Printed board games originated in the 18th century. Originally they were simply printed on paper. Later, this was linen-backed and, later still, reinforced with card. The earliest games were map-based but, by the late 19th century, most board games were based on social or geographical themes and had a strong moral theme. One of these was The Chequered Game of Life invented in 1859 by Milton Bradley. In 1959, the company which Bradley founded produced an updated version, called The Game of Life, to celebrate its centennary.
One of the oldest board games is Snakes and Ladders. The game originated in India, probably about 200 BC. It was brought to England during the British Raj in the 1890s. The American version, called Chutes and Ladders was introduced in 1943.
Another game brought to England from India during the 1890s was Ludo, a version of the Indian game of parcheesi. It was introduced in England in 1896.
Monopoly is generally attributed to Charles Darrow who designed the game in 1933. He offered it to Parker Brothers in 1934 but was turned down. However, in 1935, Parker Brothers reconsidered and bought the rights to the game. At least two games bearing a very striking similarity to Monopoly pre-date it. In particular, The Landlord’s Game was patented by Elizabeth Magie in 1904 and offered to Parker Brothers in 1924. The Landlord’s Game, like Monopoly, had 22 properties, 4 railroads, 2 utilities, Jail and Go to Jail spaces. It was designed to demonstrate the single-tax theory (that only property, and not income, should be taxed) and other Quaker principles which Magie believed in.
Scrabble was invented in the early 1930s by Alfred Mosher Butts At first the game was called Lexiko and, then, Criss Cross Words. Butts sold the game to James Brunot who made some minor adjustments and changed the name to Scrabble. In 1952, being unable to keep up with demand for the game, Brunot sold the rights to Selchow & Righter who have sold over 100 million sets.
In 1973, Dave Ameson and Gary Gygax created a whole new category of fantasy and adventure games when they released Dungeons and Dragons.