Egyptian Senet

Senet (the game of passing) is an ancient Egyptian game similar to Backgammon. Senet is one of the oldest board games known to date and its depictions have been found in many paintings in various tombs in Egypt. The game was lost for many centuries and was reconstructed by historians using the paintings and game artifacts found through excavation. The rules of the game as played today are based on various text references which span over a thousand years. The exact rules of the game are not known but the game has gained popularity and has many variations in use now a days.

Senet Game Play:

The game is played on a rectangular board consisting 3 rows of 10 squares. The squares are referred to as “houses”. The game is played between 2 playes and each player starts with 5 pawns which are placed in alternate houses in the first row. In some variations players have 7 pawns instead of 5. The objective of the game is to be the first player to bear his/her pawns off the board.

The example of a typical Senet board is as following

Egyptian Senet

Players move their pawn from its starting house towards house number 30 and then bear the pawn off the board. The pawns move according to the throw of 4 sticks. The sticks have two sides, one side is marked and the other side is unmarked. The roll value can be between 1 and 5 dpending upon which side the sticks land on after the throw; one point for each side without a mark, 4 points if all four sticks are rolled without a mark, and 5 points if all four sticks are rolled with a mark.

Starting setup of a Senet Game:

Egyptian Senet

The pawns are moved equal to the number of points rolled by the player. It can jump over other pawns. If a pawn reaches to a house which is already occupied by the opponent’s pawn, then opponent’s pawn is moved to the player’s starting house which means they simply exchange positions where one pawn moves forward and opponent’s pawn moves backwards. There are certain safe positions where pawns can not exchange their houses. Any time a player has two or more connecting pawns, it is considered safe and their positions can not be exchanged by opponent’s pawn. Pawns between two rows in order of increasing house number are considered connected.

Special Houses:

There are 6 special houses in the board on number 16, and then from number 26 through 30. The special houses are treated as safe houses and have special rules associated with them

  • House No 15 (House of Rebirth): This is the start.
  • House No 26 (House of Happiness): All pawns must land on this house before they can move further. A pawn on this house can never be jumped over.
  • House No 27 (House of Water): If a pawn lands on this house then it must go back to the House of Rebirth. If House of rebirth is occupied by another pawn, then they must move to first empty house before it.
  • House No 28 (House of the Three Truths): If a pawn lands on this house, it can only leave it with a roll of three.
  • House No 29 (House of Re-Atoum): If a pawn lands on this house, it can only leave it with a roll of two.
  • House No 30 (House of Horus):┬áIf a pawn lands on this house, it can only leave it with a roll of one.

If no move can be made, player forfeits his/her turn. If a move can be made, then player must make the move.

The game is played similar to Backgammon but gives players options to block other player’s pawn similar to Parchisi bringing strategy to the game.

The first player to bear off all his/her pawns wins the game.

Variations:

  1. If there are more than two connected opponents pawns, it creates a wall and it can not be jumped over.
  2. No pawn can be bear off the board until all pawns of that player have moved past the first row.
  3. If a 2 or 3 is rolled then player moves his/her pawn and then the turn is passed to the opponent. If 1, 4, or 5 is rolled then player makes the move and rolls again. Player keeps rolling until a 2 or 3 is rolled.

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