Senet is a board game the Ancient Egyptians favored. Senet is an egyptian race game and might be the ancestor of backgammon. We know about this game because of the Ancient Egyptian boards that are still around today. More the forty have been discovered. Some of them are in very good condition and still have pawns, sticks or knucklebones still intact. The oldest known representation of Senet is a painting from the tomb of Hesy.
The game board is made up of thirty squares, three rows of ten squares each. The path of the pawns is followed as a reverse S. Squares 26-30 have symbols on them. We will represent them in order by,X,O,III,II,and I. It seems that the square with an X, carrying the sign nfr, was beneficial, whereas the one with an O, associated with water, had a negative meaning. Square 15 also called "the square of rebirth," might have been the starting square.
Other elements found with the game board were pawns. The Hesy painting shows a game with 7 pawns for each player. then sometime after 1600-1500B.C. the players were represented with 7 or 5 pawns. Some games have even been found with 10 pawns for each player. The movement of pawns was probably decided by the throw of 4, 2 sided sticks or, later, knucklebones might have decided the moves.In his book, Lhôte notices that the 1st pictures show 2 human players whereas later the human player was depicted alone with an invisible opponent. It appears that Senet began as a simple game and later acquired a symbolic, ritual function.
A summary of Timothy Kendall's work on the reconstruction of the rules of senet is given in the book by Lhôte.
1. At the beginning of the game the 7 pawns for each player alternate along the first 14 squares. The starting square is counted as the 15th. In the oldest games, this square is featured as an ankh, a symbol of "life". The pawns move according to the roll of 4 sticks, or later 1 or 2 knuckle bones. When using sticks, the points seemed to be counted from 1 to 5: 1 point for each side without a mark, and 5 points if the 4 marked sides were present together.
2. When a pawn reached a square already occupied by an opponent pawn, they have to trade their positions.
3. The special squares have the following effects on play:
15: House of rebirth, starting square and the return square for the pawns reaching square 27.
26: House of Hapiness, a mandatory square foor all the pawns.
27: House of water, a square that can be reached by the pawns located on squares 28-30 wich moved back when their moves 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 Re-Atoum, a pawn may leave only when a 2 is thrown.
4. The winner is the one that moves all their pieces off the board first.