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PhiNotPi's avatar

What are some "exotic" board games that are from around the world?

Asked by PhiNotPi (12677points) May 28th, 2012

Last week, I learned how to play Mu Torere, one of the only games known to be indigenous to the Maori tribe of New Zealand.

This made me interested in other foreign board games. To be specific, I am looking for some games that are played by completely different cultures, other than in America/Europe.

Do you know a game played in the Amazonian rain forest? Great! Do you know a game that originated in Sub-Saharan Africa? Also great! Is the game thousands of years old? Perfect!

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15 Answers

Mariah's avatar

Mancala is a good one.

gailcalled's avatar

The Japanese board game “Go” is alleged to be over 2000 years old.


The Arabic game, “Mancala” is believed to have existed 1300 years ago.


Oware, similar to Mancala is apparently from Ghana.

Nullo's avatar

@gailcalled There is what appears to be a (somewhat weathered) mancala-esque board scooped out of a stone step in the Forum Romanum.

gailcalled's avatar


I used to play Parchisi as a kid.

Another oldie is knucklebones, precursor to jacks.

PetLoverHi's avatar

Royal Game of Ur and Senet they are really awesome!

Adagio's avatar

While I grew up in and still live in NZ, I have never heard of the game Mu Torere although I am aware that Maori have their own traditional games so am not doubting its existence at all although I have to query the spelling, the word Mu does not sound/seem at all Maori, the wrong combination of letters…

Adagio's avatar

@gailcalled I spent so many happy hours playing knucklebones as a child, thanks for the reminder : ^)

PhiNotPi's avatar

@Adagio Mu Torere could be a slightly westernized version of the spelling.

2davidc8's avatar

There is an Asian version of chess that has a few similarities to the Western game, but is really quite different. As I recall, it has no “queen”, for example. The “pawns” are called “soldiers”, and there are only 5 of them per side. There is piece that moves like the rook but is not called anything like that (I forget what, though). And then there is the “cannon”.

mattbrowne's avatar

Settlers of Catan. Alhambra. Tikal. El Grande. Manhattan. Scotland Yard. Enchanted Forest.

Germany is board game country. There are hundreds and most of them are unknown outside of Germany. Check out this list:

LittleLemon's avatar

@2davidc8 Is it a variant of this: ?


2davidc8's avatar

@LittleLemon Yes, that is the Japanese variant. The Chinese variant is Xiangqi. If you dig deeper, you can probably find other variants. The Chinese and Japanese versions are actually quite different.

And, if I recall correctly, the Western version of chess is thought to have originated in India, no?

bookish1's avatar

@2davidc8: Yesh, that’s what my Indian dad told me. But he is a bit chauvinistic. I’ve heard both Russians and Chinese claim that their civilizations invented chess as well :-p

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