The Royal Game of Ur

Thought to be the second oldest board game in history

The Royal Game of Ur

This an ancient game and as such the rules are a matter of educated conjecture gleaned from several source including ancient tablets. The game is more than 4000 years old.

It is generally agreed that the game is a race game with the aim of getting all seven pieces around the board to the finish point first.


The special Game of Ur board

7 counters per player

6 binary indicators (8 in some versions of the game) Dice, coins etc

Playing the game

The path that the pieces take is again a matter of conjecture and several paths have been put forward and some are detailed in the following pictures. Each path produces a different length game with a few strategic differences.

Path 1 showing both players paths (15 moves per piece)

Path 2 again showing both players moves and reducing the spaces where a piece is safe from capture (17 move per piece)

Path 3 this time showing only one players path the other playing the same pattern from the other side of the board ( 27 moves per piece)

There are other paths played but these are perhaps the most common.

Agree between the players which path is to be used.

Ancient examples of the game came with 6 tetrahedral (triangular pyramids) dice with 2 of the four points painted on each. This would give 3 for each player with each dice having a equal chance of landing with a painted or non painted tip uppermost. On each throw this would give one of four possible results

0 painted tip uppermost – 1 painted tip uppermost – 2 painted tips uppermost or – 3 painted tips uppermost.

It has been suggested that this could be played equally well by tossing 3 coins and counting heads or by using standard dice and counting even or odd numbers.

Whatever indicators are used historians have put forward the following rules

0 – move 4 squares  (it has been proposed that this could be 0 – 4 squares (players choice)

1 – move one square

2 – move 2 squares

3 – move 3 squares.

An exact number must be thrown to bear the piece off the board.

Only one counter is allowed on any square at any one time

Counters can be moved on to the board at any time as long as the square upon which it lands is vacant.

A player must always complete a move if it is possible but if no available move is available the turn is lost.

Only one counter can be moved per turn.

If the counter lands on a rosette then the player gets another turn. The new turn does not need to use the same counter.

If a move results in a piece landing on the same square as that of an opponent then the opponents counter is captured, is returned to its player and must start again.

Variations to these rules.

Set 1

0 – move 4 and have another throw

1 – end of turn

2- move 1 and have another throw

3 – move 5 and have another throw.

In this case a throw of three is required to allow it to enter the board.

This set of rules was proposed as a gambling game with each player paying an agreed amount into the pot and the eventual winner taking the pot. Landing on a rosette resulted in an additional “fine” being paid into the pot.

Variations to any set of rules

The game is played with 4 dice this removes the choice when a 0 is thrown.

A piece on a rosette is safe and cannot be removed by an opponent.