Ours is a world rife with board games and, though their ubiquity has waned slightly due to the colossal popularity of anything played on a screen, the “analog” classics still hold their own in our decidedly digital world. As a leisure pursuit, playing board games stretches across human cultural history, so it is only fitting that several luxury brands have crafted special editions of enduring games that remind us of the elevated position they once held. Whether handmade using rare woods or dazzling crystal, these chess sets, backgammon boards and even Cluedo are as pleasing to the eye as they are stimulating to the competitive spirit.
Combining school and luck, backgammon can be traced back to ancient Persia and Egypt and is one of the oldest, continuously played board games. Hermès has created what might be among the finest backgammon sets available. Made of Java palissander wood and taurillon leather with pawns of swift calfskin, the Persepolis board is a delight for the hand as well as the eye.
Chess is emblematic of skill and power, so it comes as little surprise that the House of Baccarat marked its 250-year anniversary in 2014 with a crystal and Plexiglas chess set called “Harcourt”. Created in collaboration with Japanese design firm Nendo, with pieces hand-cut in the style of Baccarat’s signature “Harcourt No 3” glasses, this board has a commanding presence. If the ever-valuable crystal pieces manufactured by Baccarat for more than two centuries are any indication, the Harcourt will be an investment that endures.
There are few modern board games as iconic — and still as popular — as Monopoly and Cluedo. Whether buying property on Park Avenue or solving Dr Black’s murder, Linley’s exquisite leather games compendium is sure to provide ample distraction for those with a penchant for business, crime or a combination thereof.
Bridge Playing Cards and Holder by Hermès
Though the game of bridge may conjure images of “ladies of a certain age” whiling away retirement in dim parlours, the game is in fact one that requires skill, intelligence and daring. This timeless cards deck and holder from Hermès is a fitting companion for any serious fan of the game. Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are both well-known bridge players and it wouldn’t be too fanciful to imagine them playing with Hermès’ luxurious cards deck and taurillon clemence leather holder. With silver gilded edges and a signature Hermès rope print on the opposite side, these cards will make your next bridge hand all the more attractive.
Design duo Susan Zelouf and Michael Bell create award-winning, handcrafted furniture with a team of artisans. Their work features, as Zelouf puts it, “practical, elegant pieces that are built to endure”. In this vein, their games table, which features hidden boards for chess, checkers and backgammon, is hand-made from a variety of rare woods.
Having an all-in-one games box has come in handy on more than a few free evenings, and one can think of no better choice than Loro Piana’s My Fiches Box. Crafted from light lime wood and lined with a wool felt interior, it features two decks of cards and 300 gambling chips in six colours; restraint not included.
Invented in India as a means of illustrating the traditional Hindu concepts of Karma and Kama, or destiny and desire, Snakes and Ladders is a classic board game whose popularity has been steadfast for more than a thousand years. William & Son, founded in 1999 by William Asprey, a seventh generation member of the Asprey family, and known for its created and curated collection of fine leather goods, jewelry and shotguns, has produced an exquisite board handcrafted in fine leathers. The game is sure to provide an endlessly enjoyable exploration of the depths of the human psyche.
Backgammon’s deceptively simple game board and rules belie the skill, strategy and luck of the dice that underpin the game. Asprey’s backgammon set, handmade in English saddle leather and available in three sizes and six colours, is a celebration of this most civilised game.