Reddit user tacomcnacho made an absolutely amazing album on imgur of 39 ancient and little-known board games from the ancient world, along with how to play them, if he could find the instructions. You can find the album here. The boards are absolutely gorgeous, as well, created by Juan Carlos Salazar, of Peru.
Pretty much all of the games were brand new to me. I really want to try Bagh Chal, though. It reminds me a bit of Thud, in a way. I really need to play that again… It’s fun, but it takes a while to get people up to speed, and unless you’re going to play with them regularly, it’s hard for people to get much enjoyment out of it after the learning part. But it is fun! And its pieces look really cool.
I really love these old, abstract games, like chess. It’s interesting to me that chess so thoroughly dominated its peers, memetically. I mean, you can certainly find these other games around, but in the western world, nothing approaches chess for popularity. It’d be interesting, if probably extremely difficult, to chart various games’ relative popularity over time. Maybe there are specific reasons why some declined in popularity while others rose. I’ve read that chess’s popularity is in part because its combination of pieces with specific roles made it uniquely well-suited to helping to explain and understand medieval society, but that doesn’t really explain why so many older games almost went extinct.