Game History Timeline

Peter CoddleDiscover more key moments in American board and card game history from The Strong’s collections by visiting the museum’s online exhibits.


Pigs in Clover: This dexterity puzzle, invented in 1889 by Charles M. Crandall, fueled a craze that distracted senators during Senate debates; even President Benjamin Harrison played with it at the White House.

Peter Coddle: This game (from about 1890) is a long printed story containing blanks, read aloud, into which players supply the (noun) word for each blank in turn, resulting in nonsensical hilarity. The game’s influence on contemporary games can be seen in today’s Mad Libs. 

Authors: The 1861 card game is basically “Go Fish.” Players attempt to form sets of authors’ works and thus score points. The educational component appealed to parents and helped popularize this game. 

Parcheesi: Along with checkers, chess, and backgammon, Parccheesi is one of the few ancient games that survive today virtually unchanged.

Fish Pond: Versions of this classic 1890 dexterity game were produced by nearly all the major late 19th-century game makers. Some even made magnetized examples similar to contemporary versions.District messenger boy game

District Messenger Boy: A generic title for a series of late 19th- and possibly early 20th-century games based on the “rags-to-riches” boys’ novels of Horatio Algier Jr. Players start at the bottom of the “firm” as a messenger and the winner is the first to become company president. Unlike earlier religious and morality-based games that rewarded virtuous behavior, Messenger Boy players scored points for industrious behavior.


Scrabble: The board game grew out of a popular fascination with crossword puzzles in the early and mid-20th century. The Scrabble app (and competitor Words with Friends) is among the most popular of current Facebook games.

Electric Football: Manufactured in 1947, the game grew into a hit. Simple vibrating technology allowed for not-very-realistic football action. Sports fans of all ages seemed to love the game and millions sold.

Risk: Originally appearing in France in 1957 as LaConquette do Monde (the conquest of the world), players attempt to dominate the world. Risk paved the way for many war games, strategy games, and eventually electronic games that followed in its wake.Candy land

Candy Land: Eleanor Abbott designed the game in 1945 while recovering from polio. Scholars believe that Candy Land, in part, grew out of a wish to keep the smallest children indoors to (incorrectly) offer them more protection from the threat of polio. It remains one of a child’s first games.

Clue: Originally marketed as Cluedo, the game was invented by Englishman Anthony Pratt in 1944 as a means of keeping people occupied while they sat in air-raid bunkers during World War II. Parker Brothers renamed it “Clue” and most players are still familiar with the longest lived characters: Colonel Mustard, Miss Scarlet, Ms. White, Professor Plum, Mr. Green, and Ms. Peacock.

Yahtzee: The dice game first appeared in 1956 and is based on several other historic and very similar dice games. Today there are multiple electronic versions of Yahtzee.


Twister: This so-called “stockin’ foot game” and the first to use players’ bodies as playing pieces, appeared in 1966. Not selling well at first, it became a sensational seller after late-night TV host Johnny Carson played the game on his show with beautiful starlet Eva Gabor. The game initially raised furor for selling “sex in a box” but eventually marketed itself for children and still sells strongly.

Strat-O-Matic Baseball: Invented in 1961 by Bucknell University mathematics student Hal Richman, the game remains one of the most popular baseball simulation games in the world. Many competitors produce similar versions but none approach the sales volume or recognition of the Strat-o-Matic brand. It is now available for online play as well.Mystery Date game

Mystery Date: Legendary toy inventor Marvin Glass devised the game to appeal to teenage girls in 1965. A roll of the dice determined if players would partner with a “dreamboat” or a “dud.” Television advertising and an unforgettable jingle added to the game’s initial success.

Rubik’s Cube: Hungarian sculptor and mathematics professor Erno Rubik invented the 3-D mechanical puzzle in 1974 and originally called it “Magic Cube.” The clever puzzle fostered many competitive “speedcubing” contests, which still occur worldwide.

Dungeons & Dragons: Devoted wargamers Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson modified a war game and developed their role-playing game system, marketed under the name Dungeons & Dragons, beginning in 1974. The game helped pave the way to later electronic games and gaming systems, not to mention the massively multiplayer online role-playing games themselves. The Dalluhn Manuscript, two hand-typed volumes most likely authored by Gygax and Arneson in spring of 1973, is on display in Game Time! and is thought to be either a play testing document or a prototype example serving as a model for the more finished product released the next year. Some experts believe this manuscript to be the earliest existing version of Dungeons & Dragons.Settlers of Catan

Settlers of Catan: The first German-style board game to achieve popularity and recognition outside of Europe, designer Klaus Teuber’s 1995 Settlers of Catan still enjoys popularity today. The game won numerous awards initially, and has been translated into 30 languages to date. Catan’s players build settlements, cities, and roads on the fictional island of Catan, collaborating and competing for resources and trying to out build opponents. It has fostered numerous spin-off games and video games.