What board games did the Romans play, featured image

What Board Games Did the Romans Play?

The most popular board games from the Roman era are:

  • Terni Lapilli – Strategy game for 2 players (similar to tic-tac-toe).
  • Tria – A 2-player game involving 9 pieces (similar to Nine Men’s Morris).
  • Ludus Latrunculorum – War game for 2 players (very similar to chess).
  • Duodecim Scripta – A fun game with dice (very similar to backgammon).

The ancient Romans were exceptional people.

They had a knack for invention and created many brilliant technical contraptions, economic and political systems, and much more.

The Romans also had a talent for quality entertainment and often played board games to pass the time.

Below, we will go over each game’s basic rules to understand how they evolved into modern-day board games:

Terni Lapilli

While the name might come across as daunting, this game isn’t as complicated as it sounds.

Terni lapilli was a famous Roman strategy game that was typically enjoyed by two players.

Many people cite it as the ancient ancestor of tic-tac-toe due to its use of lines and boxes.

However, this game’s rules are slightly different from tic-tac-toe.

The game was played on a wheel-shaped diagram and made use of small stone counters.

Interestingly, you can find the wheel-shaped design present on the floors of public monuments and on the steps of popular ancient theatres in Rome, proving its true popularity amongst the ancient Romans.


Tria is another two-player board game from Roman times.

Similar to Terni Lapilli, Tria’s board markings can be found etched into ancient Roman monuments and public places.

This game resembles Nine Men’s Morris and is essentially an older version of the famous modern board game.

It is played with nine pieces and is also considered an expanded version of Terni Lapilli.

Ludus Latrunculorum

Often cited as chess’s ancient ancestor, Ludus Lantrunculorum is another brilliant Roman strategy game.

This board game was trendy in the past and has become even more common in today’s world in the form of chess; everyone had heard of it, and many people regularly enjoy it, too!

Similar to chess, Ludus Latrunculorum requires patience and planning.

It is essentially a game in which two “armies” are going to war with one another. Each army contains eight soldiers.

Whichever team’s soldiers are eliminated first loses.

Duodecim Scripta

This game is often cited as the predecessor to modern-day backgammon.

Duodecim Scripta uses three dice and multiple playing pieces.

The game “pathway” consists of Latin letters arranged systematically to create puns and jokes, often mocking politics and social policies, or even something as mundane as the language’s grammar rules.

What board games did the Romans play, a view of the Colloseum

Other Games Played by the Ancient Romans

In addition to board games, the ancient Romans enjoyed participating in other forms of entertainment, too.

For example, young Roman boys would spend their time wrestling one another for fun.

These wrestling matches would take place in the palaestra, which was the central area of Roman baths.

While board games helped enrich an individual’s mental agility, wrestling focused on allowing young men to build on their physical abilities.

Many Romans enjoyed fishing and hunting, too.

Hunting was often practiced as a sport.

Those who caught the best meat were awarded and appreciated by their fellow huntsmen.


The ancient Romans were one of the first civilizations to place importance upon playing board games.

They were extremely keen on playing such games, as proven by the boardgame inscriptions commonly seen in ancient architectural sites, like public Roman monuments and old temples.

Many of today’s board games are a result of these ancient Roman forms of entertainment.

From chess to backgammon, you can trace almost any modern game’s lineage back to Roman times.

Now – what’s your favorite Roman board game?

Let us know by leaving a comment and make sure to read our other unique articles too!

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