Thursday, April 5, 2007

Are You Ready for Some Serious Senet Action?!?

I have a predisposition - a thing, if you will - for antiquity. Perhaps that's part of the reason I took an Art and Architecture of Ancient Greece class last semester, and why this semester I'm taking a seminar on Alexander the Great (with a little discussion on his lesser-known step-brother, Steven the Mediocre). I won't go into a discussion of why I think this is; truth be told, I don't know exactly why. However, I will include a small snippet from the author's note one of my yet-unfinished Chronicles of Fate novels which touches on the subject. Keep in mind, this was written years ago, so that accounts for the less-than-stellar wording and using the term "online diaries."
I have always been interested in history. What particularly fascinated me was ancient history. Egypt, Greece, Rome; all of these cultures have captured my imagination for one simple reason – we don’t know too much about them. Nowadays, we have thousands of copies of important and even unimportant documents. Our modern belief is that everyone that can know information should know it. Computers make this even more the standard. A person in Indonesia can learn about the daily life of a Swiss girl through an online diary. As useful as all this information can be, it is depriving us of what I believe is one of our most valuable resources – speculation. For it was speculation, a wondering of what could be, that has led people to search for the answers to the puzzles our world.
Yeah, I'm going to have to edit that a bit in the future. But the sentiment is still (roughly) the same. I think part of what attracts me is the mystery of the past, and the ability to speculate as to what it actually was.


Umm...oh, the shafts in the Great Pyramids! There were, like, these shafts that were found, almost too small for a human to fit through, but it was seen that they led to a cavity in the pyramids. Some thought that these cavities were filled with treasures, or bodies, or something, and so they explored it. And then...they found out there was nothing. All interest in the shafts suddenly ceased, since the reality was so much more mundane than the mystery.

Anyhoo, I was on a Wikipedia binge the other day (if you're unfamiliar with the term, it's when you look up one article on Wikipedia, then click on a link to another article, then another link to another article, and so on and so forth). Here's the particular path my binge went on (at least, as clearly as I remember it):

The Riddler => Batman => Robin => Teen Titans => Raven => List of fictional characters who can manipulate darkness or shadow => Ganon => The Legend of Zelda => Nintendo => Video Games => Games => Board Games => Senet

Now, Senet is an ancient board game (perhaps the first board game) and has absolutely nothing to do with the Riddler. That's the beauty of a Wikipedia binge.

But back on topic: this "Senet" thing caught my interest. A board game? From antiquity? That sounds exciting. If I learned to play it, I could play a game that pharaohs have played 5500 years ago. And what if I were to practice it, so as to be the world's greatest player of the world's oldest game (lofty ambitions, perhaps)?

Unfortunately, we'll never know for sure how the game was played (that's part of the mystery). However, there have been a few ideas by scholars as to what the rules were, and so there have been some recreations of the game. It's probably easy to recreate yourself, and maybe I will one day (or I'll just cave in and actually buy one from one of the many fine American board game manufacturers). In the meantime, though, there are plenty of online versions that you can play.

In fact, here's one!

It's a simplified version, but it's still fun (especially if you have an opponent whose not just a figment of your imagination). The rules are explained on the site itself, so I won't go too much into them. However, I will say that if you decide to make your own version of the game, you cannot use a die for movements. The odds are different than with sticks. For example, here are the odds of getting a certain number on a die:
1: 1/6
2: 1/6
3: 1/6
4: 1/6
5: 1/6
6: 1/6

While here are the odds of getting the numbers with the Senet sticks:
1: 4/16
2: 6/16
3: 4/6
4: 1/16
5: Impossible
6: 1/16

But enough of my statistical rambling. If you haven't played the game yet, click that link back up there. Enjoy!


Unknown said...

yes it does. it a game. the riddler is into riddles, puzzles and games. they lubricate the mind for thinking. and the riddler likes thinking. of cousre there's a connection.

wow i just got the strangest feeling I've written this down before. a Deja Vu in writing form.

by the way do you like the Marx Brothers?

oh god damn it! i got hooked on senet. i playing and typing at the same time.

Anonymous said...

I can do those connections with Xena...I normally try to be as direct as possible so as not to confuse the people I'm talking to though. Or at the very least, not confuse them even more so. Mostly, they're just stunned at my fandom...

I used to play senet with my, ne? So it's been a while since I've played, I'll have to try the online version though.

Anonymous said...

Amen for the Wikipedia Binge! Wow, I know I'm not alone..Except, I tend to do this while researching for projects for class...

Comrade Chavez...

Anonymous said...

Gah! I played this game by myself...I wanted green to win, but nooooo...It really says something when your team loses when you control both.


Anonymous said...

Hope you have a gay easter today andrew.