Royal Game of Ur

The Royal Game of Ur dates from 2600 B.C. It was discovered in the 1920s by Sir Leonard Wooley during his excavations at the city of Ur in Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq). In the early 1980s, Irving Finkel of the British Museum uncovered the rules of the game, long forgotten, by deciphering Sumerian cuneiform tablets.

Rules

The Royal Game of Ur is played by two players using a board consisting of 20 squares shown in Figure 1. One player has seven white stones and the other has seven black stones. Each player takes turns to throw three two-sided dice or throwing sticks that are marked on one side and move one of their pieces according to the number indicated by the dice.

Royal Game of Ur board
Figure 1: Royal Game of Ur board
Dice with marks upwards Count
1 0
2 1
3 5
0 4

The goal is to move each stone along the 14-square path from the start square to the end and remove the stone from the board. The winner is the player who removes all their stones from the board first.

If a stone lands on a square marked with a star the player may roll again. After rolling the dice the player moves the stone forward the number of squares shown by the dice roll. When starting a stone the first count is onto the start square. A player may have more than one stone on the board at a time. If the stone of one player lands on a square occupied by the stone of the opponent while on the center row, the opponent’s stone is removed from the board and must start again.