Ancient Roman Board Games

Roman Coliseum

Ancient Roman board games resembled Egyptian board games and Greek board games. Some rules were adopted from other cultures and the details (like stick names and mythology) were often changed to Roman culture. Like with other ancient board games, these activities used bones or sticks that were thrown like today's dice.

The Ancient Roman Board Game of Tali and Tropa

Tali is a dice-like game resembling Yahtzee and is scored like poker hands. It was the most popular game the Romans played. No special board was needed and the sticks could be made from actual sticks or animal bones. A round consists of each player throwing the sticks and the winner was whoever's hand was the best. Each hand was added for a total score to also determine the winner. A Venus was the highest hand and consisted of a 1, 3, 4, 6. A Senio was a 6 with any combination of other numbers. Vultures were all the numbers the same and Dogs, which is the worse score to get, were all 1's.

Tesserae, or Dice

Ancient Roman dice were unique in that the two opposite sides added up to seven. Gambling with dice was forbidden in the streets of Rome and Roman soldiers were often fining the gamblers or making them move inside. Many types of dice games were played in taverns and during many social events. The main game the Romans gambled on resembled Craps. Another game was a simple 'who rolled the higher number'. One interesting note, the Romans played with three dice and it was often considered an insult if a better placed a bet that a roller would throw a two because then the roller was considered to have bad luck.

Roman Chess

Roman Chess is an ancient Roman board game that is played on boards with the same number of squares going across and up and down, like an 8x8, or 10x10 board. Roman chess is also called Pebbles because you can use just about anything as the pieces. The pieces are lined up on the first row for the starting arrangement. By moving pieces one square at a time, your goal is to remove all of your opponent's pieces by surrounding it with two of your own pieces either vertically or horizontally or diagonally. The Japanese game Go has many similarities to Roman Chess.

Twelve Lines

Twelve Lines was played on a board with two rows of twelve squares. Players sat opposite from each other and place all of their pieces on their own first square. Three dice are then thrown and pieces are moved accordingly. The object is to get all your pieces to the opponent's number one square. A couple of rules that are known is that if you land on a square with an opponent's piece that piece is sent back to square one. The only time you can't occupy the square is if two more of an opponent's pieces are already on that square. If you have every played backgammon, Twelve Lines will remind you of that game.

Lucky Sixes

Lucky Sixes is played on a board with two columns and three rows. In each column/row there are six figures. Sometimes the figures were numbers or letters and sometimes the figures were pictures. Most of the time, when put together, was a philosophical phrase, or something humorous. Lucky Sixes is also a game that resembles backgammon in that players start at opposite sides of the board and throw dice or sticks to move pieces to their opponent's side. This game was the game that any class of Roman played.

Mostly Luck, Some Strategy

Most of the Roman games were gambling games, which required more luck and skill. The game that required you to think a little was Roman Chess. It seems that's the way it is today, but at least now, Roman soldiers aren't looking over your shoulder to fine you or make you move inside to the tavern to play.

Ancient Roman Board Games