The Mansion of Bliss

The Mansion of Bliss, England, 1822
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

During the 18th and 19th centuries there was an explosion of board game publishing. These games were intended to be both educational and entertaining and were produced mainly for children. The major topics covered were history, geography, science, religion and moral values. The Mansion of Bliss is a typical example of the Museum’s collection of 19th century race games. It is a moral game ‘designed for the amusement of youth, with a view to promote the progressive improvement of the juvenile mind and to deter them from pursuing the dangerous paths of vice’. The game is played with a teetotum (a spinning die) and accompanied by a booklet which gives a four line verse for each playing space. These outline the rewards or forfeits associated with that space. For example ‘The Truant’ and ‘Cruelty to Animals’ result in a forfeit, while ‘Obedience to Parents’ and ‘Fidelity’ are rewarded. The first player to reach ‘The Mansion Of Bliss’ in the centre is the winner.

The publishers of board games are usually very well known as their details are printed on the games. The people who actually invented the games are not so well known. The inventor of The Mansion of Bliss was Thomas Newton who was also responsible for another moral race game called Virtue Rewarded and Vice Punished.