Game by Horst Alexander Renz
Published by Pharao-Brettspiele, München, undated (circa 1992?)

Rules translated from the French by Daniel U. Thibault (
13 July 1997

This game uses the rules and pieces of the Ancient Egyptian game of Senet. It is the only member of Horst Alexander Renz' triad of games to involve some luck. In that sense it is faithful to the ancient game.

Pharao is played by two people.


The board is divided into three rows of ten squares each. Following Ancient Egyptian custom, they are called "Houses".


|   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |
|   |   |   |   |   | A |   |   |   |   |
|   |   |   |   |   | B | C |   |   |   |

Special Houses

A - The House of Second Life (or House of Happiness), marked by an Ankh and an User scepter.

B - The House of Beauty (Beautiful House), marked by three Nefers.

C - The House of Humiliation, marked by three water hieroglyphs.

FIGURE TWO: Numbering Scheme

| 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 |10 |
|20 |19 |18 |17 |16 |15 |14 |13 |12 |11 |
|21 |22 |23 |24 |25 |26 |27 |28 |29 |30 |

This numbering scheme follows the Senet sequence, although Pharao does not treat the board in such linear fashion.

Each player has four playing pieces, shaped like the crowns of Lower Egypt (dark player) and Upper Egypt (light player), respectively. Each player also has two dice, marked 0 - 0 - 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 and 0 - 0 - 1 - 1 - 2 - 2. The first die is marked with silhouettes of the player's own pieces, the other die with silhouettes of the opponent's pieces.


The light player places his pieces on houses 2 through 5; the dark player places his pieces on houses 20 through 23. Decide randomly which player shall be dark and which shall be light. When playing successive games, the players should switch sides. Dark goes first.


The object of the game is to either:


On his turn, a player throws both dice simultaneously. He first moves one of his own pieces according to the first die and then one of the opponent's pieces according to the second die.

A piece moves orthogonally (up, down or sideways but never diagonally), going from its starting house onto neighboring empty houses. The player may not split a die over several pieces and must move the chosen piece the full amount indicated by the die. A piece cannot enter an occupied house while moving nor end its move on an occupied house. A piece cannot enter the same house twice during its move.


A piece moved onto the House of Humiliation has been "pushed into the Nile" and drowns there; it is removed from play if the opponent is unable to move it to safety on his turn (see below). One cannot move one's own pieces onto the House of Humiliation unless there is no other legal move.

The House of Beauty (Beautiful House) is used to rescue drowning pieces. To do so, one simply moves a piece onto the House of Beauty -- this allows the player to move the drowning piece three houses away from the House of Humiliation. The player can also rescue a drowning piece if he had a piece on the House of Beauty at the beginning of his turn. This rescue occurs after the player has moved one of his own pieces and before he moves one of the opponent's pieces.

If the player cannot rescue the drowning piece or chooses to let it drown, he first removes it from the board and then proceeds through a normal turn.

Note that the proximity of the House of Beauty to the House of Humiliation puts the rescuing piece in potential jeopardy.

The House of Second Life (House of Happiness) is ignored unless a player is down to only one remaining piece. In that case, he may win simply by moving his last piece onto the House of Second Life.


A player is "locked up" if he cannot execute either of his two dice throws. As long as a player is able to move a piece according to either die (i.e. one of his own pieces or one of the opponent's), he is not locked up.

It is thus possible for a player to lock himself up, thinking he was going to lock up the opponent: Player A moves so as to block player B's pieces from moving at all; Player B throws a double zero, thus avoiding being locked up; Player A then throw a zero for his own pieces and a non-zero for his opponent's --thus locking himself up and losing the game.


Of the two other games published by Pharao-Brettspiele, Ramses uses a Tjau board and Isis uses an unnamed Ancient Egyptian board. Ramses is played using rules entirely different from the original Ancient Egyptian rules of Tjau (as far as they are known). Ramses is also a two player game, while Isis can be played by up to seven players.

Although Pharao includes only four pieces per player, it is possible to play Senet on its 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