Ancient Board Games: Royal Game of Ur

A game like this, from 2600 BC, is full of intrigue. This delicately carved block of stone, with flowers and markings etched into the rock, sings to played again.

A 4×3 board is connected to a 2×6 board with 2 squares. There are 4 d4’s, with dots on 3 of the points. And there are 7 Tokens per player, with one blank side, and one side with 5 dots

We have the board, the dice the pieces, and the question remains: how do we play it?

Rules have been found for advanced versions of the Royal Game of Ur: the sweet irony of which is that the base rules are speculation. All we know for sure about the base game is some of the markings’ meanings, and that the goal is to get all your pieces across the board. Even the exact route is unknown.

Because of that, there are a few different sets of rules floating around the internet.

One of several points of argument is whether rolling a Zero on the dice counts as a zero, a four-space movement, or as a “roll again”.

Another point of argument is when/how pieces may be moved onto the board. On Some of the boards, the pieces are numbered, and one guess is that you must roll that exact number to play them. Other rules have suggested that you have to roll a certain number (either 4 or 0) to bring out any piece, and some discard that notion entirely; you can bring a piece onto the board at anytime.

I suppose that if you wish to play it, it’s like any game of UNO: the rules are decided by players agreeing (or acquiescing) to them.

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