ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

The Royal Game of Ur

Updated on November 28, 2014
CuAllaidh profile image

Jeff Johnston is a medieval reenactor and avid history fan. He is also the publisher at Living History Publications.

Ur.... where or what is Ur

Ur was an important Sumerian City State in ancient Mesopotamia located in modern day Iraq. The city dates from as early as 3600 BCE and is considered by some Biblical scholars to be the city of Ur Kasdim the supposed birthplace of Abram. The city seems to have lasted until 500 BCE when there ceases to be any archaeological evidence the area was inhabited, probably due to change in river patterns which resulted in a drought in the area.

From 1922 through to 1934 Sir Leonard Woolley investigated the royal tombs of Ur. During this time he opened more than 2000 tombs dating back to around 2600-2500 BCE. Amongst the many wonderful finds in the tombs of Ur is a board game, the oldest complete board game ever discovered. This has now become known as The Royal Game of Ur.

The History of the Royal Game of Ur

The rules as it was played 5000 years ago has long since been lost to the mists of time, but many people have devised reasonable reconstructions of what the rules could possibly have been. It is assumed that the game is a chase game much like senet, and is probably an early precursor to the backgammon family of games. The reconstructions are not based completely on fantasy, there is in fact a tablet which is presumed to contain the rules to the Royal Game of Ur dated 177 BCE, although the rules are in cuneiform and not entirely translated and incomplete. For the recreation I am using I have blended a variety of different sources to come up with what I believe to be the most enjoyable variant of the rules.

Game of Ur Board with the standard accepted travel path
Game of Ur Board with the standard accepted travel path | Source

How to play

The game is played on a board of 20 squares. A centre row of eight squares; the top and bottom four squares, a gap of two squares then two more squares. On the image below the path of the black pieces is shown on the board, the white pieces mirror the path.

Each player starts with 7 men in hand, and the board is empty. Traditionally each player had three pyramidal die with four corners as well, two of which would be marked. Instead of pyramidal dice it is common to use “casting sticks” with one side plain and the other painted.

There does not seem to be a standard for who goes first, so the players may decide amongst themselves, a casting of the dice or casting sticks is a common way to determine who goes first. Each player takes turns casting the number of marked sides or corners shown is the number of spaces he can move, if no marked sides turn up the player moves four squares. If there are already men on the board the player may choose to move them or place a new man on the board. If a piece lands on a rosette, a marked square (on the board above the squares with flowers), then that player gets another turn. A man cannot occupy an already occupied square, however if an opponent’s man is on a square that your man can land on you can land on that square and return your opponents man to them to start over. If there are no valid moves then the turn is lost.

The goal is to get all of ones men moved around the board and off. An exact roll is required to move a man off the board.

The Badge of the Avacal Games Guilds
The Badge of the Avacal Games Guilds | Source

© 2014 Jeff Johnston


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)