I like to include games at Camp, so it was fortunate that board games were a favorite pastime in Ancient Egypt.
Senet was the most popular of these games, so naturally we decided to make our own Senet Board.
Egyptian Queen, Nefertari (1295-1255 BC). Everything old is new again. (Check out the smoky eye and the flip flops.)
If you want to make your own Senet Game Board, here’s what you will need:
Wood Board or Wood Sign. Large enough to accommodate 30 1-1/2″ squares.
Paint (although the board would also look nice au natural)
4 Popsicle sticks
5-7 pawns. About 3/4 inch high (You only need 5 pawns each for the game, but just in case you lose one…)
5-7 pawns. About 3/4 inch high, but different from the first set.
Balsa wood (if you want to frame in the squares).
Wood Glue (to glue the balsa wood strips to the board.
Ruler (to make nice straight lines on the board)
Carbon Paper (I wasn’t even sure they made this anymore!!)
Sharpie (much easier to use for the designs and the numbers)
Mod Podge (not pictured, because I didn’t think of it until today)
Here’s a pdf file for designs you might need and the placement of the symbols on the board.
How to make a Senet Board:
First, measure your board to allow for three rows of ten squares and then pencil the lines in. If you are using balsa wood to define the spaces, make sure to add space for the balsa.
Use a pencil to mark the lines for the balsa strips.
Here’s the deal with the balsa. You don’t have to include balsa strips on your board. In my experience, though, if the squares are framed it helps prevent the pawns “accidentally” changing places. You know what I mean. Like when you are
losing, er, playing backgammon and you “accidentally” nudge the board.
If you have decided to use balsa, size it and cut strips for the board.
Because we needed enough balsa for 4 boards, Grampy pitched in and found a clever way to cut a lot of strips at once. Thank you, Grampy.
Measure twice, cut once. (I had to throw that in for Grampy).
With a little wood glue and cut to size balsa, you can begin to build your Senet board.
The kids painted the wood glue on to the balsa pieces and placed them on the board.
You might need to trim some of the pieces. Scissors will be fine for trimming the balsa.
Put the two long strips on first. Then you can put the smaller strips on the board between them. This is when you may need to trim (see above).
We used a medium size piece of wood to “cap” the board at the end.
Once the wood glue has dried, you can begin to paint the board. (You may need to put something heavy on the strips of wood to help hold them down while they dry).
Pretty cool looking. The boys were VERY impressed with their finished product.
There is no right or wrong way to paint the squares. As you will see, each of the boys had their own vision of what the Senet board should look like.
Ben favored a herringbone pattern (of sorts).
Charlie had a more linear design in mind.
R.J. liked the more familiar checkerboard pattern.
Once the paint has dried, you can draw the numbers and the required symbols on the board. We used carbon paper to copy the symbols and magic markers to draw them in. Easier and quicker than paint.
Here is a finished Senet game. Uh oh. Do you see it? My Eye of Horus is backwards…..
Once you have finished your game board (with the Eye of Horus facing the right way), you need to make some pawns for the game. You will need five pawns for each player.
The pawns need to be different shapes (I found the wood shapes at Michaels), or they need to be painted different colors. We left our shapes natural. (You could also use checkers if you want.)
The playing pieces were called ibau, which means dancers.
Instead of dice, Senet uses gaming sticks. In the day, they sometimes used knucklebones (called astragali). Um….we decided gaming sticks were a better choice. You throw the sticks and only count the side of the stick that is colored, or decorated. The boys painted one side of popsicle sticks with color patterns and painted the other side white. When I was making our board, I thought it would be fun to decorate one side of the sticks with Egyptian designs. I didn’t have the paint I wanted (tempera paint isn’t great for painting on wood), so I decided to use Mod Podge (I haven’t used Mod Podge for AGES. Probably since Mod was a popular term.) It’s VERY easy. You just cut out the designs (the attached pdf file) and glue them on one side of your popsicle stick with the Mod Podge. Once they have dried, you can trim them with scissors and Mod Podge them again.
Tomorrow, I’ll give you the instructions on how to play Senet. It’s really fun!! Somewhere between backgammon, checkers and chutes and ladders!!