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Table 2 Overview of the studies reporting the effectiveness of board games in cognitive functions

From: The effectiveness of intervention with board games: a systematic review

Authors Design Content of board game Participants Intervention Impact Effect size of board game between pre test and post test or follow-up test (Cohen’s d) Effect size of board game between the mean gain of the main experimental group and the other groups (Cohen’s d)
Iizuka et al. (2018) [6] RCT The board game “Go”: it is a famous board game in Asian countries, particularly Japan, China, and Korea, and it is gaining popularity in the United States and Europe. There are 33 participants at randomization. Analyzed participants were 17.
The intervention group: n = 9 (mean age: 89.1 ± 4.1).
The control group: n = 8 (mean age: 89.1 ± 6.6).
The intervention group: participants received the intevention program once a week for 1 h, for a total of 15 classes. Each 1-h session consisted of a lecture on the basic rules and techniques of the game GO (15 min), solving GO game exercises (15 min), and playing games (30 min).
The control group: participants received the usual care.
The intervention group showed improved attention and working memory scores, while the control group showed declines in these scores. d = 0.13 (between pre and post test) on Montreal Cognitive Assessment.
d = 0.46 (between pre and post test) on total of Digit Span Test.
d = 0.49 (between pre and post test) on Digit Span Forward Task.
d = 0.16 (between pre and post test) on Digit Span Backward Task.
d = 0.41 (between the mean gain of the intervention group and the control group) on Montreal Cognitive Assessment.
d = 0.85 (between the mean gain of the intervention group and the control group) on total of Digit Span Test.
d = 0.55 (between the mean gain of the intervention group and the control group) on Digit Span Forward Task.
d = 0.57 (between the mean gain of the intervention group and the control group) on Digit Span Backward Task.
Panphunpho et al. (2013) [24] RCT The board game “Ska”: it is a traditional board game in Thailand. The players move the pieces in the holes provided on the board. These holes are called ‘Jooms’. Each side of the board contains 1 to 12 Jooms. Participants were 40.
The Ska group: n = 20 (mean age: 64.20 ± 3.22).
The control group: n = 20 (mean age: 65.15 ± 3.19).
In the Ska group and the control group, the duration of the practice was 50 min per day, three sessions per week for the continuous duration of 16 weeks.
The Ska group: the participants received Ska program.
The control group: the activities of the control group included 1) Self-introduction, 2) Background telling, 3) Changes in older age, 4) Our body, 5) Food pyramid, 6) Watching television, 7) Listening to the radio, 8) Watering trees, 9) Parties, 10) Cleaning, 11) Listening to dhamma talks, 12) Diseases in the elderly, and 13) Your own health.
The Ska group showed significant better scores of cognitive functions in memory, attention, executive function compared to the control group. d = 2.07 (between pre and post test) on Verbal Pair Association I.
d = 2.60 (between pre and post test) on Verbal Pair Association II.
d = 1.54 (between pre and post test) on Visual Reproduction I.
d = 1.82 (between pre and post test) on Visual Reproduction II.
d = − 1.02 (between pre and post test) on Trail Making Test part A.
d = − 1.14 (between pre and post test) on Wisconsin Card Sorting Test.
d = 0.09 (between pre and post test) on Acetylcholinesterase Activity.
d = 2.36 (between the mean gain of the intervention group and the control group) on Verbal Pair Association I.
d = 2.32 (between the mean gain of the intervention group and the control group) on Verbal Pair Association II.
d = 2.24 (between the mean gain of the intervention group and the control group) on Visual Reproduction I.
d = 2.00 (between the mean gain of the intervention group and the control group) on Visual Reproduction II.
d = − 1.20 (between the mean gain of the intervention group and the control group) on Trail Making Test part A.
d = − 1.38 (between the mean gain of the intervention group and the control group) on Wisconsin Card Sorting Test.
d = 0.06 (between the mean gain of the intervention group and the control group) on Acetylcholinesterase Activity.
Demily et al. (2009) [25] RCT The chess game Participants were 26 with schizophrenia.
The chess group: n = 13 (mean age: 34.7 years old).
The treatment as usual group: n = 13 (mean age: 38.9 years old).
The chess group: the chess group practiced chess 10 times (twice per week; 60 min per session). The chess group significantly made more perseverative errors on Wisconsin Sorting Card Test than the treatment as usual group in the pre-test assessment.
But, this difference was no longer present in the second assessment.
