Camp Grandmama and Grampy Campy – Ancient Egypt Day – How to Make The Game of Senet

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)

Paint Brushes

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!!)

Pencil

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.

Patterns and Symbols for Senet

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!!

Enjoy!!

Category: Ancient Egypt Day, Camp, What will we do today?
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(22) Comments and (20) Replies

  1. Pingback: Yes, we have no bandanas!! | What Will We Do Today?

  2. Sabrina | November 5, 2012 at 10:43 pm | Reply

    I love thie project! Did you get all of your supplies from Michael’s? Could you tell me the dimensions of the wood board you used? Thank you! :)

    • jill | November 6, 2012 at 7:55 am | Reply

      It’s really a fun game to play!!! Yes, I got everything from Michaels. The board was in the wood section. I’m pretty sure it was meant to be a sign. The outside dimensions are 5″ x 18″. Good luck. Let me know how it goes. Better yet, post a pic on the Whatwillwedotoday facebook page (see link in upper right of blog). Have fun and good luck!!

  3. Ness | December 9, 2012 at 8:06 pm | Reply

    Thank you! This helped me a lot for an Egyptian project! And guess what? I got an A!

    • jill | December 10, 2012 at 12:49 pm | Reply

      I am so proud of you!!! Good for you. I hope you are enjoying playing the game as well. I just played with some friends not too long ago and we had a great time. I suspect you are a great student, and am so happy you got an A!!

      Stay in touch

  4. kareeem | December 25, 2012 at 7:52 pm | Reply

    I am going to use this for a project!!!!!!

    • jill | December 27, 2012 at 7:19 am | Reply

      I’m so glad you are going to use this. I think you’ll enjoy the game. It makes it more special because you made it, I think. Be sure to share your completed project!! Happy New Year.

  5. kareem | January 3, 2013 at 1:54 pm | Reply

    can you get all the stuff at michals

    • jill | January 3, 2013 at 6:22 pm | Reply

      Yes. I got everything at Michaels. The board was a blank wooden sign. Let me know how it goes! And let me know if you have any questions.

  6. kareem | January 9, 2013 at 9:17 pm | Reply

    How many inces do each pice of balsa wood have to be

  7. jill | January 10, 2013 at 3:57 pm | Reply

    Oh boy. I don’t think I measured. But the outside dimensions are 5″x 18″. The three long strips would be about 16″ and the little pieces that form the squares would be around 1 1/4 “. Unfortunately I am away from the house or I would go measure! My sincere apologies. Do share when you are finished. Can’t wait to see!

  8. #Cathy_10 | February 8, 2013 at 10:54 pm | Reply

    Awesome project u hv there

    • jill | February 9, 2013 at 11:27 am | Reply

      Thanks. It’s been hard to come up with a camp day to match the wonderful awfulness of mummified chickens… But I’m working on it!

    • jill | February 9, 2013 at 11:28 am | Reply

      Oh wait. You were talking about the Senet Game! That wasn’t a bit awful and the boys still talk about/play the game!

  9. Cohen Muir | February 11, 2013 at 4:39 pm | Reply

    Where is the webpage on how to play?

    • jill | February 11, 2013 at 7:00 pm | Reply

      If you search for Senet in the search box on my blog, you will find an entry that says Camp Grandmama and Grampy Campy – Ancient Egypt Day – How to Play the Game of Senet (brevity is not my friend). You can see the game in action in the blog and at the very end, you will see a blue sentence that says: How to play Senet. Click on that and you will have a pdf file with the rules. Good luck. Let me know how you like it!!

  10. derek | April 24, 2013 at 7:42 pm | Reply

    how long did it take you to make

    • jill | April 28, 2013 at 9:10 am | Reply

      It only took about 30 minutes to get all the pieces of wood the right size (but we made 4 games at the same time) It took another hour for me to mark the lines for the boys to color and then for them to color (but I was also wrangling 3 wriggly boys).. I’ll bet you could make the game in an hour if you have no distractions. I hope you give it a go. We still play the game and the boys still have theirs games at home and tell me they play it with their friends. Let me know how it goes and feel free to reach out if I wasn’t as clear as I should have been!!

  11. nathan R hall | August 7, 2013 at 11:21 am | Reply

    How do you play it

    • jill | August 7, 2013 at 1:41 pm | Reply

      You can find the rules if you search for Senet on the site. If you would like, I can send you a copy thru your regular email. Just let me know.

      I think you’ll enjoy the game. We play a lot with both kids and adults..

  12. SABRINA | December 25, 2013 at 4:18 am | Reply

    this project helped get me an A, thank you so much

    • jill | December 27, 2013 at 4:17 pm | Reply

      I am so glad to hear about the “A”, Sabrina! Good for you. Your note was the nicest Christmas present I got this year. Have a great day, and a wonderful new year!! If you have any pics, be sure to share then on the whatwillwedotoday Facebook page!

  13. Lotus | December 27, 2013 at 11:41 am | Reply

    I’m using this for a project except instead of a wood block I’m using a wooden box. You see, the top face of the box is where I’m going to draw/paint the Senet board. The inside of the box is where I’m going to store the 10 game pieces, 4 popsicle sticks, and directions on how to play the game (I’m going to read your directions and then type them up in my own words).

    • jill | December 27, 2013 at 4:18 pm | Reply

      What a great idea with the box to store the pieces. Wish I had thought of that! Be sure to send pics and let us know how it went!!

