Race to the Gold Dig­gings of Aus­tralia board game

On dis­play at the National Mu­seum of Aus­tralia, Can­berra

Australian Geographic - - Geo buzz -

IN THE 1850s, hun­dreds of thou­sands of im­mi­grants ar­rived to seek their for­tunes on Aus­tralian gold­fields. In the UK, in par­tic­u­lar, the dis­cov­ery that this re­mote con­vict colony was rich in min­eral wealth caused much ex­cite­ment.

Race to the Gold Dig­gings of Aus­tralia was made in Lon­don in about 1855 and re­flects how the hot news topic of the day had cap­tured the imag­i­na­tion of ev­ery­one, in­clud­ing chil­dren. Printed on linen and hand­painted, it isn’t quite a tra­di­tional ‘board’ game, ei­ther phys­i­cally or con­cep­tu­ally.

In the 19th cen­tury, board games were mostly in­tended for chil­dren, and at­tempted to in­struct as well as en­ter­tain, preach­ing the virtues of hard work and thrift. In con­trast, this game is purely for fun, fo­cus­ing on the ad­ven­tures and per­ils of the high seas and of dig­ging for gold.

Play­ers leave the port of Ply­mouth in Eng­land and sail past Madeira, the Ca­nary Is­lands, Sierra Leone and St He­lena, be­fore round­ing the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa.

They even­tu­ally ar­rive in Port Phillip bay in Vic­to­ria and at­tempt to find their for­tune (rep­re­sented by big bags of gold), all the while try­ing to avoid land­ing on num­bers that mean they miss a turn or get elim­i­nated. It’s telling that the win­ner is the first to ar­rive in Aus­tralia, where their un­told wealth awaits.

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