Aztec Games

Written by jane mcdonaugh
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Aztec Games
Aztec ruins (Jupiterimages/ Images)

Like with any culture, games and sports were important to the Aztecs. These games often had religious significance and were often played before or during a ritual, ceremony or sacrifice, according to the Aztec Indian website. Players and attendants alike also tended to pray just before these games.


One of the most popular ball games in Aztec culture was ullamaliztli, also known as tlachtli. Two evenly divided teams played on an H-shaped court between two walls with an 8 to 10-pound rubber ball. The object of the game is to get the ball through a stone hoop located on both sides of the field. Players could only use their hips, legs and feet to do so. Players wore leather belts and deerskin guards to protect themselves, as this was a rough and physically demanding sport. Only players of a high social class could play, but commoners could still watch in the seats surrounding the court.


Patolli is an Aztec board game. The board is shaped like a cross, with spaces on each extremity. The word "patolli" means red bean. Red beans were carved with numbers and used as dice in to the game. Whichever player made it all the way around the board first won. Both common folk and the upper class played. Players typically prayed before the start of the game, as the games were so important to the Aztecs.


Totoloque was a popular gambling game in Aztec culture. Much as with darts today, the object of this game was to hit a target with gold pellets. According to the Aztec History website, Spanish explorer Cortes and Aztec leader Moctezuma reportedly played totoloque together.

Other Games

Watching and betting on games was quite common. Aztec people not only bet with gold, clothing, slaves and other material items. If they were very deep in debt, they would sell land, sell their own children and family and even put themselves into slavery to pay off a debt.

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