Senet is an Egyptian race game and may be the ancestor of our modern backgammon. We know of this game through ancient Egyption boards that have survived to this day. More than 40 have been discovered, some in very good condition with pawns, sticks or knucklebones still intact. The oldest known representation of Senet is in a painting from the tomb of Hesy (Third Dynasty circa 2686-2613 BCE).

The game board is composed of 30 squares: 3 rows of 10 squares each. If we number each square, the board can be represented like this:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
20 19 18 17 16 15 14 13 12 11
21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30

At the beginning of the game the seven pawns per player alternate along the 14 first squares. The starting square is counted as the 15th. In the oldest games this square featured an ankh, a “life” symbol. The pawns move according to the throw of four sticks or, later, one or two knucklebones. When using the sticks the points seemed to have been counted from 1 to 5: 1 point for each side without a mark and 5 points if the four marked sides were present together.
When a pawn reached a square already occupied by an opponent pawn, they have to exchange their positions.
The special squares have the following effects on play:
15 : House of Rebirth, starting square and the return square for the pawns reaching square number 27.
26 : House of Happiness, a mandatory square for all the pawns.
27: House of Water, a square that can be reached by the pawns located on squares 28 to 30 which moved back when their throws did not allow them to exit the board. They have to restart from square 15.
28 : House of the Three Truths, a pawn may only leave when a 3 is thrown.
29 : House of the Re-Atoum, a pawn may only leave when a 2 is thrown.
The winner is the first to move all of their pawns off the board.


The Game of Thirty Squares: The Ancient Egyptian Game of Senet

Download Senet pdf from Museum of Science