Tabula, A Roman Board Game

The game of Tabula is believed to be the ancestor of the modern game of Backgammon, and indeed shares many similarities in set-up and strategy. Tabula in turn is believed to be a modification of an older game played throughout the Roman Empire, called Ludus Duodecim Scriptorum (“game of twelve lines”). Originally Tabula was a gambling game (it was called Alea, meaning “gambling”, but came to known as Tabu, meaning “table” because it was played on one) and it is said that the Emperor Claudius was so fond of playing it that he had a board built into his Imperial carriage! Claudius also wrote a book about the history of the game in about AD 50, but unfortunately it has not survived.

The game of Tabula was very popular and was one of the cases of a gambling mania in Rome which led to gambling being made illegal except at Saturnalia. The penalty for being caught gambling was four times the stake money, but considering the number of game pieces, boards and dice that have been found by archaeologists the Roman citizens didn’t take that much notice and the law was not ridgedly enforced!

Download the Game!

If you would like to learn how to play Tabula then you can download a kit (a zip file) containing all the bits you need to play the game (except dice).

If you would like to learn how to play Tabula then you can download a kit (a zip file) containing all the bits you need to play the game (except dice).

Contents of the zip file:

  • 1 set of instructions and game rules (tabula_readme.txt)
  • 1 playing board (tabula_board.bmp)
  • 1 sheet of playing pieces – 30 pieces, 15 for each player (tabula_pieces.bmp)

Download tabula.zip (0.99 MB)
To open the tabula zip package you need a program such as WinZip or similar.