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John Jefferys, is the first game designer to whom a game design can be definitively ascribed. (Note: In the Anglophone world, at least; prior dates are welcome.)
He is the designer of Journey Through Europe, published in 1759 by Ravensburger. The game is inscribed "Invented and sold by the Proprietor, John Jefferys, at his house in Chapel Street, near the Broad Way, Westmr. Writing Master, Accompt. Geographer, etc. Printed for Carrington Bowles, Map & Printseller, No 69 in St. Paul's Church Yard, London. Price 8s. Published as the Act directs, September 14th, 1759."
As with most 18th century British original board games, it is a track game, with the kind of game mechanics familiar in track games today (e.g., landing on certain spaces advances you or sends you back to other spaces). Rather than using dice, players used a teetotum, a multi-sided top, with a number on each side, players moving the number of spaces indicated by the uppermost side when the top falls. (Dice were considered gambling instruments, and not appropriate in Christian households.)
- FRB Whitehouse (Table Games of Georgian and Victorian Days, Priory House, Herfortshire, UK, 1951)