

It is relatively difficult to track the history of the card games in chronological order, as much of the evidence has fallen victim to time. The earliest examples of game cards are found in China and Korea. The maps came from the Far East to the Middle East and Europe. It has been proven that card games were a popular pastime in the Orient. It is therefore believed that they came to Europe through regular economic and cultural exchanges. Another theory also says that the Italian trader and traveler Marco Polo brought the playing cards to Venice after a trip. From there they expanded to all of Europe. Yet there is not enough historical evidence to support these theories. What is certain, however, is that, beginning in the 14th century, the maps spread rapidly from south to north in Europe.

The Florentine ban on “Naibbe” and the treatise by Johannes von Rheinfelden on cards are the first official evidence of card playing in the West. As with the game of dice, attempts were made to stop the card game with money stakes. But over time, the laws relaxed, which increased the variety of card games. First, regionally different decks emerged, of which the French sheet with clubs or clubs, hearts, spades and diamonds, the Spanish-Italian sheet with sticks, coins, goblets and swords, and the German sheet with acorns, hearts, bells and leaves prevailed. Second, France became the European center of the card game. Many variants were developed here and introduced to other countries in the 17th century, which still exist today in the form of the original or in a modified form. In the 20th century, the increasing popularity of board games created new forms that combined cards and the board game.

Dice games - an age-old form of entertainment

The oldest dice found come from Egypt and Mesopotamia from the third millennium BC. In addition, a board game with pieces and dice was discovered in the archaeological sites of the Sumerian city of Ur, located in Iraq. It was called “The Royal Game of Ur”, which roughly resembles “Mensch ärgere dich nicht”. The remains of a similar game called "Senet" were found in Egypt. Like “The Royal Game of Ur”, its popularity in the upper classes of society could be proven. In addition to geometric cubes, the use of so-called astragali, the ankle bones of herd animals as cubes, was widespread.

In ancient Greece, games of skill and dice with these bones were summarized under the term Astragaloi. You can still find them in some villages in France, Greece and the Middle East. The spread of dice games in all strata of society could be clearly demonstrated in ancient Rome. Basically, you played to pass the time. Just during Saturnalia, which was a festival in honor of the god Saturn around the winter solstice, gambling for money and gifts was allowed. Beyond the Roman borders, however, matches for material goods were not uncommon.

An overview of the history of dice and card games
Dice are among the oldest game elements in history and were used as early as the third millennium BC.

The Germanic peoples loved the challenge and gladly put their belongings to use. In the Middle Ages and modern times, dice games were widespread in all social classes in Europe, but they were frowned upon. For a long time, the church and the city authorities tried to prevent gambling for money and property by means of strict rules. But the efforts were in vain. "Hazard" was one of the favorite games of the European population until the 19th century, and it was even featured in many artistic and literary works of the time, such as in the painting "The Dice Player" by Simó Gómez. Although dice games were extremely popular, the combination of board, dice and pieces played a subordinate role in Europe for a long time. An exception was the popular “goose game” from the 15th century, which served as the prototype for many running games, as well as roulette, which gained popularity in Parisian casinos in the 1790s. It was not until the 20th century that board games with dice became increasingly popular.

Today the traditional forms of dice and card games as well as newer variants are popular, but the increasing numbers are falling Digitization in the entertainment industry to the victim. The future will tell us whether these traditional games, which have changed and developed over millennia, will continue to be played in company or whether they will be used as single-player entertainment through tablets and the like.