3 Games That Have Travelled the World

Photo: Convertkit - Unsplash

One of the greatest pleasures that comes from travelling is the chance to sample the traditions of different cultures. And if there is a single form of entertainment which spans the entire globe, it’s gaming. It can be fascinating to learn that some of our best-loved games have travelled many miles to become a common presence in our homes and gathering places. Although the impulse to compete, play and challenge our brains seems universal, separate countries and cultures have approached it in different ways.

We’ve taken a look at three familiar games and learnt a little bit more about their fascinating, far-flung origins.


As one of the oldest games still in existence, chess occupies a prestigious spot on the world gaming stage. It is thought by many to have originated in India during the 6th century, slowly spreading through Ancient Persia and into Europe. Although some of the original pieces had different significations to the ones we’re used to today, the basic premise was already there, and the way was paved for chess to be born.

Today, professional and amateur chess games alike are played on an 8 x 8 grid with 16 pieces allocated to each player. These pieces move in different ways; for example, the knight can move in an L shape, whereas the bishop can only move diagonally. The aim of the game is to defeat your opponent by capturing their king. This is known as checkmate. Different sets of opening moves have their own names, such as the Queen’s Gambit or Sicilian Defense, adding to the mystery and esteem of this well-loved game.


Known from the 17th century onward as “vingt-et-un”, or 21, this popular casino staple has taken many twists and turns on its journey from France and Spain to the US to the Klondike gold rush of northern Canada.

The basic premise of blackjack revolves around getting your hand as close to 21 as possible; rather than play against others, you are simply in competition with the dealer. Despite this relatively simple-sounding setup, there are a range of different variations which have developed over the years, with some being more closely associated with the USA whereas others have a distinctly European flavour.

Although the American version of the game – often referred to as Classic Blackjack – is the most widely played, there are popular variations of it. One of these is Vegas Strip Blackjack, and no, it doesn’t involve removing any articles of clothing. Commonly found on the Vegas Strip itself, the main difference in this game is that the dealer will only peek on an ace, rather than any other card. Meanwhile, European Blackjack means the dealer won’t receive their hole card until after the player has declared their next move.

Photo: Richard Bell –


Although this neat little game is best known from the puzzle page of your daily newspaper, it has circumnavigated the world in order to land there. Originating in France, before passing through the mind of Howard Garns in the US, it eventually became big in Japan thanks to the attentions of Maki Kaji, a man from Hokkaido known as the “Godfather of Sudoku”. And once it boomed there, it spread across the globe as a full-blown number-based phenomenon.

Making up a grid of nine squares, the average sudoku puzzle asks the solver to insert single digit numbers in such a way that each row, column and 9-square ‘subgrid’ contains the numbers 1-9. It may sound complex when written out like this, but it can also be surprisingly simple to solve. Easier versions of the game will already have some numbers filled in for the player; harder versions will start with many more blank squares.

Some people claim that it became so popular in Japan because the written language there makes it difficult to create satisfactory crosswords. Whatever the reason, it seems that people from all walks of life love to challenge their grey matter with a quick sudoku puzzle during their downtime.