Senet Rules, Route and layout

Senet is an ancient Egyptian game played with two players on a board of thirty squares in three rows of tens. It appears to be a game that was played nationally dating back to before 3000 BCE and is known to have been played up into the first century BCE. Even though the true rules of play are un-known, Egyptologists have been able to surmise how the game may have been played from fragmented evidence. The game played today on replica boards does have subtle variations with different symbols painted on the boards. However, the symbols tend to still represent the same precepts regardless of how the game is played.

Two types of dice were typically used for this ancient game, one being knuckle bones from animals and the other being two sided sticks. The two sided stick dice were usually marked or darker on one side compared to the other side which was usually lighter or un-marked. The lighter or un-marked side of the sticks represented the pips like on a 6 sided cube dice. The knuckles bones worked the same way but depended upon which way they landed – flatter side up of knuckled side up. One can make their own stick dice by painting one side of lollypop sticks – 4 are needed. Alternatively, one can use the printable Spinner Dice included in this pdf. Use the 1-5 spinner. If using stick dice, if all four sticks fall with their marked or darker side up, then this counts as 5. If using a 6 sided cube dice, if a 6 is rolled, roll again till a number between 1 and 5 is rolled.

The exact rules for this game are not known. Two sets of rules are typically played today.

The first one to bear off all their 5 or 7 pieces is the winner. Both players must agree on how many pieces to play with.

A throw of 1, 4 & 5 permits another go. A throw of 2 or 3 ends your go and your opponent goes next. Successive throws are made before moving pieces. Example: 1 & 5 & 1 & 4 & 3 = 14. You can move one or more pieces equalling the accumulated count. The 3 ended the go.

All moves must be made. Agree beforehand which rule to play with: 1 – No backward moving pieces, or 2 – If a move cannot be made forwards then a piece must be moved back the number of spaces rolled by the dice.

Agree beforehand the rule whether the last five squares act as safe squares of not. A safe square means an opponent cannot land on you and swap places.

An opponent’s undefended piece can be swapped with yours.

An opponent’s piece adjacent to another (2 together) cannot be swapped with yours. You can jump and overtake.

If you have 3 pieces together, your opponent cannot  swap, jump and overtake you.

Each counter must land on the House of Beauty/Happiness on square 26 before bearing off.

An exact number is needed to be able to bear off a counter on one of the last three houses – 28, 29, 30.

If you land on the House of Water, you must go back to the House of Rebirth on square 15, or the nearest empty square before square 15 if that square is already occupied.

Senet, Route
Senet, Route