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Ancient Games

The Learning and Engagement Team have been taking a look at our collections and finding out how ancient cultures and civilisations spent their free time. The answer is, very much like us. By playing games!

Either print out these sheets or draw the simple game boards yourself. Collect some counters (stones, buttons, anything will do!) and some dice. Then you are ready to play these exciting games of chance, skill and strategy. There are nine games for you to try, find the free downloads below.

Why not share your work with us by taking a photo and sharing it on social media? You can find us on:

Facebook at: Oriental Museum Durham University

Twitter: @dumuseums

Instagram: oriental.museum.durham

Good luck!

From Ancient Egypt: Senet (The Gateway)

Senet is one of the oldest known board games in the world. To win the game you will need a keen eye, a strategic mind and a little bit of luck!

Instructional video

From Ancient Greece: Pente Grammai (Five Lines)

Known as ‘the game of heroes’ and it is said to have been played by Ancient Greek heroes Ajax and Achilles, in their camp during the famous siege of Troy.

From Ancient Rome: Ludus Latrunculorum (The Game of Brigands)

A game of military strategy, Ludus Latrunculorum allowed Roman soldiers to plan moves and countermoves in battle, but it was also played purely as a pastime.

From Anglo-Saxon Britain: Merels (Six Men’s Morris)

Merels, or Six Men’s Morris, was played across Anglo-Saxon Britain. The objective of the game is to try and make a ‘mill’, a line of three counters running vertically or horizontally, while blocking the mills of your opponent.

From Viking Britain: Hnefatafl (The King’s Table)

This game allowed Viking warriors to practice how to protect their leaders, as well as how to ambush enemy parties.

From Tudor England: The Game of the Goose

The Game of the Goose is a race game played with dice where the first player to reach the end is the winner. The first commercially-produced boardgame in history, played in royal courts and at home by wealthy families. The race is on!

From India: Aadu Puli Attam (Goats and Tigers)

The game is designed to show the importance of teamwork and that even if you seem small and weak, you can beat a larger and more powerful enemy by working together. Good luck!

From Early Islamic Civilisations: Mancala (Move)

Mancala is a strategic ‘count and capture’ game, with players timing their turns and choosing their positions to collect more stones than their opponent.

From Japan: Gomoku (Five in a Row)

Originally played on the squared boards of the much more complicated game, Go, Gomoku has many variations across the world but has existed in Japan since the mid-19th century.