Enjoying an ancient game

Lately I’ve been playing Senet when I need some relaxation. The Ancient Egyptians may have started playing it more than five thousand years ago, and they kept going for three thousand years. Having played it quite a bit myself, I can understand their fascination with the game.

Senet is played on a board of three rows and ten columns, and the object is to get your players off first. The game is fairly simple, but the fifteenth square and the last five squares have special rules that make things challenging and interesting. No one knows exactly how Senet was played, but plausible rules have been deduced by historians. I find that playing the game also leads to assumptions (right or wrong) of what rules work best.

I’m actually playing my own implementation of Senet; I am making computer software for the game, which will be available on this site. And of course, I’m playing against the computer.

It’s quite possible to use strategy to gain advantages during the game, but when it comes down to the final piece, it usually becomes a matter of pure luck. (Usually, although not always.) It can be frustrating to have an overwhelming lead on your opponent, only to lose the game due to unlucky throws that force your last piece to move backward repeatedly. No wonder the Egyptians connected success in the game with divine favor. (In fact, it became very significant in their religious beliefs, although it continued to be played for normal entertainment as well.) Senet was even a hieroglyphic character in their writing. They were obsessed with it.

I find it really enjoyable to play a game that made up an important part of people’s lives thousands of years ago. That sense of connection with the past is a welcome addition to the fun of the game. I may become almost as obsessed with the game as they were–although I don’t stake my spiritual welfare on it.

Stay tuned for my Senet game. In the meantime, if you’d like to try a unique arcade puzzle game, different than any you’ve played before, download Ashalii.

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