Senet, An Ancient Egyptian Board Game

What is Senet?

Senet game at the British Museum
Senet game at the British Museum

Senet (or “senat”) is (or was) an ancient Egyptian board game. It’s a bit like snakes and ladders, and a bit like backgammon. It’s easy to get into and doesn’t have too many rules either.

The Rules of Senet

The rules of Senet are not definite — they’ve never been discovered, so the best guess at how the game works comes from scholars who have examined the boards that have been found, the imagery found on them, and how the special squares (depecting stages on the journey to the Egyptian afterlife) might relate to the players’ progress.

Rather than rewrite the rules here when it’s already been done perfectly well elsewhere, you might want to check out Kendall’s rules or Bell’s rules, both explained by Gamecabinet. Kendall’s rules seem to be the most established, and are used by the computerised versions of Senet detailed below.

How to Play Senet

Aside from knowing the rules of Senet, you need a way to play it.

Ordering a set can get pricey by the looks of a Google Shopping search for the game. Around £30 seems to be average. It wouldn’t be difficult to make your own paper version to get a feel for it. Look at the rules above for inspiration.

There is also an Android Senet game available the Google Play store at a low price. It does the job well and also gives you some options around the computer’s AI that you can learn a bit of strategy from.

Senet for Windows is available from http://wesheb.tdonnelly.org/ecomp.html and it’s pretty good. No frills but then if you had to rely on frills then you’d question how good the game was, right?

If you’ve found any other implementations of Senet let me know in the comments!

2 thoughts on “Senet, An Ancient Egyptian Board Game

  1. Hi Pete

    That’s a question this post tries to answer, although I admit it’s more about playing Senet. If you want a more in-depth explanation of the game and its history, Wikipedia is a good place to start as always. There are books on Senet too, notably Kendall’s, the author of which suggested the most common set of rules played today. Unfortunately you might have trouble finding a copy.

    Hope that helps
    Tom

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