Game by Horst Alexander Renz
Published by Pharao-Brettspiele, München, undated

Rules translated from the French by Daniel U. Thibault (
22 January 1997

This Ancient Egyptian game's rules are lost to us moderns; only the board and pieces were found in a tomb. However, the rules invented by Horst Alexander Renz make for a delightful game. Isis (known to the Egyptians as Eset) was the goddess of magic (amongst other attributes), the wife of Osiris (known to the Egyptians as Ausare) and mother of Horus (known to the Egyptians as Hor). Her cult was very popular and survived the Roman conquest, eventually winning a sizable following within the Roman Empire, extending as far north as what is now Germany. It died out around the VIth century.


The board is divided into three areas. The first is the large space at one end; this is the Underworld. Next are the 38 undecorated squares surrounding the Underworld and filling most of the board; this is the Terrestrial Realm. Last are the 10 squares marked with stars surrounding the two Thrones of Isis; this is the Heavenly Realm. The exits and entrances to the Underworld are marked with the hieroglyph for coming and going, shaped like a pair of walking legs. All squares are connected to each other except for the enclosure of the Underworld, which has only the two exits at the end of the board and the two entrances near the middle, and the Thrones of Isis, which can only be entered through their doors.

FIGURE ONE: (image)

|   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |
+- -+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
|                           =   |   |   |   |   |   |   | X =   |
+       (Underworld)        +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
|                           =   |   |   |   |   |   |   | X =   |
+- -+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
|   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |
 <- - - - - - - Terrestrial Realm - - - - - - - - -> <-  (H)  ->
(H): Heavenly Realm
 X : Thrones of Isis
 = : Marks a right-left opening

FIGURE TWO: Numbering Scheme

| 1 | 3 | 5 | 7 | 9 | 11| 13| 15| 19| 23| 27| 31| 35| 39| 43| 47|
+- -+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
|                           = 16| 20| 24| 28| 32| 36| 40| 44= 48|
+             0             +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
|                           = 17| 21| 25| 29| 33| 37| 41| 45= 49|
+- -+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
| 2 | 4 | 6 | 8 | 10| 12| 14| 18| 22| 26| 30| 34| 38| 42| 46| 50|

The Underworld is space 0 (zero). The Terrestrial Realm consists of squares 1 through 38. The Heavenly Realm consists of squares 39 through 50, including the Thrones of Isis (44 and 45). From 0, one can only exit to squares 1 or 2. From the Terrestrial Realm, one can enter the Underworld from squares 16 and 17. The Thrones of Isis can only be entered from squares 48 and 49, respectively.

The pieces are shaped like canopic jars and are each marked with a different hieroglyph. In the rules booklet, they appear in the sequence: Ankh (symbol of happiness and long life), Was (symbol of enduring happiness), Djed (symbol of perseverance and endurance), Scarab (symbol of rebirth), Papyrus Reed (symbol of the continuity of life), Oudjat Eye (symbol of divine grace) and Isis Knot (symbol of divine love). In play, it does not matter which symbol is used.

Isis can be played by 2 to 7 people, but is best enjoyed with 4 or 5. There is no random element whatsoever.


All seven pieces are placed, face down, in the Underworld. Pick randomly who goes first.


The object of the game is to take a neutral piece out of the Underworld, traverse the Terrestrial Realm, reach the Heavenly Realm, personalize the piece and place it onto one of the Thrones of Isis.


Pieces that start in the Underworld advance as many squares as there were pieces "out of the game" (in the Underworld) at the beginning of the turn. Thus, the first piece to move out of the Underworld advances 7 squares. Pieces that start in the Terrestrial or Heavenly Realms move as many squares as there were pieces "in the game" (out of the Underworld) at the beginning of the turn.

All the pieces are initially neutral and may be moved by any player. However, the same neutral piece may not be moved by two consecutive players. Once a piece is personalized (flipped symbol up), it may only be moved by the owning player. A player may only personalize one piece.

Pieces that start in the Underworld exit it by either of the two doors at the extremity of the board and move heavenward. They may not step into an occupied square.

Pieces that start in the Terrestrial Realm move orthogonally, may not step into an occupied square, may not move underworldward, and must not move into the same square twice.

FIGURE THREE: Example of Movement (image)

|   |   |   |   | P |   |   |   | A |   | B |   | B |   |   |   |
+- -+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
|                           =   |   | B |   | B |   |   | X =   |
+                   P P P   +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
|                           =   |   |   | B |   |   |   | X =   |
+- -+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
|   |   |   | P |   |   |   |   |   | B |   |   | P |   |   |   |

With the six other pieces marked as "P", the piece "A" can move to any one of the squares marked "B" Its move is of four squares and it could go three down and one right, or two down, one right and one up, etc.

Pieces that start in the Heavenly Realm move similarly except that the Underworldward direction is legal. Note that the Thrones of Isis may only be reached through their respective doors, by exact count, and by a personalized piece only.

On his turn, a player may, instead of moving a piece, personalize one if:

Once all players have a personalized piece, a piece (neutral or the player's own personalize piece) may be moved from the Heavenly or Terrestrial Realms back to the Underworld through the latter's heavenward gates if:

Neutral and personalized pieces in the Heavenly Realm can be cast out to the Underworld if they find themselves without a legal move, either because another piece blocks their path or because the number of squares to move has changed (by bringing a piece out of the Underworld). A cast out piece may be moved out of the Underworld by the next player -it never counts as having been moved by the preceding player.

In rare instances a player will have no legal move. In this case, he passes.


The winner is the first player to place his personalized piece on one of the two thrones. If it is the wish of the players, play may continue to establish a complete ranking. The winner's piece is then cast out, reverting to neutrality. The winning player drops out. Play continues until a second player moves his personalized piece onto a throne, etc.

CONCLUDING REMARKS (by translator)

Of the two other games published by Pharao-Brettspiele, Ramses uses a Tjau board and Pharao uses a Senet board. They are, however, played using rules entirely different from the original Ancient Egyptian ones.

Ramses plays very similarly to Isis, without any random element. It is a two player game (four pieces each), with each player trying to occupy three of the five marked squares with his own pieces, or to immobilize his opponent's pieces.

Pharao does contain a random element (the special dice). The goal is stated as throwing the opponent's pieces into the waters of the Nile or immobilizing them. A third victory option is open when one is down to one piece: reaching the "happiness" square.

Although it includes only four pieces per player, it is possible to play Senet on this board. Senet was normally played with five pieces per player, but variants existed with as many as ten per player. One could always replace the pieces with two sets of five, I guess...I'd be happy to supply the rules to Senet for those interested; Senet has always been a special favourite of mine.

The Game Cabinet - - Ken Tidwell