History of the World (board game)

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History of the World[1]
Designer(s)Gary Dicken, Steve Kendall, Phil Kendall
Publisher(s)Ragnar Brothers (1991),
Compendium Games (1992),
Welt der Spiele (1993),
Gibsons Games (1993),
Avalon Hill (1993),
Hasbro (2001).
Publication date1991
Playing time180 minutes

History of the World (often abbreviated HotW) is a board game designed by Ragnar Brothers and originally published in 1991. It is played by up to six different players in seven different epochs, each player playing a different empire in each epoch.

Brief history[edit]

The first edition of History of the World by Ragnar Brothers was released in 1991 (with a tea-towel board).[2] Following English, Dutch and German versions by various publishers, it was published by Avalon Hill in 1993. In 1994, History of the World won the Origins Award for "Best Pre-20th Century Boardgame of 1993". After Avalon Hill was purchased by Hasbro in the early 2000s, History of the World was re released as a big box game.[1] Ragnar Brothers released a revised version of the game, A Brief History of the World, in 2009.[3]

Game play[edit]

The game is played in seven rounds known as epochs, which correspond to different historical periods. At the beginning of each epoch, each player receives an empire card and assumes the role of that empire for the round. Each empire has advantages and disadvantages based on the order in which it appears in an epoch, starting location on the world map, its number of armies, navigation abilities (access to certain lands by sea), and whether or not it possesses a capital.

During each empire's turn, its allocated units are placed on the board beginning from its capital (or starting space) and proceeding through contiguous areas and controlled seas or oceans. Occupation of empty territory is automatic, while dice-based combat rules are applied if a unit is placed in an area already occupied by another player's forces.

At the end of each player's turn, they are given a score based on how much control they have of different regions of the board (known as "Areas") and how many capital, cities, and monuments they possess. The remains of players' empires never move again, but remain on the board for the rest of the game until they are conquered or destroyed by other empires. Players are also given "Greater Events" and "Lesser Events" cards at the beginning of the game, which can be used throughout the game to gain certain advantages.[4]

The following is list of all the empires in the game grouped by epoch and organized by their order of play in each epoch. Each empire is listed with its name, the number of armies it gets, its capital or starting location in parentheses, and the seas it can navigate in parentheses. Each epoch there is a minor empire and a kingdom that can be played as event cards, and these are listed at the bottom of the epoch.

Significant differences in the 1991 edition compared to the 1993 edition[edit]


  • There are minor differences in the board layout.
  • The Safavids and Japan are Empires, instead of the Timurid Emirates and the Netherlands respectively.
  • Most Empires differ in numerical strength from the values given above.
  • Events are drawn epoch by epoch rather than allocated at game start and are not divided into "Greater" and "Lesser".
  • There are no "Minor Empire" events.
  • Kingdoms (and Migrants, from another event) are placed by reference to a table of random locations rather than in a fixed place according to the epoch.
  • There are "Coins".
  • There are four different counter designs rather than seven, and they are not specific to an epoch. An Empire must use counters not presently on the board if possible, and Kingdoms/Migrants use the same counter design as the Empire.
  • Ships and Forts are purchased out of an Empire's total allowance at the start of the Empire's turn.
  • An Empire's Sea travel capability is not stated on its card, but Naval Expansion begins immediately after Initial Placement so an Empire can only begin Naval Expansion through seas adjacent to its starting space.
  • Oceans never have ships placed in them for any reason; the ability to traverse oceans is inherent in the Empire.
  • The defender rolls only two dice, not three, when the attack comes over the sea.
  • A fort is removed automatically on the defeat of the first defeat in its space, not separately as the result of the last defending unit's defeat.
  • Dominance of an Area is achieved by occupying two Lands (and holding a simple majority over each other player) rather than three.
  • There are Pre-Eminence markers in the game.
  • During allocation of Empires, if two players have the same Victory Point total, the tie is resolved by rolling dice, not by reference to the previous Epoch.
  • Victory is achieved by attaining the highest Victory Point total; there is no tiebreak procedure.


The game's concept of scoring based on level of control in a region was cited by designer Jason Matthews as an influence on Twilight Struggle (2005).[6]


  1. ^ a b "History of the World (1991)". BoardGameGeek.
  2. ^ "History of the World: Ragnar Brothers First edition". BoardGameGeek.
  3. ^ "A Brief History of the World (2009)". BoardGameGeek.
  4. ^ "History of the World - Manual" (PDF). Wizards of the Coast.
  5. ^ (All sourced by reference to the game components and rulebook from the "tea-towel" edition first produced by Ragnar Brothers)
  6. ^ Harrigan, Pat; Wardrip-Fruin, Noah. "Twilight Struggle and Card-Driven Historicity". In Costikyan, Greg; Davidson, Drew (eds.). Tabletop: Analog Game Design. n.p.: ETC Press. pp. 158–166. doi:10.1184/R1/6686933.

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