Race to the Gold Diggings of Australia board game
On display at the National Museum of Australia, Canberra
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.