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Ancient Board Games

AIA Game Event

Race Games
• The simplest race games are just that -- a board with spaces and a marker to move along it, and dice to tell you how far to move. Such a game may entertain a child for a little while but one quickly realizes there is no skill at all involved (except perhaps in the throwing of the dice) and no strategy. • The next introduction to race games would have been helps and hazards (as with Snakes and Ladders) themed in a way appropriate to whatever game you're playing. Still not a very challenging game though. • Adding more complications makes the game more interesting, so next we allow the players more than one piece -- so they can choose which to move -- and the ability to bump each other off the board. Add a few "safe" spots and keep the other hazards and helps and we now have a game suitable for adults.

The Royal Game of Ur
• "The Royal Game of Ur“
– The oldest complete board game known – Discovered in 1926-1927 by Sir Leonard Woolley in royal tombs in what is now Iraq – Dates back to more than 2500 B.C.E. – Found in the ruins of the city-state of Ur (where Abraham once lived – may have been played by the people of the Bible) – Found within the tombs were four boards of the same basic design representing one game – It was played by all classes of that society – The games range from simple to richly worked pieces – It is not known whether UR was the first board game ever played but it's ancient enough that everything before it is pretty much guess-work.

The Royal Game of Ur

to move them along your designated path. The goal is to introduce the seven pawns. similar to backgammon. The start square for each player. • The board is empty at the beginning. rosette squares are shown in the drawing below.Rules to Ur • Each player has seven pawns. and to be the first to have all the pawns out of the game. and three pyramidal dice each with two red and two white vertices. • Any pawns already on the board may advanced one square along your path for each movement point thrown. the path followed by each player. and the five special. • Movement points are determined by the roll of the dice as follows: – – – – three red (black) vertices yields 5 points and the right to take another turn three white vertices yields 4 points and the right to take another turn two white vertices yields no points and the turn passes to your opponent one white vertex gives 1 point and the turn passes to your opponent • Draw lots to determine the first player. This is a race game. The exit square is the one between the two rosettes. Pawns may be introduced on your first square by rolling a 4 or 5. .

Rules to Ur (continued) Direction of movement of the opposing players .

Each square. • The rosette squares and the last square are refuges: several pawns of different colors may be present without any danger. the opposing pawn is removed from the board and has to restart the game from its start square. • Each pawn must reach the last square from which it can leave the board on a throw of 4 or a 5. pawns may be attacked by opposing pawns moving in the same direction.Rules to Ur (continued) • Except when they are on the refuges. . If a pawn lands on a square already occupied by an opposing pawn. • The winner is the first player who moves all of their pawns off of the board via the exit square. may be occupied by one and only one pawn. or have entered the central line. except for the rosette squares and the leaving (last) square. • A player may have as many pawns on the board as they wish.

.Making a Royal Game of Ur of Your Own I will put a template for the game board that you can use on the Reno AIA website.

.Making a Royal Game of Ur of Your Own Template for the Royal Game of Ur dice will also be on line.

Making a Royal Game of Ur of Your Own “Tinker toy” game pieces .

-. • This very early board game was found in many ancient Egyptian tombs -. • The heiroglyph representing a Senet game is found honoring a king -.C.the object being to bear off all your pieces before your opponent does.The Ancient Egyptian Game of Senet • One very early game was that called S'n't -. it must be older still.and dates back to 3100 B. In this game of 30 squares set in three rows of 10. at least two plausible reconstructions of the rules have been made.and rebirth to try again. both player's pieces enter the board at one end of a row. drop to the final row and go back -.both of pharaohs and workers. . • Although the original rules are unknown.lately known as "Senet" or "Senat".and if the game was known and respected then. A magnificent board was found buried with Tutankhamen. proceed to the end.E. turn and go back down the middle at the end of which they turn again. Special spots on the board represent death and being turned away from the afterlife -.

Senet Cones and reed playing pieces .

