Camp Grandmama and Grampy Campy – Ancient Egypt Day – How to Play the Game of Senet

My big headrted brother, Jimmy, called last night.  (I suspect he is known as Jim to everyone else, but he is still my baby brother….so Jimmy it is).   He had read Tuesday’s post about Senet and loved the pictures of his nephews involved in making their game.

He told me I needed to let all of you know that these are normal, red-blooded, ants in their pants, “I’d rather be outside”, can’t sit still, 9 year old boys.  From Jimmy’s perspective (he was, and is, one of the aforementioned types of boys) if they were interested in making and playing Senet, it must have been a compelling proposition.

So, now you know.

Okay, now that you have your Senet Board, you might want to know how to play the game.

What?  You haven’t made your Senet Board?  No worries, you can order one from Amazon.  (Psssst.  I am experimenting with codes that allow you to order directly from this site.  If you are so inclined, let me know if this works.)

Okay, now that you have your board, let’s begin.

Evidently the original rules have been lost (well, isn’t that just like a Pharaoh?).   I have the same problem with our games. In fact, I probably have the original Senet rules in my box of extra and missing pieces…

I wonder what the Uber cube was for?

There are Kendalls’ rules, R.C. Bell rules, Walker rules, Fundex rules and the Jequier rules. (Sounds a bit like the differing Monopoly rules.  You know, how some people put “Parking Lot” money in the center of the board and some don’t?)

Bring me the money....

Well, I read all the rules, tried them all, and have determined that the rules I have written out below make the most sense.  They are (relatively) easy to understand and provide enough challenge to make the game interesting for all ages (but not so complicated that someone wants to throw the board across the room – not that anyone would…)

The kids and I played with these rules and had a lot of fun. So that’s it. If you can find any Ancient Egyptians to dispute our rules, I might consider changing.

First, it might be helpful if you knew what the symbols were called and what they meant on the board.   (It’s much more fun if you can say things like “Oh no, I’ve been sent back to Ankh” or “Hooray, I’m in the House of Happiness” (we say that when the kids are here).

There wasn’t any disagreement amongst the experts as to the symbols used on the senet board.

The Rules of Senet (Grandmama Version)

At the beginning of the game, five pawns per player alternate along the 10 first squares.

Oh, and you might need to know how to use the sticks for scoring.

Throw the sticks to see who starts.

We also instituted a rule that the sticks had to stay on the table.

The first person to throw a 1 begins.  Even if the second person hasn’t thrown the sticks yet, you start with the first person to throw a 1.  If anyone complains, just tell them THAT’S THE RULES!!

Remember, you only count the colored or designed side of the sticks.

When a pawn (in this case, either a cube or a spool) reaches a square already occupied by the other person’s pawn, they exchange their positions.

This is only true if your opponent only has one pawn in a space and he does not have any other pawns next to his pawn.

If your opponent has two pawns in a row, you cannot land on them and switch places.

You can jump over the two pawns if you have thrown a 3 or 5, but you can’t land on them with a throw of 1 or 2.

If your opponent has three pawns in a row, you may not jump over and pass the three pawns, even if you throw a 5.

If you throw your sticks and can’t move forward the number that you see on the sticks, then you have to move backward.

If none of your pawns can move, either forward or backward, your turn is ended.

Some squares are safe squares and some are danger squares.

Square 15 : Ankh.  This is the square pawns are returned to if they land on the House of Water.  This is also a safe square.  No matter how you got here (you can land on this any time), you are safe and your opponent may not switch places with you.

Square 26: House of Happiness.  This is a mandatory square for all the pawns.  You must land on this square exactly.  This is a safe square and your opponent may not switch places with you.  You must throw the exact number to land on this square.  So, if you are on square 24 and throw a 3, then you would have too many points for the House of Happiness and you would have to move three spaces backwards.

Square 27:  House of Water.  If you land on this square you have to go back to Square 15 (Ankh).  If Square 15 is occupied, you have to go back to the beginning.   (To get to this square, you would have to have thrown a 1 from the House of Happiness (26).

Square 28: The House of Three Truths. This is a safe square. Your opponent may not switch places with you. You must throw exactly a 2 to get off this square and off the board.

Square 29:  The Eye of Horus.  This is a safe square.  Your opponent may not switch places with you.  You must throw exactly a 1 to get off this square and off the board.

The winner is the first to move all of their pawns off the board.

I’ve included the rules in the pdf document below, as well as a sample game.  It might give you some tips before your 9 year old cleans your clock.   The templates for the board and stick designs are included as well.   See how I love you?

How to Play Senet

Category: Ancient Egypt Day, Camp, What will we do today?
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(4) Comments and (3) Replies

  1. Phil Balmforth | December 30, 2012 at 9:00 am | Reply

    Having received a copy of Senet for Christmas, I was dissatisfied with the rules provided. I’ve read several other versions, but yours is far and away the best. I might tinker with the idea of 4 coloured sticks = 4 and 0 coloured sticks = 5.
    Phil B

  2. M.C. Shaw | December 2, 2013 at 12:10 am | Reply

    Very clear explanation of Senet. Thanks. Instead of sticks, game sites have d5 dice. For example, 10 sided die with two ones, two twos, two threes, two fours, two five. They’re exotic, inexpensive, fun.

    • jill | December 2, 2013 at 7:56 am | Reply

      OOOh, I love the idea of the ten sided dice. Those Ancient Egyptians knew their stuff. Still a game we all love to play! Thanks for stopping by and have a great day!

  3. Lotus | January 8, 2014 at 5:59 pm | Reply

    What happens if you land on a square occupied by your own pawn? Also, do you have to wait for your first pawn to get off the board before you can move your second pawn?

    • jill | January 8, 2014 at 7:52 pm | Reply

      Hmmm. I’m traveling right now, so don’t have my board with me, but I’m pretty certain that you can occupy the same space as your own pawn (just not someone else’s pawn) I’ll get back to you on that one, though, as I am not feeling 100%…As for the second, no you do not have to wait for the first pawn to get off the board, you can move your second pawn as soon as you wish. Hope that helps (although I sort of left you hanging on that first question…) Have fun!!

  4. Aaron Himes | November 24, 2014 at 6:02 pm | Reply

    Thanks needed to make game board for school project. Your rules were also the best I found, very easy to understand

    • jill | November 24, 2014 at 8:59 pm | Reply

      I’m so glad I could help. Especially glad this helped you with a school project. I’m glad you liked my interpretation and explanation of the rules. We love playing the game and I hope you enjoy as well. Wish there was a word you could yell out when you win. Like Yahtzee! I guess the Ancient Egyptians weren’t into arbitrary yelling!

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