OTHELLO (Reversi)


The photograph on the left is a Reversi board in the collection. According to Whitehill, Reversi is a British antecedent for the game of Othello. Parlett (Oxford History of Board Games, p. 178) writes that Reversi was patented in 1888 in England, but Reversi seemed to be based upon an earlier game issued in England in 1870 known as Annexation. The earlier game was played on a standard checkerboard, while Reversi was played on a board similar to the one pictured on the left. Whitehill indicates that McLaughlin Brothers marketed the game of Reversi in the U.S. in 1888 as well. This game is classified as a "row game". (To see other "row games", click on the left menu item.)

The wooden board in the photograph however, was purchased from a shop in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1975 where it was manufactured. The board is19.9cm square on top, and is laminated to 20.8cm square board on the bottom. The sides of the board on top slope to the bottom making the board 1.2cm thick. The top has a parquet like surface of 2.5cm squares. The 64 counters are 1.5cm square with light colored wood on one side, laminated to a square of a dark colored wood. Thus the counters can be "reversed" during play of the game. Counters are stored in a suede bag.

Both Whitehill and Parlett indicate that Reversi was popular in Europe, North America and elsewhere until about 1920. Later, it was re-issued by a number of publishers under a variety of names and designs and again gained some recognition until 1968.


Chinese Friends

The photograph on the right is one of the latter editions of Reversi under the name "Chinese Friends". This copy was donated to the Museum in 1971, although it had been manufactured and sold for a number of years before that by a U.S. company - World Wide Games, Delaware, Ohio. The board is 29.5cm square and .5cm thick. The 58 counters are made of cardboard, printed with red on one side and black on the "reverse".

Othello Atari cartridge

In 1968, Goro Hasegawa published a new version of Reversi which he named Othello. This new version modified some of the play of the game, and its popularity started to spread to Europe and North America. It was first published in the United States in 1976 as a board game, and continued to be published by different manufacturers over the next few decades.

The photograph on the right is of an electronic version of the game donated to the Museum in 1982. It was an ATARI "cartridge" game that attached to a home television set through an Atari console game machine. The board appeared on the television screen, and two players interacted and played the game with a type of "game controller" attached to the game machine. To find out more about TV console games and Atari cartridges, click on the left menu item above.

Sierra PC  board graphic

Eventually, the TV type of technology for play of the game gave way to specialized software on a home computer for the game of Othello. And the circle came around again, when in 1998, Sierra, Inc. published a CD of board games that included their version of Reversi for use on a "PC". Now a player played against the computer using a mouse, and the computer "flipped" the pieces over to the appropriate color. However, in this version, it was very difficult for the human player to win!

Last update March 30, 2010