The pawns located on the marked squares are in shelters. with each throw. – With three : 3 points. The first player to have put all his pawns on his own squares wins the game and earns 10 points. At the beginning of the game there are no pawns on the board. This rule does not apply for the marked squares which are shelters. X. it cannot be attacked. if possible. When a pawn has reached its last square. The game ends when the pawns of the two players are alternately placed on the first and second rows. • • • • • • • . – With none : 5 points. – With two : 2 points. the opponent is removed and must restart from the beginning. O according to the number of points thrown.Bell’s Rules to Senet • • Each player has 10 pawns. When a pawn arrives on a square already occupied by an opponent pawn. So if a pawn is already present the turn is lost. Pawns may not be stacked. III. When only one painted side is visible : – 1 point. A player may either move one pawn or add a new pawn to the board. Only one pawn may be present on each square. The first pawn to reach square number 1 earns a bonus of five points and it fixes the goal of the game: that player's other pawns have to reach odd squares whereas the opponent must reach the even squares. He also gets one point for each move his opponent makes while placing all of his remaining pawns. II. Each player in turn throws the sticks. – With four : 4 points. and puts his pawns on the board on the squares with the symbols I. Four two-sided sticks (one side painted) are thrown to determine movement.

one or two knucklebones.Kendall’s Rules to Senet • At the beginning of the game the seven pawns per player alternate along the 14 first squares. When using the sticks the points seemed to have been counted from 1 to 5: 1 point for each side without a mark and 5 points if the four marked sides were present together. 26 : House of Happiness. they have to exchange their positions. later. a "life" symbol. The starting square is counted as the 15th. The pawns move according to the throw of four sticks or. starting square and the return square for the pawns reaching square number 27. In the oldest games this square featured an ankh. When a pawn reached a square already occupied by an opponent pawn. a square that can be reached by the pawns located on squares 28 to 30 which moved back when their throws did not allow them to exit the board. a pawn may only leave when a 2 is thrown. 27: House of Water. They have to restart from square 15. a mandatory square for all the pawns. 28 : House of the Three Truths. a pawn may only leave when a 3 is thrown. The special squares have the following effects on play: – – – – – 15 : House of Rebirth. 29 : House of the Re-Atoum. . • • • The winner is the first to move all of their pawns off the board.

.Making Your Own Senet Game I will post a copy of the game board on the Reno AIA website.

Home-made Senet Game .

Home-made Senet Game .

Home-made Senet Game .

likely. that he dates to Neolithic times. . Some of these may be ancient calculators but undoubtedly some are early forms of the game. • There are so many variations of mancala that it has to have been around for thousands of years and. that look remarkably like mancala game boards. too. goes back further. • Rows of holes have been found carved on slabs in ancient structures in Egypt. Saharan remains that date back 3000 years look like mancala boards. even in the pyramid of Cheops. • Richard Leakey found some boards with two rows of thirteen holes in Kenya.about the time folks got tired of scratching holes in the dirt.• The stones are moved about holes arranged in two (or more) parallel rows on a board The Mancala Family of Games • It probably originated with seeds or beans played in holes scooped in the dirt (an extremely easy-to-make game for farmers on a lunch break) • Then it evolved into a board game -.

Mancala .

Jordan .Board Game in Jerash.

Make Your Own Mancala Game Using eight small bowls and 48 marbles you can make your own game .

• In Japan it developed into its modern form. and finally.they simply serve to mark the borders of territory. it has kept essentially the same rules for longer than any other board game out there. capture games. . and it is often considered a war game.though it has hints of some of these in it. capture is just one aspect. and the rules have not varied significantly since that time. hunt games. war games. • Because Go is really a game about capturing territory. The pieces have no differing powers at all -. because not only is it one of the oldest games known. now Baduk or Badug). • Originating in China as far back as 2300 B.Ancient Chinese Game of Wei-qi (Go) • The Game of Go ("Wei-qi" in its original Chinese form) enjoys a special place in board game history..D. Though capture is a part of Go. and it is not so much about aspects of war (generals and soldiers and war equipment) as it is about defining who owns what spaces on the board. it falls outside all the usual classifications of games: alignment games. race games -. Wei-qi spread into Korea in the second century (where it was called Pa-tok. when it traveled to Japan via trade routes sometime around the year 700 A.E.C.

