Milton Bradley: The Father of Board Games

The 1900s saw Milton Bradley expand its offerings. In addition to games like Candy Land and Twister, the company also began marketing early education games based on German kindergarten founder Friedrich Froebel’s philosophy.

In 1860, Milton Bradley printed images of Abraham Lincoln that sold well for his lithograph business in Springfield, Massachusetts. But when he changed the image to show Lincoln with a beard, sales plummeted.

The Checkered Game of Life

You’ve likely played a game made by the Milton Bradley Company—from Battleship to Candyland, Jenga to Twister—but did you know that it all began with The Checkered Game of Life? That was Milton Bradley’s first board game, created in 1860.

In those days, lithography was a booming business for Bradley, so when it slowed down, he decided to try his hand at making games. His first creation was a board game that used a modified checkerboard and spinner instead of dice. The player moved from Infancy to Happy Old Age by moving around the board, gaining or losing points along the way.

Unlike modern versions of the game, which make money and success a main focus, Life was designed to reward players for virtues like honor and perseverance. However, the Civil War broke out and Bradley shifted his focus to producing travel-sized games for soldiers. As a result, he solidified his success in the game industry.


Chess evolved from earlier Indian board games, like chaturanga. It took several centuries for it to reach Europe, where the modern rules of the game emerged. The major change was around 1475, when pawns gained the option to move two squares on their first turn. Counselors also gained the ability to promote into queens, which increased their value and made pawn promotion a significant factor in the game.

Marty has been a video and board gamer since the Atari 2600 and Uno (both from the 70’s). He believes that all unblocked games teach kids executive functioning, including planning, organizing, strategizing, paying attention to details and keeping track of time and space. He wants his sons to have great memories of family and friends sitting around the table captivated by their cards/tokens/miniatures, feeling good about a win and learning how to deal with a loss. He can be found on BoardGameGeek as feldmafx.


Backgammon is played on a special board with 24 thin triangles in alternating colors called points. Each player has an inner and outer table. A raised section down the middle of the board is called the bar. A player who hits one of his opponent’s checkers on the bar must place it on the bar and cannot reenter their own inner table until they roll again. Players use fifteen white disks, five black disks and two dice as well as a doubling cube.

The doubling cube is an important tool in the game, but it must be rolled before each move. The rules of backgammon vary according to whether the game is played for money or match play, and these differences affect strategy. The game also has several tournaments that are held around the world. The USBGF, an organization that promotes the game of backgammon, has established rules for tournaments that follow accepted practices. The game is a fast-paced, strategic and entertaining way to spend time with family or friends.

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The fact that many of Milton Bradley’s games are still available today is a testament to their longevity. These classics include Candyland, Connect Four and Twister. It also shows how timeless their creative vision really is.

Another board game designer who was able to capitalize on this new trend was George Parker. He took his first game Banking and marketed it as a way to instill moral values in young people. But he realized that people were more interested in having fun than in having the game preach to them.

A few more modern technological impacts that helped bring back the popularity of board games were YouTube videos from Wil Wheaton (of Star Trek and The Big Bang Theory fame) and a series on Netflix called TableTop. These videos paired celebrities with board games and featured discussions about the games and how to play them. The popularity of this format helped bring a whole new audience to the board gaming world.

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