3

Hex is likely the most famous early application, circa 1942.

The wiki for Sannin Shōgi, a modernization of three-player Shogi, puts the invention of that game circa 1930.

This article Games for Three lists Three-Handed Hexagonal Chess as first developed in 1912 by by Sigmund Wellisch.

  • Are there earlier applications of hexagonal gameboards?

Stern-Halma (aka "Chinese Checkers") is the earliest application I've found so far. Although the board is not formally divided into hexagons, the center region allows 6 directions for movement from a single cell. (This is allowed because the tokens are place in the intersections of triangles--triangles seem to have preceded hexagons for three-player variants of popular combinatorial games.)

  • A single cell (not a tile) allows six-directional movement, that's one. Tiles is plural. I wouldn't have counted it on principle, but there's a technicality too. – Nij Oct 25 '17 at 18:11
  • @Nij Are you referring to Stern-Halma? My feeling is that the effect of the board configuration is analogous to an hexagonal tile, but I am definitely interested in opinions on the subject. – DukeZhou Oct 25 '17 at 18:15
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    Yes. I don't think it can be called a game based in hex tiles, but it's very close to proto-hexagonal tiling, if that makes sense. – Nij Oct 25 '17 at 18:44
  • @Nij "proto-hexagonal tiling" is a great definition! – DukeZhou Oct 25 '17 at 19:45
2

One possible answer could be the game Agon (sometimes called "Queen's Guards" or "Royal Guards"). I ran across a reference to the game in the book "A world of chess: its development and variations through centuries and civilizations" (Cazaux, J., & Knowlton, R., 2017). They state the following:

Perhaps the earliest recorded board game using hexagonal cells is Agon, a very original strategic Pawn game first published in 1842.

There were some claims that the game originated in the 18th century, but apparently the first published record of the game can be verified as 1842.

Cazaux, J., & Knowlton, R. (2017). A world of chess: its development and variations through centuries and civilizations. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., .

  • Excellent answer! – DukeZhou Oct 31 '17 at 16:55

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