Classic Board Game by the Romans

Centuries ago, the Romans enjoyed a plethora of board games that entertained and challenged their minds. From simple dice games to more complex strategy-based games, these classic board games played a significant role in Roman society.

The influence of these ancient pastimes can still be seen today in modern-day classics like chess and backgammon. In this article, we will explore the fascinating world of Roman board games, from their history and cultural significance to the impact they have on modern classics.

Board games were a popular form of entertainment in ancient Rome, providing both leisure and mental stimulation for people of all ages. Not only were they a source of enjoyment, but they also served as a means of social interaction and strategic competition.

Some of these games were passed down from other civilizations, while others were uniquely crafted by the Romans themselves. From early versions of backgammon to more intricate conquest-style games like ludus latrunculorum, the history of classic board games in ancient Rome is rich and diverse.

The way Romans played board games differed greatly from the recreational activities we are familiar with today. Their approach to gaming was often rooted in strategy, skill, and tactical maneuvers. Rather than being purely based on luck, these classic board games required players to think ahead and outmaneuver their opponents through calculated moves and clever positioning on the game board. This emphasis on strategy highlights the intellectual nature of Roman society and their appreciation for mental challenges.

The History of Classic Board Games in Ancient Rome

Early Beginnings and Evolution

Board games in ancient Rome were initially derived from Greek and Egyptian influences, but the Romans eventually developed their own unique gaming culture. One of the most popular early board games was Ludus Latrunculorum, also known as Latrunculi or simply “The Game of Mercenaries.” This strategic game involved capturing opponents’ pieces by surrounding them with one’s own pieces, and it required tactical thinking and skillful maneuvering.

Social and Cultural Impact

Classic board games played a significant role in Roman society, bringing people together for friendly competitions and fostering social connections. These games were not only a form of entertainment, but they also served as a means of teaching important skills such as strategy, critical thinking, and decision-making. Additionally, board games provided a welcome distraction from the challenges of daily life, allowing Romans to unwind and enjoy moments of leisure during their free time.

The Legacy of Roman Board Games

The legacy of classic board games from ancient Rome lives on through their lasting impact on modern classics. Although many original Roman board games have been lost to history, their influence can be seen in the design and mechanics of contemporary board games. The strategic elements and intellectual challenges that defined Roman board games continue to inspire game designers and enthusiasts today, preserving the legacy of these timeless pastimes from the Roman Empire.

The Rise of Strategy and Skill

Board games were a popular form of entertainment in ancient Rome, with people from all walks of life enjoying the opportunity to test their strategy and skill. While some games were purely based on luck, many involved a great deal of tactical thinking and forward planning. The Romans took their board games seriously, with both adults and children engaging in play as a way to sharpen their minds and pass the time.

One of the most famous Roman board games was Ludus Latrunculorum, also known as Latrunculi or simply “the game of brigands.” This strategic game resembled modern-day chess or checkers and was played on a grid with pieces representing soldiers and officers. Players had to capture their opponent’s pieces while avoiding being cornered themselves, requiring careful planning several moves ahead.

Another popular game was Duodecim Scripta, which means “twelve lines” in Latin. This game involved using dice to move markers around a board with twelve lines, similar to modern backgammon. Players needed both luck with the dice rolls and skill in strategizing how to move their pieces effectively.

While these board games were certainly enjoyed for leisure, they also served as tools for teaching military strategy and discipline. Roman generals often used various board games to train their soldiers in battle tactics, making them an integral part of Roman culture beyond mere entertainment.

Classic Monster Board Game
Roman Board Game Description
Ludus Latrunculorum Similar to chess or checkers; players capture opponent’s pieces while avoiding being cornered.
Duodecim Scripta Played with dice on a marked board; required both luck and strategic skills similar to backgammon.

Notable Classic Board Games Played by the Romans

Ludus Latrunculorum

One of the most popular board games played by the Romans was Ludus Latrunculorum, also known as Latrunculi or Ludus Latruculorum. This game involved strategy and skill and was commonly played on a square grid board with pieces that acted like soldiers.

The objective of Ludus Latrunculorum was to capture all the opponent’s pieces or to block them so they had no legal moves left. The game required a keen sense of tactics and forward planning, making it an engaging pastime for Roman citizens.

Duodecim Scripta

Duodecim Scripta, also known as XII scripta, was another beloved board game in Ancient Rome. This game was similar to modern backgammon and involved rolling dice and strategically moving pieces around the board. The objective of Duodecim Scripta was to move all of one’s pieces off the board before the opponent could do the same. It required both luck and skill, making it a popular choice for Roman players of all ages.


Tabula, which is believed to be an ancestor of modern-day backgammon, was a favorite among Romans from all social classes. This two-player game involved moving pieces based on dice rolls and tactics, with the goal of bearing off all one’s own checkers before the opponent could do so. Tabula required both luck and strategic thinking, providing endless entertainment for Romans during their leisure time.

The Cultural Significance of Board Games in Roman Society

Board games played a significant role in the cultural and social life of ancient Romans. Whether it was soldiers passing time, families gathering for leisure activities, or even during religious ceremonies, board games were a popular form of entertainment for people from all walks of life. These games provided not only amusement but also served as a means of developing strategic thinking and social interaction.