On the Stroop Test, the number of read items of chess group was significantly increased in the second assessment for the Stroop A (Colour) and C (Interference).
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Sala et al. (2015) [26] A quasi-experimental longitudinal study: two group pre-post comparative test The chess game Participants were 560 students in the third, fourth, and fifth grades.
The intervention group: n = 309 (169 males and 140 females).
The control group: n = 251 (116 males and 135 females).
The intervention group: the intervention group received a mandatory chess course (chess course and online training). The chess courses lasted between 10 and 15 h (1 or 2 h per week).
The control group: the control group performed only the normal school activities without any chess-related activity.
The intervention group significantly improved mathematical problem-solving scores compared with the control group. d = 0.34 (between pre and post test) on mathematical problem-solving scores. d = 0.33 (between the mean gain of the intervention group and the control group) on mathematical problem-solving scores.
Sala & Gobet. (2017) [27] A quasi-experimental longitudinal study: three group pre-post comparative test The chess game, the checkers game and the Go game Experiment 1
Participants were 233 students in three classes of third and fourth grades from eight Italian schools (mean age 8.50: ±0.67 years).
The chess group: n = 53
The checker group: n = 82
The regular school activites group: n = 98
Experiment 2
Participants were 52 students in three classes of fourth grades primary school (mean age: 9.32 ± 0.32 years).
The three classes were randomly assigned to three groups (a chess group, a Go group, a control group).
Experiment 1
The chess group: the participants attended 25 h of chess lessons.
The checkers group: the participants attended 25 h of checkers lessons.
The regular school activities group: the participants attended regular school activities only.
Experiment 2
The chess group: the participants attended 15 h of chess lessons during school hours, along with regular school activities.
The Go group: the participants attended 15 h of Go lessons during school hours, along with regular school activities.
The regular school activities group: the participants attended regular school activities only.
Experiment 1
The results showed no siginificant differences between the three groups in mathmatical ability or metacognitive ability.
Experiment 2
The chess group marginally outperformed the Go group in mathematical ability.
No significant difference was found between the control and the chess group in mathematical ability.
No significant differences were found between the three groups with regard to metacognition.
Experiment 1
d = 0.04 (between pre and post test) on mathematical problem-solving scores in the chess group.
d = 0.30 (between pre and post test) on mathematical problem-solving scores in the checker group.
d = 0.36 (between pre and post test) on mathematical problem-solving scores in the regular school activites.
d = − 0.14 (between pre and post test) on matacognitive ability scores in the chess group.
d = 0.07 (between pre and post test) on matacognitive ability scores in the checker group.
d = 0.09 (between pre and post test) on matacognitive ability scores in the regular school activites.
Experiment 2
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Experiment 1
d = −0.23 (between the mean gain of the chess group and the checkers group) on mathematical problem-solving scores.
d = − 0.32 (between the mean gain of the chess group and the regular school activities group) on mathematical problem-solving scores.
d = − 0.22 (between the mean gain of the chess group and the checkers group) on matacognitive ability scores.
d = − 0.22 (between the mean gain of the chess group and the regular school activities group) on matacognitive ability scores.
Experiment 2
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Aciego et al. (2012) [28] A quasi-experimental longitudinal study: two group pre-post comparative test The chess game Participants were 230 students.
The extracurricular activity of chess group: n = 170
The extracurricular activities of soccer or basketball group: n = 60
The extracurricular activity of chess group: the participants were conducted chess as extracurricular.
The extracurricular activities of soccer or basketball group: the participants were conducted soccer or basketball as extracurricular.
The extracurricular activity of chess group significantly improved cognitive abilities (similarities, digit span object assembly mazes) and coping (identifies the problem, thinks of alternatives, assesses the alternatives, confident performance) compared to the extracurricular activities of soccer or basketball group. d = 0.38 (between pre and post test) on similarities in Wechsler Intelligence Scale for children (WISC-R).
d = 0.55 (between pre and post test) on digit span in WISC-R.
d = 0.41 (between pre and post test) on object assembly in WISC-R.
d = 0.38 (between pre and post test) on mazes in WISC-R.
d = 0.82 (between pre and post test) on identifies the problem in coping.
d = 0.71 (between pre and post test) on thinks of alternatives in coping.
d = 0.77 (between pre and post test) on assesses the alternatives in coping.
d = 0.65 (between pre and post test) on confident performance in coping.