Wei-qi (Go) .

.about 4000 years ago. • Whether its original form was paper (cards) and it later moved onto tiles.Another Ancient Chinese Game • Mah Jongg is said to have originated in the Tang Dynasty in China -. first to the United States and then around the world. • Only in 1920 did it step outside its country of origin and spread. or whether it began as tiles (or wooden planks) and cards later developed from it.true Mah Jong is a game for four players (and bears little relation to the dull but mesmerizing solitaire version often found on computers. • Strongly resembling the card game "Rummy" -. sometimes called "Shanghai"). most of the length of its early history has been recorded as being limited to the aristocracy -the rules were kept secret until China became a republic early in the last century! It is very likely that the earliest versions of the game would bear little resemblance to the game as played today.

Mah Jongg .

and it is not a long step from the throwing of dice to the need for some way to keep score -. sixsided die where you have an equal chance of rolling any number. traditional. too. Race Games • • One of the oldest forms of gaming.customarily valued at 1. would land in one of four ways -. With binary dice the odds on a throw of the more extreme numbers (one or six) are much less than they would be using the modern. cut in half so that when thrown it ended either round or flat side up (the type used in the game of Senet). when rolled on a hard. Dice were later made out of bones and were called "astragals“ usually the knuckle bones of sheep or goats which. with extra distance on moves and a free throw. five flat and no flat would equal six) there are so many different ways of coming up with a 2 or a 3 (ten different ways each). • • . 4 and 6. four flat. flat surface.which is why in ancient games based on binary dice you'll often see the very rare throws greatly rewarded. two flat. But using five of the stick-dice to get six different result (one flat.Dice Games. and a fair number of ways to come up with a one or a four (five ways each) but only one way of coming up with a five or a six (all flat up or all flat down) -.quite often using the small end of a branch of a tree.which is likely where the earliest of race games came from. 3. is "lots" played with dice The earliest form of die seems to have been binary -. These would certainly have been used for gambling. three flat.

Two-sided Dice .

Knuckle Bones & Dice Roman dice Numbers were assigned to each of the four long sides. .

Rome Dice Games .

or any number of the dice in order to achieve any of the above in combination with what you have left on the table. VI. VI. This continues from player to player until the combinations are achieved. Once a player has thrown one of the combinations and claimed the reward.Jactus • The object of the game – object of the game is to acquire on Venus card.I to claim a Roman coin – VI. and one coin • • Place correct number of each in the center of the table four the number of players playing The first player rolls all five dice in order to get: – I. two dog cards. The first player to hold a Venus card. 4 dog cards and two coins 2 players – use 1 Venus card. the next player can roll all. VI (Jactus Venereus) to claim a Venus card – Five of any number (Jactus Canicula) to claim a dog card • • • • • If these are not rolled by the first player. and one Roman coin.I. they start the next round. If the second player fails to achieve five of any kind. VI.I. If a player is entitled to collect a card or coin and all have been claimed. 2 dog cards.I. they can take the card or coin from another player. – – – 4 players – use 3 Venus cards. two little dog cards. 6 dog cards and three coins 3 players – use 2 Venus cards. and a coin wins the game. . the third player attempts to achieve the combinations.

This is older than the game of Ur. • Dated at 3.The Anomalous Oldest Backgammon game • In 2004 archaeologists found an old game in the 5. . and dice.E. There are also 60 pieces instead of th current 30. • Many have suggested that it is the oldest version of Backgammon ever found. • This origin is different than the usual explanation that backgammon is derived from Senet. • The Romans clearly played a direct descendant of Senet.C.000-year old city of Shahr-e Sukhteh (“burnt city). • The rules may have been very different. pieces made from turquoise and agate. the find included a rectangular board made of ebony. • The board features an engraved serpent coiling around itself 20 times producing 20 slots for the game instead of the current 24.000 B.

a game which by the 6th century was called 'Alea'. • In the first century AD. the game of the twelve lines. • Both these games and others were also referred to as 'Tabula'. a game of twelve lines • The Romans played a game they called Ludus Duodecim Scriptorum. • The game may be derived from the Egyptian Senat with a topological set of 3 x 12 points and played with 3 x 6 sided dice. The rules are still unclear. Ducodecim Scriptorum/Alea/Backgammon. .Tabula and Ludus Duodecim Scriptorum • The Romans played Ludus Duodecim Scriptorum. which was a generic name for 'boardgame' and in early mediaeval times was usually used to mean the most popular boardgame. Ludus Duodecim Scriptorum seems to have been replaced by a variant with only 2 rows of 12 points.

