Are you a teacher, university professor, tabletop game designer, or just someone looking for something fun to do that relates to historical events?
A great way to teach and learn history in a fun and engaging way is through board games. While historical-themed board games are plentiful, creating your own can be incredibly enjoyable.
If you need some theme ideas to create your own historical board games, follow along as we go through some topic ideas that will get everyone excited to play!
Why Use a Historical Theme for Board Games?
The best argument for a historical-themed board game is that there are just so many events, battles, periods, rulers, and societies in history to choose from. You could create games for various historical topics for a lifetime and never reach the point of running out of ideas.
Another aspect of using historical themes is there are few stories more compelling than ones that actually happened. If you search for historical themes to base your game on, it won’t take long to find a compelling story. This will make the game more interesting and more immersive for those who engage with it.
8 Historical Theme Ideas
Since you’ve decided on history as your genre, now it’s time to pick a specific theme.
With the variety and complexity of human history, you won’t have trouble choosing a theme. However, you’ll want to make sure the theme is not too broad, or on the other hand not too limiting.
For example, instead of a board game on the entire span of American history, narrow it down to the Roaring 20’s for instance. And to not be too limiting, instead of creating a game on the Battle of the Bulge, instead, you may want to broaden the scope to the European theatre of World War II for example.
Below are some great options for historical themes. These topics can be very interesting and lend themselves to many different game mechanics.
You won’t have to look too long to see examples of board games based on war. Wars have plagued the entire span of human history, so there are a lot to choose from.
Wars are also well documented, so finding information about a particular war or series of battles won’t be difficult.
If you want to create a compelling and fast paced historical board game, it’s hard to beat a well put together war game.
2. Aristocratic or political societies
If intense battles don’t interest you, there are plenty of historical games you could create that relate to aristocratic or political societies.
A lot of strategy and complexity goes into these societies, so it won’t be difficult to create a game containing different characters to see who will make it to the top.
Some examples include the Roman Republic, British Royal Family, and so much more.
3. Historical economic periods
Historical economic periods, whether a time of boom or bust could make for an entertaining board game.
Examples include the industrial revolution, the great depression, and even the age of trade by sail. A particular economic period could make for a very interesting game where players compete to dominate a thriving economy or survive through a rough one.
4. Colonialism or Empires
If you’re looking for a game for players to compete for world domination, look no further than topics related to colonialism or empires.
You can’t argue that a game that spans the entire world competing with other players to control as much land as possible wouldn’t be fun.
There are many empires on that you could base your game, so you won’t have trouble coming up with one for an empire board game.
5. Scientific advancement
Scientific advancement is another theme that may be overlooked in the realm of historical board games.
Players can compete for resources and advance their technologies beyond others to achieve technological superiority.
Just look to things like the space race, the invention of the locomotive, and pharmaceutical advancements and you’ll be sure to find an interesting topic.
History has no shortage of conspiracies. While some are completely outlandish, some have an alarming degree of legitimacy.
A truly fun mystery game could be created by a particular historical conspiracy such as a political assassination or secret society. Players could compete to uncover (or hide) the conspiracy from becoming legitimate.
7. Plagues or famines
Events like the black plague, the Irish potato famine, and even the COVID-19 pandemic would make for a great historical board game.
Players could compete to stop the spread of a disease or famine based on their location on a map, which will result in hours of intense competition.
8. Civilization growth and collapse
Another great theme for a historical board game is the rise and fall of a civilization.
Examples include ancient Sumerian, Egypt, and the Greek or Roman civilizations. There are many examples throughout the history of fantastical civilizations that were the height of human achievement only to collapse in a matter of a century or two.
Players could compete to see whose civilization will stand the test of time by obtaining resources, constructing political systems, and battling for territory.
The list goes on for historical board game ideas, but you get the picture. There is no shortage of themes, so pick one of these general themes and choose a specific period of history to go along with it.
The number of ideas for historical board game themes and how it’s played is truly endless, so don’t be afraid to give it a try. Creating a board game is accessible to anyone with little creativity and a willingness to try.