d = 0.26 (between the mean gain of the extracurricular activity of chess group and the extracurricular activities of soccer or basketball group) on similarities in Wechsler Intelligence Scale for children (WISC-R).
d = 0.43 (between the mean gain of the extracurricular activity of chess group and the extracurricular activities of soccer or basketball group) on digit span in WISC-R.
d = 0.30 (between the mean gain of the extracurricular activity of chess group and the extracurricular activities of soccer or basketball group) on object assembly in WISC-R.
d = 0.25 (between the mean gain of the extracurricular activity of chess group and the extracurricular activities of soccer or basketball group) on mazes in WISC-R.
d = 0.52 (between the mean gain of the extracurricular activity of chess group and the extracurricular activities of soccer or basketball group) on identifies the problem in coping.
d = 0.48 (between the mean gain of the extracurricular activity of chess group and the extracurricular activities of soccer or basketball group) on thinks of alternatives in coping.
d = 0.60 (between the mean gain of the extracurricular activity of chess group and the extracurricular activities of soccer or basketball group) on assesses the alternatives in coping.
d = 0.33 (between the mean gain of the extracurricular activity of chess group and the extracurricular activities of soccer or basketball group) on confident performance in coping.
Aydin (2015) [29] A quasi-experimental longitudinal study: two group pre-post comparative test The chess game Participants were 26 students.
The chess group: n = 14 (9 males and 5 females)
The control group: n = 12 (8 males and 4 females)
The chess group: the participants were trained for chess over a 12 week-period (1 day a week, 4 h)
The control group: the participants were not trained for chess.
The chess group significantly improved math scores. d = 1.72 (between pre and post test) on math scores. d = 1.73 (between the mean gain of the chess group and the control group) on math scores.
Barrett & Fish (2011) [30] A quasi-experimental longitudinal study: two group pre-post comparative test The chess game Participants were 31 students.
The treatment group: n = 15 (5 males and 10 females)
The comparison group: n = 16 (6 males and 10 females)
The chess group: the students received chess instruction (1 day a week for 30 weeks) instead of the standard math curriculum.
The comparison group: the students received instruction in the standard math curriculum that was individualized to meet the goals and objectives of each student’s individualized education program.
The chess group significantly improved “end of year course grades”, “number, operations and quantitative reasoning” and “probability and statistics” compared with the comparison group. d = 0.21 (between pre and post test) on end of year course grades.
d = − 0.02 (between pre and post test) on number, operations and quantitative reasoning.
d = 0.13 (between pre and post test) on probability and statistics.
d = 0.84 (between the mean gain of the chess group and the compairson group) on end of year course grades.
d = 0.76 (between the mean gain of the chess group and the compairson group) on number, operations and quantitative reasoning.
d = 0.48 (between the mean gain of the chess group and the compairson group) on probability and statistics.
Gliga & Flesner (2014) [31] RCT The chess game Participants were 38 students.
The chess group: n = 20 (mean age: 9.85 ± 0.67, 10 males and 10 females)
The control group: n = 18 (mean age: 9.71 ± 0.77, 10 males and 8 females)
The chess group: the participants received one training session of chess per week for 10 weeks.
The control group: the participants received in a fun math program.
The chess group significantly increased school performance with respect to the control group. Unable to calculate Unable to calculate
Hong & Bart (2007) [32] RCT The chess game Participants were 38 students.
The chess group: n = 18 (mean age: 9.71, 12 males and 6 females)
The control group: n = 20 (mean age: 9.74, 15 males and 5 females)
The chess group: the participants received a 90 minute chess lesson once per week over a three-month period.
The control group: the participants regularly attended school activities after class.
The chess group performance on the nonverbal abilities was not different from the control group performance. d = 0.29 (between pre and post test) on Test of Nonverbal Intelligence-Third Edition. d = − 0.39 (between the mean gain of the chess group and the control group) on Test of Nonverbal Intelligence-Third Edition.
Scholz et al., (2008) [33] A quasi-experimental longitudinal study: two group pre-post comparative test The chess game Participants were 53 students.
The chess group: n = 31
The control group: n = 22
The chess group: the participants received 1 hour of chess lesson instead of 1 hour of regular mathmatics lessons per week for the duration of one school-year.
The control group: the participants received the planned five regular lessons of mathematics per week.
Calculation abilities for simple addition tasks and counting improved significantly more in the chess group than in the control group. Unable to calculate Unable to calculate