Game Plan: Board Games Rediscovered
at V&A Museum of Childhood
Until 23rd April 2017
Go directly to jail. Do not pass GO, do not collect £200.
Some phrases from childhood are embedded in the collective conscience. Board games, like Monopoly, summon memories of rainy winter afternoons, of Christmas get-togethers and family traditions. And family squabbles.
The new exhibition Game Plan: Board Games Rediscovered at the Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green is an engaging and, for adults, memory-jogging show looking at the history of the board game. From its very earliest incarnations in the Far and Middle East, right up to the modern-day resurgence with cult board games like Settlers of Catan.
Board games emerged in all cultures, all religions and all around the world. The outwardly simple, but actually fiendishly complex, game of Go was first played in China over 2,500 years ago. Snakes and Ladders originally hailed from India, with a number of different versions adapted to each of the subcontinent’s major religions.
As well as the ubiquitous and ever-popular games like chess, draughts and Ludo, Game Plan reintroduces some board games now lost to us. In the 18th and 19th century, games like The Game of the Goose enjoyed tremendous popularity. Perhaps the more overtly moralising tone in these games made them less likely to maintain their early success.
Throughout the exhibition Game Plan gives visitors the opportunity to roll the dice or spin the wheel and actually play these board games, both ancient and modern. You can even get an Instagrammable-moment behind bars in Monopoly’s jail. All good clean fun.
Board games seem to function ultimately to teach us all about chance, decision-making and life’s sometimes random unfairnesses and cruelties. In board games, as in life, there are always more snakes than ladders.
Game Plan: Board Games Rediscovered is on at V&A Museum of Childhood until 23rd April 2017.
All photographs ©The London Art File
Daily 10am – 5.45pm