Senet is an ancient two-player game dating back to the time of the Pharaohs. Its introduction in medieval European society is debated, but if it did occur, it most likely was imported in via ships sailing to Africa in search of goods and resources.
There are two different colored sets of playing pieces, or stones, called Dancers. Each player has 5 Dancers. The historical shapes of the Dancers was cones for one set and reels (similar to spools) for the other set. As long as the sets are of different colors, any shape playing pieces will work.
The playing board that the pieces move upon is composed of thirty squares, and hence is called the House of Thirty. The Dancers race along the board in an "reverse S" fashion, starting at the top left and exiting at the bottom right.
Squares 15, 26 and 27 have special meaning. Land on square15 and your piece is safe from attack. Land on square 26 and you get an extra turn. Land on square 27 (which has waves representing the River Nile) and you "drown", and have to take your Dancer off the board and start again.
Four "casting sticks" serve the function of dice. Each stick has a light colored side and a dark colored side. You hold/shake the sticks in your hands and drop them on the table. The number of light sides that end up showing determines the number of squares you can move a piece on the board. Thus, with the four casting sticks, you can have 1 to 4 light sides showing, allowing move from 1 to 4 squares. However, if no light sides show (all the sticks land dark side up) then you get to move 6 squares. THERE IS NO MOVE OF 5 POSSIBLE.
To begin a game, players take turns throwing the casting sticks until one player scores a 4 or a 6. That player then enters a Dancer on the board in square 4 or 6 according to their throw.
Only on a cast of 4 or 6 may a player enter a waiting Dancer onto the board.
A player does not have to enter a Dancer onto the board with a cast of 4 or 6, if another move is possible.
Dancers move forward only, never backwards.
Throwing a 6 gives the player an immediate extra turn (throw of the casting sticks).
If a player has a legal move, it must be made, even if it detrimental to him (such as landing in the River Nile).
Only one Dancer may occupy a given square. If a player moves onto a square occupied by his opponent, then the opponent's Dancer is removed from the board, and it must be started again in the normal way. A player may not move a Dancer onto a square where another of his Dancers is. If there is no other legal move, the turn is lost.
Dancers can be moved past other Dancers on the board (a player's own or an opponent's). The passed Dancer is NOT removed from the board. Dancers are only removed when an opponent lands on the square they are occupying.
There are three special squares on the board.
Square 15 represents "Power and Life". Any Dancer that lands on this square cannot be thrown off the board. If your Dancer is on this square, your opponent cannot move his Dancers onto the square and take you off the board. He must move another piece, or if this is not possible, he loses his turn. Once your Dancer leaves this square however, it is no longer protected.
Square 26 represents "Goodness" or "Luck". Any Dancer landing on this square gives its player an immediate extra turn (throw of the casting sticks).
Square 27 represents "Water" or "The River Nile". It is a set-back square. Any Dancer landing on this square is removed from the board and must start over again, in the normal way.
To bear a Dancer off the board, an exact throw is required. (For example, a cast of 1 would be required to bear a Dancer off that was sitting on the last square.) If the cast is higher than what is needed to bear off, and no other move is possible, a player's turn is lost.
A Dancer, once borne off the board, may take no further part in the game.
When a player bears a Dancer off, they receive an immediate extra turn (throw of the casting sticks). Note that this can be in addition to an extra turn for having cast a 6.
The first player to bear all 5 of their Dancers off the board, wins.
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H.L. Modar Neznanich, CLM, CSH, CT, CCC
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