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The Traditional Board Game Series Leaflet #9: Ludus Duodecim Scriptorum


by Damian Walker
Players wishing to study this game further may find food for thought in the
following selection of books.
Bell, R. C. Board and Table Games from Many Civilizations, vol. 1,
pp. 30-34. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1979.
Murray, H. J. R. A History of Board-Games Other than Chess, pp. 30-
31. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1952.
Parlett, D. The Oxford History of Board Games, pp. 70-72. Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 1999.
Copyright © Damian Walker 2011 -

Board Games at CYNINGSTAN

Traditional Board Game Series
(Second Edition)
4 Leaflet #9
The Traditional Board Game Series Leaflet #9: Ludus Duodecim Scriptorum The Traditional Board Game Series Leaflet #9: Ludus Duodecim Scriptorum

ing: 6. Pieces of the same colour

INTRODUCTION & HISTORY (i). a piece waiting to enter the may be stacked upon a point, to an
The game of backgammon is often it was still played as late as the board may be placed on the appro- unlimited height.
attributed to the Romans. Their sixth. priate point 1-6 shown in Illustra- 7. A piece may not land on a
game of tabula certainly resembles Over 100 surviving game tion 1; point if two or more of the oppon-
backgammon, but even more inter- boards attest the popularity of the (ii). a piece on the board may ent's pieces already occupy that
esting is an earlier game, ludus duo- game in ancient Rome. Boards be moved along the course by the point.
decim scriptorum, meaning “game were found further afield, from appropriate number of points; Illus-
tration 1 shows the direction that Capturing Pieces
of the twelve lines”, from which Wales to Egypt. Boards were also
tabula was developed. decorated in a variety of styles, pieces move; 8. A piece sat alone on a point
Ludus duodecim scriptorum some with squares, some with geo- (iii). if all of the player's pieces is captured if an opponent's piece
was probably adopted from the metric patterns, but the most inter- are on the points I-VI at the end of lands on that same point. The cap-
Greeks. Its board had three rows of esting are decorated with phrases, the course, then a piece may be tured piece is removed from the
twelve playing spaces, or points, the letters forming the points. One borne off the board from the appro- board, and its owner must on his
and players each raced fifteen amusing example reads “levate da- priate point I-VI as shown on the turn re-enter it before he moves any
pieces around the board, according locu ludere nescis idiota recede”, die; that piece has completed its other piece (see rule 5(iv)).
to the throws of three dice. The meaning roughly “get up, get out, race;
game was gradually replaced by you don't know how to play; go (iv). if a piece has been cap- Ending the Game
tabula after the first century, though away, idiot.” tured as described later in rule 8, it 9. The game is finished when
must be re-entered on point 1-6 as one of the players has borne all fif-
HOW TO PLAY in rule 5(i), before any other piece teen of his pieces off the board. He
is played. is then declared the winner.
As with many ancient games, the 2. Each player has fifteen
rules are lost to us. But plausible pieces of his own colour, either
reconstructions can be made by ex- black or white. At the start of the
amining the boards that survive, the game these pieces are off the board.
artwork, and some occasional ac- 3. Three six-sided dice control
counts in literature. The rules be- the movement of the pieces.
low are given by the respected
board game historian, H. J. R. Mur- Moving the Pieces
ray. 4. Players decide who goes
Beginning the Game first, either at random or by agree-
1. Ludus duodecim scriptorum 5. A player begins his turn by
is played by two on a board consist- throwing the three dice. The player Illustration 1: showing entry points 1-6, the
ing of three rows of twelve points, can take the numbers rolled in any direction of travel, and the bearing off
each row of twelve being divided in order he pleases, and with each points VI-I. Note the jump from the top to
half (see Illustration 1). number rolled, do one the follow- the bottom row: the pieces do not travel
through or land on square 1 at this point.

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