Tabula is a race game played by the Romans and ancient Greeks. It is believed to be the ancestor of backgammon and is derived from an older Roman game called Ludus Duodecim Scriptorum, the game of twelve lines. The Emperor Claudius (45 AD) was very fond of game and had a board attached to his chariot. The Emperor Zeno (circa 450 AD) wrote a book about the game and became famous for a disastrous throw which caused him to go from a strong position to a very weak one.


Tabula is played by two players on a board of spaces arranged in two rows as shown in Figure 1. Each player starts the game with 15 pieces of different color. All pieces enter at square 1 and travel counterclockwise.The game is played with one die. Each player has four pieces of the same color, red, yellow, blue or green.

Tabula board
Figure 1: Tabula board

The players take turns to throw three six-sided dice. The throw can be shared between pieces. For example, a throw of 2, 3, 4 could be used to move one piece by 9, two pieces by 5 and 4 (or 6 and 3 or 7 and 2), or three pieces by 2, 3 and 4. If a player lands on a space occupied by an opponent’s piece the opponent’s piece is removed from the board and must start again. If a player has two or more pieces on a space the pieces on it cannot be captured. An exact throw is needed to remove a piece from the board. A player must use the whole of his throw if possible. Any part of a throw that is unplayable is lost.

The winner is the player who is first to get all his pieces off the board.