This two-player strategy game was played throughout the Roman Empire as early as the first century AD, a descendant of earlier Greek board games. Ludus lantrunculorum, more commonly called Latrunculi, is from the Latin meaning “game of the brigands.” As usual in such ancient games, all we have in written accounts are hints at the rules, usually in vague social commentary.
Examples of boards and playing pieces are often found in archeological digs, and some game sets are intact enough to guess at how the games were played. The pieces and board configurations are compared with known games as near to the period as possible to surmise just how the Romans played Latrunculi.
Over the past century, several rule sets have been put together by researchers. The rules we’ve included here were devised in 2001 by Ulrich Schädler, architect, archaeologist, and Director of the Swiss Game Museum in La Tour-de-Peliz.
There are other rule sets for Latrunculi. The most popular is usually played on a 12 x 8 grid, adds a “General” or “King” piece to each side, and the pieces move like chess rooks. The Kings can jump over any number of pegs of either or both sides, and the jumped pegs are not captured. Otherwise, the Kings can also move, trap, and capture like any other piece. The Kings are only captured if they are trapped on all four sides – they cannot be jumped. We have included two extra pegs that can be used for Kings to play on our 8 x 8 peg board.