In Roman society, board games were more than just a pastime; they were a reflection of the values and beliefs that shaped their civilization. The act of playing board games was considered an educational tool to instill virtues such as discipline, cunning, and perseverance. Additionally, these games were often used as a way to teach military strategies and tactics, which were essential skills for the battlefield in ancient Rome.

Some notable classic board games that were played by the Romans included:

  • Ludus Latrunculorum: A game resembling modern-day chess or checkers, involving capturing opponents’ pieces
  • Duodecim Scripta: A game similar to backgammon where players moved pieces around the board based on dice rolls
  • Calculi: A game similar to tic-tac-toe with each player trying to line up their pieces before their opponent

The cultural significance of these board games extended beyond mere entertainment; it reflected societal norms and values while also serving as a platform for socializing and connecting with others. As such, these ancient Roman board games have left a lasting impact on modern classics and continue to influence the way we understand leisure activities and social interactions today.

The Influence of Roman Board Games on Modern Classics

The legacy of Roman board games has had a lasting impact on modern classics, with many of the games played during ancient times still being enjoyed today. One notable example is the game Ludus Latrunculorum, also known as Latrunculi or simply ‘the game of mercenaries’, which was a favorite pastime among Roman soldiers and is considered as one of the precursors to modern chess.

The strategic and tactical elements of Latrunculi have influenced the development of strategic board games throughout history, including the popular game of chess.

Another significant influence from Roman board games is seen in the game Tabula, or the Roman version of backgammon. Tabula was a favorite gambling game among Romans and became an ancestor to the modern backgammon we know today. The gameplay mechanics and strategies found in Tabula have contributed to the development of various tabletop and digital versions of backgammon across different cultures.

Furthermore, Mancala, an ancient game originating from Africa but also played by Romans, has made its mark on modern board gaming. This classic game involves moving stones or seeds around a board and has served as an inspiration for various modern adaptations that are globally enjoyed today. The enduring popularity and influence of these traditional Roman board games on contemporary classics highlight their significance in shaping the world’s gaming culture.

60-in-1 Classic Game Vertical PCB Board for Jamma
Roman Board Game Modern Equivalent
Ludus Latrunculorum Chess
Tabula Backgammon
Mancala Various Adaptations

Rediscovering Ancient Entertainment

The ancient world of Roman board games holds a significant place in history, showcasing the entertainment and recreational activities of the Romans. As modern societies continue to rediscover and appreciate the culture and traditions of ancient civilizations, there has been a growing interest in reviving and playing traditional Roman board games.

The revival of these classic games not only provides a glimpse into the pastime activities of ancient Romans but also promotes an understanding of their strategic thinking and social interactions.

Rediscovering Roman board games allows individuals to engage in historical recreation while fostering an appreciation for ancient craftsmanship and ingenuity. It provides an opportunity for people to experience the intellectual challenges and amusement that were enjoyed by the Romans centuries ago. Through the revival of these games, players can gain insight into the cultural values, problem-solving skills, and leisurely pursuits of this ancient civilization.

Furthermore, reviving Roman board games today showcases how these classic pastimes have stood the test of time and continue to captivate contemporary audiences. It highlights the enduring appeal and relevance of these traditional games, as they offer a unique form of entertainment that transcends generations. By reintroducing these timeless classics to modern society, individuals can celebrate and preserve the legacy of Roman board games for future generations to enjoy.

  • Ways to revive Roman board games today:
  • Hosting themed game nights or events centered around traditional Roman board games
  • Creating educational programs or workshops that teach the history and rules of ancient Roman board games
  • Developing digital adaptations or online platforms for playing classic Roman board games remotely

Overall, by actively reviving Roman board games today, enthusiasts are contributing to the preservation and appreciation of ancient entertainment while embracing a rich aspect of Roman culture.


In conclusion, the ancient board games played by the Romans hold a significant place in the history of entertainment and leisure activities. These classic games were not only a form of amusement but also served as a reflection of Roman society, culture, and values. The strategic thinking, skill development, and social interaction involved in playing these board games were integral to the lives of the Romans.

The preservation of the legacy of Roman board games is crucial for understanding the cultural and historical significance of these games. By studying and reviving these classic board games, we can gain valuable insights into the daily lives and recreational practices of the ancient Romans. It also allows us to appreciate the timeless appeal and enduring relevance of these traditional forms of entertainment.

As we continue to explore and revive ancient Roman board games, we are actively participating in the preservation of cultural heritage. By keeping these classic games alive, we honor the legacy of the Roman Empire and ensure that future generations can appreciate and learn from this important part of our collective history. The influence of Roman board games on modern classics serves as a testament to their enduring appeal, making them an invaluable component of our cultural heritage.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Was the Most Popular Roman Board Game?

The most popular Roman board game was Ludus Latrunculorum, also known as “the Game of Mercenaries.” It was a strategy game involving the movement of pieces across a grid-based board, similar to chess or checkers.

What Board Game Did the Romans Play?

One board game that the Romans played was Tabula, which is similar to modern-day backgammon. It involved the use of dice and strategic movement of pieces around a board in order to win.

What Game Did the Romans Play?

In addition to Ludus Latrunculorum and Tabula, the Romans also played other games such as Duodecim Scripta, which involved throwing dice and moving pieces along a special board with 12 lines. These games provided entertainment and intellectual stimulation for the ancient Romans.

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