Duodecim Scripta (Nova Roma)

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The Roman table game Duodecim scripta or Ludus duodecim scriptorum is the ancestor of jacquet, backgammon and others Tric Trac.

The Duodecim scripta seems to be the first and more basic game of a range of three games, whose two others are the Tabula and the Felix Sex.

Duodecim scripta means "twelve (lines) written down".

Probably, a first and ancient version of the game has existed, with two ranks of six squares, from 1 to 12. We can suppose that these twelve squares would evoke the twelve months of the year. At this time, the game was probably played with 2 dices.

In a second time, the board received longer lines, welcoming each one 12 squares (see picture below):


This board would be carved on a table for the richer ones, or a hand-wooden one, or a clay one, often a leather one, or just a drawing on the ground. Such various boards have been excavated all over the Roman Empire, specially in the military camps, which confirms that this game has been much enjoyed by Roman soldiers.

In the Duodecim scripta, two players sat across from each other and placed their 15 black or white pieces - so 30 for both - inside the first square on their side of the board. We thus understand that the pieces had to be small and well made enough to be able to stack.

The players then each tossed a set of three dice fom a cup and would move their pieces counterclockwise according to the value of the throw.

The aim of the game was to get all your pieces across the board to the final square.


We know that some of the squares had names: square 14 was "Antigonus", the 19 was "Summus", and Square 23 was "Divus". But we do not know more on the meaning and possible role of these squares.

We just know three main rules :

  • Your 3-dice throw allows you to move forward three pieces. For example, if your dices give 5/7/2, you can move forward Piece 1 five squares ahead, Piece 2 seven, Piece 3 two. But if you see that Piece 1 will fall on a 2 opponent's pieces square, maybe you will prefer to let it where it is currently, and to move Piece 4, or 15, for example (see below rule 3)
  • If you land on a square that had one opponent's piece already on it, that piece will return to Square 1.
  • If you landed on a square that had two or more opponent's pieces, you cannot occupy it, but stop on the square just before, or choose to move another of your pieces.


You may usefully consult on Duodecim Scriptura:

Have a good game, Quirites !

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