Thuluth, the Arabic Word Puzzle Game

Thuluth is a board-game designed for Arabic learners and speakers at any level from beginners to native speakers (all depends on the rule you use while you’re playing with it) to practice and enrich your vocabulary.

It is a combination of a decorative artwork, an educational tool and an exciting board-game, based on the relationship between the logic of Arabic word construction and Islamic geometric design and inspired both by modern Arabic calligraphy and traditional tile-works, as suggested by the game’ name? Thuluth referring both the the word “thulth” one third as the basis of both geometric design and Arabic word construction based mostly on three letters and to one of the varieties of Arabic calligraphy characterised by a cursive, fluid style.

You can design and create your own Thuluth game (just below, you can find some tips how to do it) but you can also order your original one-of-a-kind handcrafted and hand-painted piece of COTA’s : here.

Rules:

As you may know already if you have some notions is Arabic, most of the words are created of a root comprising three letters. It’s a system that results an admirably rich variety of words and a remarkably logical word construction.

As it is the case for most of COTA’s educative board-games, rules give you the basic concept then you can change them depending on how you want to play it, how many of you and how hard you want it to be.

Thuluth’s goal is to fill out the triangle’s all 36 blanks with existing words’ or word’s roots in a manner that the letters you put in three blanks next to each other forming a triangle should always have at least one meaning.

You begin placing the letters in one the three corners of the triangle, like here :

In this version, played by the three of us, we but first thee root ف ع ل of the word “make” in the corner.

The first player (A) put the letter م next to it, in the middle so that it forms now with the ع and the ل different roots such as : عمل (work), علم (science, to know), لمع (to shine, glitter).

You can read the words clockwise or counterclockwise and the word may begin with any of the three letters.

To make it simple, you can attribute one point for each word, so the player A has just won 3 points. Don’t forget to note the words you composed and your points on a sheet of paper!

Then, the second player (B) has put the letter ح, a kind of jackpot as the three letters next to each other can be read in all the 6 different ways : حمل (to carry), حلم (a dream, to dean), لحم (meat), حمح (to glance), ملح (salt), محل (to be barren). In addition to these 6 roots formed by the triangle, the ح constitutes two other words forming a line with the letters ل and ف such ass : حلف (to swear) and فلح (to split, cultivate the land) in the opposite direction. The words constituting a line can be read only in these two ways and you cannot begin it with the one in the middle.

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B has just won 8 points.

The third player ( C ) placed the letter د , not a bad choice either as it gives 6 different roots: دمع (a tear), دعم (to support), عمد (to intend or to support), عدم (to lack sth) معد (root of the word stomach, to have stomach-ache) and it also forms حمد (to bless) horizontally.

So layer C has 6 points for now.

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Remarks about the spelling:

Note that you create roots and not words. For instance, the verb معد (to have a stomach-ache) is rare one, not really used in everyday language and may not know it but you probably know the meaning of the noun معدة (stomach) so you can create to root م ع د and win a point with it.

Concerning week verbs, when one of the 3 letters forming the root is a “changing vowel”, you might follow different rules. If you want to make the game harder, you may use only the official root like here for the verb صاب، يصوب (to be right) you have to put a و and you may not use an ا event though it appears in the past tense form of the verb. If you want to make the game easier, you may accept the ا as well, like we did in this game for the verb ذاق، يذوق (to taste), but, to make fairer for only half a point.

You have two tiles for each letter but you might want to make the game more exiting by trying to use as many letters of the alphabet as you can. To do so, you may take off half a point for each word if the letter that the player places in a blank has already been used. Or, you may not take off any point but if you already have tho tiles with same letter on your board, from then on letters which has not been used yet worth double.

Shall we use a dictionary and how to use it ?

Both on beginner or advanced level, you will need a dictionary that you can use in various ways.

You may not have the right to use it when you place a tile, so you have to be sure that there will be at least one meaningful root formed by the letter you’ve just placed. For the other possibilities you cant check them in the dictionary. To avoid to spend to much time with it and so make the game too long and boring, you can fix a time limit of 2 or three minutes. You can also add additional rules such as having the right to look up any roots in the dictionary but if it turns out that it doesn’t exist, the player looses one of his already gained points. It’s a good method to refresh your vocabulary as it happens so often that while reading in Arabic, you come across words that you know you meet already but forgot their meaning.

You might ask each player to explain the meaning of each root either in Arabic or to translate into your own language. Or, for more fun, you can also play it in a Poker-like way. In that case, you don’t give any explanation to each-other and you may also try to add meaningless roots or roots that you don’t know but which are likely to exist. Still, other player, if they are suspicious and don’t know what the word means may ask you to prove that it exist by showing it in the dictionary. If it exists the player who just placed a tile keeps his or her point and the one who asked for the meaning looses one of his points. If the root does not exist, the player looses two points : the one he/she should have gained with the word and an additional one.

The game can be played with two, three but ideally not more than four players, to keep it well-balanced.

You can also play with it alone, a solitary game to work on your vocabulary.

If you are two to play Thuluth, there is also another way to play with it. You have to create two copies of the board which both of you will fill individually, this time without using the dictionary. You have to note each meaningful root you’ve created and then you exchange your boards. The other player has to find as many root as he/she can on your board while you do the same with his. At the end you compare the totality of the roots that you created and that you found on the other players board. The winner is of course the one who obtained more points. (Each root = 1 point)

How to create you own Thuluth game?

As I mentioned, you have the possibility to order a handcrafted Thuluth game in COTA’s online ETSY shop and event through this site by mailing to : cotaong@gmail.com, but you can also create your own one.

You can draw your board using a compass, but you can also use Amaziograph in which by drawing one simple line, the program creates the whole network of triangles for you.

Or can also simply print this sample:

You have also this sample with the letters:

But, it might be even nicer to create your tiles with your own handwriting and decorate them the way you like it.

Then, you will cut them off and stick the ‘intersection tiles’ on a substrate (cardboard, wood or canvas).

Before sticking them you can cover them with resin epoxy, like I did. I hardens within 24 hours and you can obtain real shiny solid tiles which are much less fragile and nicer to manipulate.

You have to be quite precise when sticking your tiles to be able to place the letter tiles afterwords.

If you don’t have any of these materials, still you feel like to play a quick, you can of course play Thuluth just with a sheet of paper, a ruler and a few pencils.

You draw a huge triangle which you divide it into 9 stripes with the same width parallel to each side of the triangle. So you obtain your 81 small triangles (45 “intersection tiles” and 36 letter tiles).

Now, instead of placing your tiles, you can simply write the letters into the blanks.

Have fun and learn many words thanks to Thuluth !

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