STEEPLECHASE was one of the most popular nineteenth-century versions of the Royal Game of Goose. The game first appeared in England about 1850, where it was played on an oval race course with cardboard horses and riders mounted on stands. But instead of death’s heads and bridges representing bad luck, obstacles such as jumps, hurdles, ditches, fences, and hedges appeared along the race course.
The horses and riders were moved around the track according to the spin of a teetotum or the roll of a six-sided die. The player who moved his horse around the track to the finish line first, dodging and overcoming all obstacles, was the winner. Bets were often placed on the outcome of the race, just like in real horse racing.
The popularity of Steeplechase undoubtedly encouraged the development of other types of racing games during the second half of the nineteenth century. Since many of the early race games were printed by map makers, their journeys often wove their way over boards that were actually maps.
The board for “An Eccentric Excursion to the Chinese Empire,” one of the most popular early race games published by the William Spooner Company in England in the 1840s, was decorated with all sorts of exciting mishaps and adventures, including a flight in Henson’s steam-powered airplane! More-modern versions of the game included automobiles, boats, and even airplanes racing one another.