Senet is a game of luck and chance that was popular throughout Egyptian history. There are many wall paintings in tombs depicting the deceased playing Senet, as well as elaborate Senet boards provided within the tomb treasure for the deceased's use in the afterlife. Boards played on by the living have also been discovered, though there has never been a complete list of the rules ever found, leaving them open to interpretation.
While the game is commonly associated with the journey into Duat (the afterlife) and the game thought to reflect it, that only became the case in more recent dynasties. During the Old Kingdom, Senet was a secular game played for fun.
There are many similarities between Senet and backgammon.
The Rules Of Senet
Senet is a game for two players of Ancient Egyptian origin.
Please note: The rules of Senet are based on fragments of information found during archaeological digs, however, no complete set of rules has been found, so there is some room for interpretation within the rules themselves.
The board has 30 squares. The first row (1-10) is the row without any hieroglyphics with square 1 starting on the left. The second row (11-20) is the row with one hieroglyphic (the ankh), with square 11 being the first one on the right. The third row (21-30) is the one with five hieroglyphics, with square 21 being the first one on the left.
Each player has five pieces. The five light pieces should start the game on odd numbered squares (1, 3, 5, 7, & 9), and the five dark pieces should start the game on the even numbered squares (2, 4, 6, 8, & 10). To decide which player is which colour piece, cast the sticks (or roll the dice) until someone gets a score of 1. This player uses the dark pieces and can move their piece from square 10 to square 11. On their first turn, the player using the white pieces must move the piece from square 9. After the first go, players may move any of their pieces.
The movement of the pieces is determined by throwing the casting sticks (alternatively, a four sided dice can be used). The scores of the casting sticks are determined by the numbers of dark versus light sides showing. The following scoring system is used:
1 light side up = 1 move forward, roll again
2 light sides up = 2 moves forward
3 light sides up = 3 moves forward
4 light sides up = 4 moves forward, roll again
4 dark sides up = 6 moves forward, roll again (only possible when playing with casting sticks)
Aim Of The Game
The aim of the game is to get all of your pieces off the board and into Duat (the Afterlife)
- Players take it in turns to cast the sticks (or roll the dice) and move their playing pieces the rolled amount of spaces along the board.
- If a piece lands on a square occupied by a rival piece, then the rival piece moves back one square.
- Two game pieces can not share the same square, even if they belong to the same player.
- Two pieces belonging to the same player in adjacent squares (e.g. 19 & 20) protect one another from being moved back by the rival player. They can still be overtaken. This is a small blockade.
- Three pieces belonging to the same player in adjacent squares (e.g. 18, 19, & 20) form a big blockade, and can not be moved back or overtaken by the rival player's pieces. They do not block the original players pieces from moving forward.
- Any roll of the casting sticks (or dice) that can not be used to move forward, must be used to move backwards. The opposite rules to above come into play regarding blockades and rival pieces when moving backwards.
Square 15 (ankh)
Square 26 - a safe square, where pieces are protected from changing places. You don't have to move off this square until you want to, but if no forward move is possible, then you must move backwards.
Square 27 (water) - if a piece lands on square 27, then it must be moved back to square 15. If square 15 is occupied, the piece which landed on square 27 should be sent back to the beginning of the game.
Squares 28 & 29 - safe squares, where pieces are protected from changing places. You don't have to move off these squares until you want to, but if no forward move is possible, then you must move backwards.
Finishing The Game
- Players can not move pieces off the board until all five of their pieces have left the first row (1-10) of the game
- You do not need an exact roll to move to square 30 and off the board, but if you roll a score higher than needed, you must use up the remainder of your moves for another piece to reach the full amount of the throw. (With the exception of the final piece, where excess numbers are not counted)
- If any of your pieces are sent back to the first row (1-10) even after your first piece has left the board, the rest of your pieces can not leave the board.
- The winner is the first person to get all five of their pieces off the board.
If you wish to keep score over a number of games, the winning player is awarded one point for each rival piece still in the second and third rows (11-29) and three points for every rival piece still in the first row (1-10).