Seega and Backgammon

Seega1, although considered a modern game, also has ancient roots. It was found cut into the side of a stone which was set into a pyramid, suggesting that the board was cut into the stone prior to its being used as a building block. This is assumed, because players would not have been able to play on the board had it already been built into the pyramid. Seega pieces are called dogs, signifying a status of servitude. On the other hand, the pieces that are captured in Seega are also referred to respectfully as friends, signifying that even in servitude, they have an important function. Seega is more a game of skill than of chance.

The Seega board is a straightforward grid, though varying in size. It can have five, seven, or nine rows and columns, and is played using differing numbers of pieces. The most commonly played variant is the seven by seven board where each player has 24 pieces. The object of the game is to capture your opponents’ pieces. Seega requires strategy and is a fast-paced game. It has traditionally been played on the ground with the board drawn in the sand, and is still played among Bedouins in this manner.

There is evidence that a game called Ludus Duodecim Scriptorum was played during the Roman era, between 509 BC and 31 BC. The name means “The Game of Twelve Lines.” Ludus Duodecim Scriptorum was probably derived from the game of Senet. This Roman game was later replaced by a similar game that used two rows and 12 points, closer to today’s backgammon. The name Tabula or Tables was first used, and was actually a generic word for “board game.”

Both Senet and Thau are similar to backgammon in that they have an element of racing. In Thau there is no “hitting,” but rather capturing. The bearing off the board in Thau is similar to backgammon, and some guess that backgammon is a fusion between the two ancient games.

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