      Thanks and have a wonderful New Year!!

  14. Lotus | January 1, 2014 at 8:00 pm | Reply

    How come whenever I type the word “Senet” the computer says it’s misspelled? I know this may not be the BEST question to ask, but you know….just wondering.

    • jill | January 1, 2014 at 9:59 pm | Reply

      Clearly, Google has decided not to hire any Ancient Egyptians. Sounds like discrimination to me!!! (and…I don’t know the answer, but will not wonder about this as well. If I ever find the answer, I will let you know toot sweet!!!) Happy New Year!!

  15. alejandra | January 3, 2014 at 10:39 pm | Reply

    I’m doing a project on ancient games for technology and I was wondering where I could find the materials for this project and about how long it took to create the game board?

    • jill | January 4, 2014 at 7:51 am | Reply

      Oh what fun you’ll have with this game. We still play it at our house. I guess those ancient Egyptians knew what they were doing! I got everything I needed at Michaels arts and Crafts but you can get the balsa wood sticks at hardware stores too. You can also try Joanne’s fabric or Hobby lobby. It took about an hour to cut the sticks and glue them in and then less than an hour to paint and decorate the special squares and the sticks. Have fun and be sure to share your finished project on our Facebook page. I can’t wait to hear how it goes! Have a great day! And thank you for your nice comments. That makes my day!

  16. alejandra | January 3, 2014 at 10:42 pm | Reply

    I forgot something. I really think that your website is fantastic and that I’d recommend you to some friends.

  17. Lotus | January 9, 2014 at 4:38 pm | Reply

    Okay, so I know I may have been leaving a bit too many comments but I just can’t help but wonder how you come up with such CREATIVE and AWESOME ideas. I’ve been looking at some of the other projects like those cool button books and those folding blocks and now I have to resist the urge to make a million of each. Also, my Egyptian project is going really well and I have a feeling that the visual part of my project (the Senet board) will get me a score of 30/30 points. As for the part of the project where I have to PRESENT my visual, well…

    • jill | January 12, 2014 at 10:03 am | Reply

      I love your comments, so don’t stop!! the ideas are really inspired by my very talented and curious grand-children. I have to keep on top of things so they have something fun to do!! I do hope you make a million of the other stuff. Now, wouldn’t that be something to see!! I hope you ace your Egyptian project. Do be sure to share your success (pics, too). Head over the the Whatwillwedotoday Facebook page and you can easily post pictures!!! Have fun and keep commenting!! Have a great day

  18. Phyllis at All Things Beautiful | January 21, 2014 at 12:16 pm | Reply

    Wow, this is fantastic! I wonder if we could do it…? We have like negative carpentry skills…but the boys do carve things out of wood. Do you think we could use a carving knife to cut the small pieces of wood?

    • jill | January 22, 2014 at 5:06 pm | Reply

      Oh I’m sure you can do this. In fact I ended up trimming the wood pieces with heavy duty scissors so you don’t need a saw. My husband needed to be involved so it was a perfect project for him. Good luck. Be sure to let me know how it goes. Have a great day. Jill

  19. Not saying | May 28, 2014 at 4:48 pm | Reply

    Stupidest game board EVER it didn’t help me AT ALL!!

    • jill | May 29, 2014 at 11:59 am | Reply

      Oh no!!! Although, I do have a friend who isn’t a fan of Senet! I guess the Ancient Egyptians will just have to go back to the drawing board!! Sorry to disappoint!

  20. Sarah Fishalow-Aldridge | October 15, 2014 at 8:17 pm | Reply

    Tomorrow has come and gone. How do you play the game??? We are super excited to create this with our 6th Grader!

    • jill | October 16, 2014 at 7:28 am | Reply

      Oops! In my blog world (which is a rarified place in my mind) tomorrow is just another way of saying…..pretty soon :-) Evidently i waited a couple of days before I posted the instructions for the game. If you go to the main page and type Senet in the search box, you will see a couple of links. One is for making the game and the other for playing the game. I included a pdf as well so you can download the instructions (Not as many extra comments in the pdf file!!) I sure hope you enjoy the game. We still play and the kids still love the game. Let us know how it goes for you! You can post pictures on the What Will We Do Today Facebook page, so if you are so inclined….

      Reach out if you have any questions.

      Have a great day

  21. Makayla | October 23, 2014 at 7:55 pm | Reply

    thank this help me alot for my egypt project for socail studies

    • jill | October 23, 2014 at 8:10 pm | Reply

      I’m so glad this helped. The Egyptians came up with a lot of cool stuff, so you probably enjoyed this unit in Social Studies!! Have a great day…

  22. sydney | November 2, 2014 at 3:35 pm | Reply

    thanks you guys really help me with this project i had to do for school!!!!!! :)

    • jill | November 4, 2014 at 6:24 am | Reply

      I’m so glad we were able to help. You’ll have to let me know if you continue to play the game now that the project is over! Have a great day!

  23. Ptah | November 19, 2014 at 2:44 pm | Reply

    Nice article, very creative.
    There is also an online version of Senet available here:
    http://www.senetonline.com

    But honestrly, I would prefer to play the real thing along with friends…

    • jill | November 21, 2014 at 6:01 pm | Reply

      Thanks so much for the info on the online version. I’ll have to play it to see if the rules are (close to) the same…. I agree, though. I much prefer playing with friends and family!! Have a great day!

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