The pieces were like the lathed bone roundels.
These seemed to be the standard pieces for most games of this
type. Gambling chips looked essentially the same, but were scratched
(on the backside) with numerals representing money values. Game
pieces were also distinguishable by the fact that they were often
inscribed on the back with the owner's name or initials. The
colors have faded, but pieces that were not bone-white were either
blue or black, but some pieces have been found that were red
or even yellow.
The object was to get all one's pieces
across the board to the final square. If you landed on a square
that had an opponent's piece already on it, that piece would
return to (their) square one. If two or more opponent's pieces
were already on the square, then it could not be occupied. Presumably
you would be forced to fall short, or rearrange the moves of
your own pieces.
Some of the squares had names. Square 14
was called Antigonus. Square 19 was Summus. Square
23 was Divus. The special meaning, if any, of these names
is not certain.
Obviously this game has a great deal in
common with modern Backgammon and with Egyptian Senet. In fact,
Duodecim Scriptorum may
derive from its Egyptian precursor, since Senet dates to about
1000 years before the founding of Rome in 753 BCE.
Some historians believe that Duodecim
Scriptora is the same as the game of the six six-lettered
words, which we call Felix Sex. They have assumed that an extra
row was added to create 36 squares, and that the squares were
changed to letters so as to form words. But why they would continue
to call the game "Twelve Lines" when there were neither
twelve items nor any lines is unexplained by proponents of this
theory. See the page on Felix Sex
for further discussion on this matter.
Games sometimes split into two major variations.
Just consider that Football and Rugby both evolved from Soccer.
In the same way, Duodecim Scriptora may have led to the
development of Felix Sex, but it most certainly led to the spin-off
version called Alea or Tabula. And Tabula is the
forerunner of a group of similar games played in Medieval Europe
(Ad Elta Stelpur & Sixe-Ace) and Arabia (Nard) which have
produced the modern game of Backgammon.
When the above depiction of a Duodecim
Scriptorum board is expanded widthwise, and the playing pieces
are set alongside each other, rather than stacked, we immediately
see the resemblance to modern backgammon. In fact, the typical
bone playing pieces were so unevenly cut that they may not have
stacked well, and this may have caused the board dimensions to
change out of necessity.
For the continuation of this story, see
the pages on Tabula and