Ludus Duodecim Scriptorum .

Turkish Backgammon (Moultezim ). Dutch Backgammon. Acey Deucey (US Forces version of Dutch Backgammon).Shesh Besh • • The term Backgammon may be derived from either the Welsh 'back' (little) and 'gammon' (battle) or from the Saxon 'bac' (back) 'gamen' (game) Backgammon underwent another revival before the first World War but waned during the middle of the twentieth century only to recover again in the 1970s to become popular again.Tablas Reales Italy . (Moultezim).Backgammon Scotland – Gammon France . Gioul (from the Middle East).Vrhcá Vrhcáby Israel and Arabic . (Plakato). Tabard Backgammon and Icelandic Backgammon (Kotra ) (Kotra) • .TricTric-Trac Germany – Puff Spain . European Acey Deucey.Tavole Reale Czech . It is still widely played in the Middle East as Tric-trac.Modern Backgammon • Following some rule changes in the early seventeenth century the game underwent a revival and swept across Europe – Different names • • • • • • • • England . Deucey. There are a whole family of variants – – – – – – – – – – – – Chouette (3 or 4 player version) Partnership backgammon SixeySixey-Acey. Russian Backgammon. Acey. Greek Backgammon (Plakato ).

Tables had become a generic term for any game played on a flat surface or table.". • • • • • • . it was illegal in England until the reign of Elizabeth I. seems to have been introduced into Europe via Italy or Spain following the Arab occupation of Sicily (902 AD). In Japan the game was called Sugoroko and was declared illegal during the reign of Empress Jito (690 .Nard / Tabula (Tables) • Chinese history indicates that t'shu-p'u (Nard) was invented in Western India. The first mention of the game in English print was in The Codex Exoniensis published in 1025: "These two shall sit at Tables. arrived in China during the Wei dynasty (220 .265 AD) and became popular from 479 to 1000AD. Like many games played for money. but it was supplanted by Chess during the fifteenth century.. in turn.. becaming very popular in English Taverns. Nard. Nard or Tables was played throughout Europe during the middle ages. By the end of the sixteenth century. Tables was probably brought to England by men returning from the Crusades.697AD).

Nard / Tabula (Tables) .

The changes that were made to the rules of chess reflected outside life. chess was commonly played throughout Europe. It is different from many other board games because there is no luck involved. From there. • It was during the Renaissance period that the rules of chess evolved to resemble the ones used today. . • By the early 1000s. • Chess is a game of war comprising two armies controlled by two separate players. • Chess spread from India to Persia. The outcome of the game is determined solely by the skill of the player. By the Middle Ages—between 1100 and 1450—chess was Europe's most popular game among ruling classes. For example. most likely via a variety of different trade routes. but eventually became the most powerful piece on the board. and finally to the Arab world following the Arabian conquest in the 600s.Chess • While the roots of the game most likely go back much further. we can trace chess all the way back to 7th century India. it infiltrated into Europe. until the 1450s the queen had limited powers.

Chess .

. vertically. that the Mathematician. • This Devil’s Square is based upon a “Latin Square” used in combination with colored game pieces.Teufelsquadrat. Devil’s Square • The Devil’s Square was derived from a socalled “Latin Square”. Leonard Euler formulated over 200 years ago. or diagonally). The game pieces are placed on the square so that no color lies twice in a single row either (horizontally.

The Devil’s Square .

you will be carrying on a tradition thousands of years old. . why don’t you look into one of the games that we have shown you today. We will have some of the game boards. and templates for some of the game pieces posted on the local AIA website. Just think.So if you are just fiddling around anyway. And you can still play them when the power goes out.