by Wally J. Kowalski
This game is the familiar game of "Five
in a Row," which was played on the same boards as Latrunculi.
This game has been named Calculi, which means "stones"
(or "pebbles" or "counters") in Latin. The
Romans referred to this game as ludus calculorum, "the
game of stones," but the references are general and unclear.
Some experts believe the Romans used the term ludus calculorum
to refer to any game played with stones including ludus latrunculorum.
This view can lead to confusion between the games, and therefore
the name Calculi has been coined to distinguish this game
Stones were used for counting before the
abacus was introduced, hence the word 'calculate.' Some historians
and archeologists have referred to this game as Roman Draughts
or Checkers because of the similarity of the board and pieces.
However, few boards were checkered in black and white -- many
were just made of lines.
This game requires a bit larger board,
and a lot more stones, than Latrunculi, but can be played
on 8 x 8 boards. Some large bags of stones have been found, which
include roundels (gambling chips) as well as glass latro (glass
The traditional rules of Calculi, or "Five
in a Row," are as follows:
- Black plays first.
- First person to line up five stones in
a row orthogonally or diagonally wins.
- It is illegal to make a "double open-ended
three" unless one is forced to do so.
- If the board becomes filled, the game
is a draw.
A double open-ended three, or three in
a row simultaneously in two directions, is banned because it
is too easy to win, and occurs frequently. This rule makes for
a much more interesting game, and leads to the strategy in which
one tries to make a double "three and a four," which
is like a double open-ended three, except that one line is made
of four in a row.