How to play a Roman Board Game
Updated: May 20
The Romans loved games, just like we do today, and played many different games, some of which had several sets of rules.
Below is a game that we refer to as "Octo Scriptorum" (which means "8 lines"). Also known as "rota" or "three mens morris", examples of this game have been found all across the regions of the former Roman empire. We don't know what it would have actually been called by the Romans but it plays a bit like noughts and crosses (or tic tac toe for our American friends).
Start with a board and 6 counters (3 in one colour, and 3 in another). The board is simple enough to draw yourself on a piece of paper but if you would like to print one then you can download one from our Downloadable Resources section on our DIY Roman Day page. As for counters you can use anything from bona fide games counters to dried pulses from the kitchen or gravel. If you use our downloadable board game then you can also cut out the counters on the bottom of the page if you need to.
Once you have your board and counters ready (as well as somebody else to play with) then you are ready to play.
HOW TO PLAY
The rules of the game are really simple. The objective is to make three in a line with your counters, however the line must run through the middle of the circle.
To achieve this there are 2 states of play:
Each player takes it in turn to place 1 of their counters on the board on any of the black dots. When we play this game we have a rule that the first person to go cannot put their very first counter on the middle dot.
When all 6 of the counters have been placed on the board then players take it in turn to move ONE counter ONE place along a line. You may find that some of your pieces are "trapped" and cannot move. If all of your pieces are trapped then you forfeit your go. However if you CAN move a piece then you MUST move a piece.
The game is over when one player makes three in a row through the centre of the circle.
The rules of Octo Scriptorum are short and simple. If however it doesn't completely make sense then we have an example game below:
Yellow goes first and puts their first counter on one of the outer dots, because with our rules, as they are first player, they cannot put their first counter in the middle.
It's blue's turn and they decide to place their first counter in the middle.
Yellow make their next move, adjacent to their first piece.
Blue makes their second move and it looks like they might win!
Yellow stops blue in their tracks by preventing them from making three in a line.
Blue places their final counter in between the yellow's.
Two of Yellow's counters are trapped but one of their counters can move so must move, even if it costs them the game. Counters may only move along a line one place per go.
Blue moves the topmost counter one place to the right and successfully makes 3 in a line and so therefore wins! Well done Blue.