We feel connected to the rest of the world more than ever before when it comes to entertainment and culture. Open up Netflix and you’ll have an entire catalogue of Scandinavian dramas to choose from, while a click onto a sports channel can reveal live soccer from all four corners of the globe.
But when it comes to the more traditional games, which have been around for centuries, many have just not hit the mainstream. And what’s more, those that have seem to have had their origins lost.
With us all having more time than ever before due to the closure of entertainment and social venues across the world, it seems like a good idea to look at some of the more traditional games still played around the world today.
1. Bingo (Italy)
We’re going to start with a game everybody knows and loves, but one few can probably tell you the history of. Bingo is a game that is so simple to play and can be enjoyed for fun at home, at bingo halls (if they have reopened in your country) and even online.
In fact, the internet has resurrected what was a game dying out, with more players than ever now enjoying sites like Ted Bingo. That’s largely due to the fact these sites are appealing to a brand new audience, a younger, tech-savvy generation that wants their gaming fast and easy.
New variants appeal to this impulse and it’s having a knock-on effect too as new bingo nights are being set up offline, appealing to students away from the traditional bingo halls.
The game itself dates back as early as 1530, and originates from the first Italian lottery, the Il Gioco del Lotto d’Italia. From there it spread across the border to France and was played by the aristocracy there.
By the 18th century it had spread across Europe, with the Brits then renaming it bingo, a term that has stuck ever since.
There was a real boom in the 1980s, but throughout the 2000s, the game began to die out, until online sites began to allow users to play. Today you can play just about anywhere, with mobile bingo among the most popular forms.
It’s perhaps the best example, alongside poker, of a traditional game really transforming in order to stay relevant, and one of the most popular games worldwide.
2. Mahjong (China)
Mahjong is another game that has seamlessly transitioned to online play, which is in large part the reason why it is as well-known as it is in the Western world.
However, it still isn’t universally popular and there will be plenty of people who aren’t aware of this ancient Chinese tile game.
Dating back to the Qing Dynasty, the game is played by matching tiles that are free on the gaming board. These are the tiles that have at least half of their sides not touching another tile. Once matched, the tiles are removed from the board, with the aim of the game to remove all tiles.
It’s played with 144 tiles, all represented by Chinese symbols and the game has changed very little since its first inception. Across China, however, you will find regional variations on rules, but the principle remains the same.
You can play against an opponent or on your own, and it’s a game that is incredibly fun, yet vastly underplayed. It’s been scientifically proven to be good exercise for your brain, with players required to use logic in order to remove all pieces from the board.
If you’re looking to learn how to play Mahjong, check out this fantastic YouTube video which shows you how to play in under three minutes.
3. Lambs & Tigers (India)
Lambs and Tigers is a popular Indian game that is rarely played outside the country, and is often also referred to as Pulijudam, or Game of Goats and Tigers.
It’s an ancient game that originates from the south of the country in regions such as Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, but has since spread across the entire nation.
It’s a game that’s simple to play, with the game played on a triangular shaped grid with a trapezoid running through the middle. Two players are required and it’s a hunt style game in which the tigers must hunt the lambs.
One player will be in control of three tigers, while the other is in control of 15 lambs that must block the tigers from hunting. Players must move across the points on the board, with tigers able to take lambs from the board when they can leap them.
The key rules to make note of are:
- They can capture lambs as soon as the game starts
- Can only capture one goat at a time
- Cannot jump over another tiger
- Lambs leave the board when captured
- Lambs can only move once all 15 lambs are on the board
- They cannot leap tigers or other lambs
A player with lambs wins if the tigers can no longer move, with players with tigers required to leap all 15 lambs.
It’s a fun strategy game played in a similar vein to checkers, and you will find some variations of this online to play.
4. Petanque (France)
Petanque is a form of boules played in France that has been enjoyed since the early 1900s, with the current form originating in La Ciotat, a small town around 15 miles east of Marseille.
While not hugely renowned worldwide, there are many leagues set up globally, creating fantastic little communities of petanque players as far away as Brazil, Japan and Australia.
It’s a game that’s simple to play, with players required to launch their boules as close to the target as possible. At the end of the round, the player with the boule closest wins the point.
You’ll find the game played on dirt and gravel across cities in France, with parks in Paris awash with petanque players. What’s more, all you need is a selection of balls to start playing.
This YouTube clip explains the rules in further detail. Why not check out whether your college or town has a league and get started today?
5. Zamma (Africa)
Zamma is a game particularly popular in North Africa and is similar to the game of draughts in how it is played.
It’s played on a 5x5 or 9x9 grid, with each player’s pieces starting in their own half of the board. The aim is then to move the pieces in order to capture your opponents. The player who captures all their opponent’s then wins the game.
A player captures an opponent’s piece by leaping them in exactly the same manner as draughts, with pieces that reach the other side of the board being crowned Mullah, and enjoying free movement.
If you’re looking for an alternative to draughts, then this is a great option, particularly as it’s still rarely found or played in the western world.