The games we played

Media release: Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Colourful board games, played by Australians in the early 1900s, will also tempt players at the National Folk Festival in Canberra this Easter.

'One of the most popular is sure to be Courtship and Marriage, a game for three or four players in 1909, while others may enjoy The Great Game of Charades or Hello Exchange, created in 1923 when the telephone was still a novelty,' says Zoe D'Arcy, director of public programs at the National Archives of Australia.

The games, now in the National Archives collection, have been preserved since they were submitted by the National Games Company for copyright registration, up to 100 years ago.

'They were all designed by Christopher George King who was obviously a very talented artist and illustrator,' said Ms D'Arcy.

'You can get such a nice feeling for what was happening at the time. These games gave Australians the opportunity to try new experiences, such as flying and motoring, through their board games when they could not afford the real thing.

'They also reflect our history. For example Dugouts and Trenches came out during World War I when trench warfare occupied Australia's consciousness.  And I really love the Snakes and Ladders of 1901 which provides an old-fashioned moral view.  Players slide down the snakes of avarice, pride, depravity and vanity while they climb the ladders of forgiveness, penitence, pity and faith.

'While the games may appear a bit dated, I'm sure they will still give players a bit of fun while providing a glimpse into how Australians enjoyed themselves before television monopolised our lives,' said Ms D'Arcy.

Players will have the choice of 12 games, including board versions of tennis, cricket, motoring and yachting. They can also play Around the Commonwealth by Aeroplane, created in 1911 or Motor Ride from 1916 when few Australians had the opportunity to fly or motor.

'Players of Courtship and Marriage might find themselves sent back to the bachelor's club when they offended their girlfriend's parents, or returning to the seaside after a fit of jealousy,' said Ms D'Arcy.  'But they might also advance to a proposal after charming the parents, or to an engagement after a croquet party.'

All 12 games will be available in the AXIS youth venue, the Kids Festival and the Flute 'n Fiddle venue at the National Folk Festival.  If anyone misses the games there, they can also find them on display at the National Archives of Australia.

Copyright National Archives of Australia 2018