How To Play Tabula Link to heading

A guide on the rules and strategy of tabula


Introduction Link to heading

Tabula is a board game that has been played for more than 1,500 years.

Diagram Link to heading

The arrows indicate the checker movement direction of each player.

The dice indicate the roll needed to bear a checker off of the board.


Setup Link to heading

Each player starts with 15 checkers off of the board.

Rolling Link to heading

Each player rolls one die to determine who goes first. If the rolls are equal, both players re-roll their single die. The player with the higher roll goes first by rolling again, this time using all three of their dice. On subsequent turns, playrs roll all three of their dice.

Movement Link to heading

After rolling, checkers may be moved the corresponding value shown on all three dice. A single checker, two checkers or three checkers may be moved independently using all three dice values.

Rolling doubles (or even triples) does not award any extra checker moves.

Checkers start off of the board, and both players may bear checkers onto the board using their available dice rolls. Both players start at space 1.

When moving a checker using more than one of the available roll values, the checker must be able to legally make each individual move along the way. If 3-3-1 is rolled, for example, a single checker may be moved from space 2 to 9 by making legal moves to space 5, then 8 and finally 9.

Checkers may only be moved to spaces that either have no opponent checkers occupying them, or only one opponent checker. If two or more opponent checkers occupy a space, you may not move to it.

Initially, players may only bear checkers onto the board and move checkers within the first half of the board (space 1 to 12). Once all of a player’s checkers have entered the board, moving checkers into the second half of the board is then permitted.

If you can not use all three of your available moves, you must make as many moves as legally possible before ending your turn.

Hitting Link to heading

If a checker is moved to a space occupied by one opponent checker, the opponent’s checker is “hit” and moved to the bar. The bar is the part of the frame that divides the board in half.

Bearing off Link to heading

The second half of the board, ranging from space 13 to 24, make up the “home board”. When all 15 checkers are within the home board, you may bear checkers off of the board. If your checker is hit and returns to the first half of the board, you may not bear off any additional checkers until it returns to the second half.

An exact roll of the dice matching the number of spaces until moving past space 24 may be used to bear off.

Strategy Link to heading

Prioritize the following:

Defend against opponent “hits” by not placing single checkers on vulnerable spaces.

Create blockades called “primes” by placing at least two checkers on consecutive spaces.

Prioritize bearing checkers onto the board rather than moving checkers already on the board.

Doubling cube Link to heading

For information on how to use the doubling cube, see How To Play Backgammon.

-Trevor Slocum 2024/03/01