I tried searching the game, but all I got were complicated instructions. So in basic rules, how do you play senet and what do the different symbols mean?


The original rules have been lost. There are two competing interpretations about how the game might have been played. These rules are usually used when the game is reprinted these days. One version is R.C. Bell , the other is Kendall. Both rules sets can be viewed here.

Both rule sets believe that this game was a precursor to backgammon. The game was originally played with 4 sticks that were marked on one side. You would move a single pawn 1-5 squares (one for each mark, or 5 for no marks) along the backwards S-path. Two pawns could not occupy the same space. Your own pawns block your movement, and landing on an opponents pawn either swapped (Kendall) or removed (Bell) the piece(s).

The Bell rules:

  • Is played with 10 pawns, five for each player.
  • Players add pawns to the board at the specially marked squares based on their roll, or
  • Move a pawn already on the board.
  • Special squares are "safe" from attack.
  • Landing on an opponents piece removes it from the board, your own pawns block your movement.
  • Landing on the last, upper-left square scores that player 5 points and sets the ending alternating pattern.
  • The first player go get all their pieces into the alternating end squares gets 10 points, and one more point for each additional turn their opponent takes.
  • Pieces in end squares cannot be attacked.

The Kendall rules:

  • Is played with 10 pawns, five for each player.
  • Pawns start already on the board in an alternating pattern.
  • Landing on an opponents square swaps positions, your own pawns block your movement.
  • The next square marked with the Ankh is where pawns go that fail to make their rolls to get off the board.
  • The special squares at the end require specific rolls to exit, or send you back to the Ankh.
  • Winner is the first to get all their pawns off the board. Senet glyphs From (left) - House of Beauty (or Good), House of Humiliation (or Water), House of Three Judges (or Two Truths), House of Two Judges (or Ra-Atum), House of Heru (or Horus).
  • This is a good answer, but do you have a source for this. A source will let you have proof. More proof means more up votes for you and to me!!! – danilka1 Dec 30 '12 at 14:25
  • Proof for what, that the original Papyrus rules from ancient Egypt don't exist, proof that Kendall / Bell came up with their best guess at the rules set? I think if anything, my answer could be shortened. The OP is asking how it is played (like backgammon), this could be covered by how the.pieces are moved, win conditions, etc. They also want to know the meaning of the symbols (need to flesh out the 5 symbols at the bottom, what the symbols are, and what they mean). – user1873 Dec 30 '12 at 15:17
  • The answer itself is good what do the squares do? – danilka1 Jan 1 '13 at 18:27

Try watching this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6R2bxk5K4J0

I hope it helps!

  • 3
    Hello and welcome to BCG. Could you expand this answer? If that video ever gets taken down this answer won't be very helpful; we try to aim for answers that stand on their own. Links are fine, but link-only answers are kind of fragile. Thanks. – Monica Cellio Dec 31 '12 at 1:46

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.