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Death at Samarra

A two-player game of hidden strategy

Components: one PDF print-and-play file of two pages, including game rules, a 5x5 board, three black tents, three
white tents, and Merchant, Servant, and Death markers (two of each). Recommended for ages 10 and up.
Playing time: 310 minutes.

A piece may not move diagonally, jump other pieces, or

A merchant of Baghdad placed five coins in his servants hands occupy spaces with another piece.

Merchant only: revealing a piece. A player may reveal
and sent him to the market for provisions. But shortly the
the identity of an opponents piece orthogonally adjacent
servant returned, gasping and ashen-faced.
to his Merchant. The player points to the opponents piece
The merchant steadied him by the shoulders, asking,
and says, Reveal. The opponent must remove the tent of
What troubles you, my son?
the indicated piece from the board, and replace the marker
At the market a woman jostled me I turned
the space it occupied, title facing himself. The player
and it was Death. The servant shuddered. She looked at
do the same with his Merchant piece, since taking this
me, making a threatening gesture! I beg you, Master, lend
action has revealed it as a Merchant. A player may take this
me your horse that I may ride from this city. I will flee to
move only once per game.
Samarra, and Death shall not find me there!
Death only: killing a piece. A player may kill an
The merchant granted him his horse, and the servant
opponents piece orthogonally adjacent to his Death. The
mounted it, digging his heels into its flanks and riding from
player points to the opponents piece and says, Kill. The
Baghdad as fast as the horse could go.
must remove the indicated piece from the board,
The merchant pondered awhile, then took up his walking
piece is his Death, and without revealing it (if
stick and went to the marketplace. He saw Death among the
it is still housed in its tent). The player himself must then
crowd, and approached her.
the tent from his Death piece and replace the marker
Why did you make a threatening gesture at my servant?
it occupied, title facing himself, since taking
he asked.
That was not a gesture of threat, but surprise, she replied this action has revealed it as Death. A player may take this
move only once per game.
softly. I was astonished to see him in Baghdad, for I have an
appointment with him tonight in Samarra.
an ancient Middle Eastern tale W i n n i n g



One player plays from Baghdad (black), the other from

Samarra (white). Each player has three tents to match their
city, and one Merchant, Servant, and Death marker. The
players secretly place their Merchant face-up and title-outward
in one tent, their Servant similarly in another, and their Death
in the third, in any order they choose. The board may be
held vertically as a screen between the players during this
placement. Then, without revealing these choices, they
place their tents into their three city spaces (in any order)
with the symbols on their tents facing their opponent. Play
then begins.

Beginning Play

Players decide who goes first. The first player only takes one
move for his first turn. For all turns thereafter, players take
two moves per turn. This rule is to counter the first-turn


A piece is a character marker, whether or not still housed

in its tent. Each of the following counts as one move:

Moving a piece. A player may move one of his pieces
one space orthogonally (i.e., forward, backward, left, or right).

A player may win by:

Reaching safety. If a players Servant enters his opponents
city while the opponents Death is not inside, that player
immediately wins.

Killing the Servant. If a players Death kills his opponents
Servant, that player immediately wins.

Additional Rules

Automatic kill. If a player moves any of his pieces into
his opponents city while the opponents Death is inside,
the players piece is instantly killed (see above), unless the
opponents Death has already killed a piece. This does not
cost the opponent a move, but he may not kill again.

Passing. A player may chose to pass one or both
moves for a turn. However, if a player passes both moves,
his opponent passes both moves, then the player passes
both moves again, that player loses immediately.

Repeating. Except by passing, a player may not end
a turn with the board in the same state as when the turn
began, e.g. move a piece forward, then back. Multi-turn
repetitive patterns are also illegal. If play has reached a
stalemate where neither player is able to move his Servant
into his opponents city, the player whose Servant is closest
to his opponents city is declared winner.

Death at Samarra, First Edition. By Strangelander, September 02, 2008.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

S a m a r r a






B a g h d a d

Print this page on paper,

glue it to thin cardboard
(cereal box, notepad back)
and let dry. Cut each piece
out, and follow guide below
for assembling tents.
For best results, use 3M
Super 77 spray adhesive
with cardboard, and an
X-Acto knife or scalpel
for cutting.


Score along
dashed lines.


Apply white
glue to tabs.


Fold, affixing
tabs. Let dry.

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