Royal Game of Ur

The Royal Game of Ur , also known as the Game of Twenty Squares or simply the Game of Ur , is a two-player strategy race board game that was first played in ancient Mesopotamia during the early third millennium BC. The game was popular across the Middle East among people of all social strata and boards for playing it have been found at locations as far away from Mesopotamia as Crete and Sri Lanka. At the height of its popularity, the game acquired spiritual significance, and events in the game were believed to reflect a player’s future and convey messages from deities or other supernatural beings. The Game of Ur remained popular until late antiquity, when it stopped being played, possibly evolving into, or being displaced by, an early form of backgammon. It was eventually forgotten everywhere except among the Jewish population of the Indian city of Kochi, who continued playing a version of it until the 1950s when they began emigrating to Israel.

The Game of Ur received its name because it was first rediscovered by the English archaeologist Sir Leonard Woolley during his excavations of the Royal Cemetery at Ur between 1922 and 1934. Copies of the game have since been found by other archaeologists across the Middle East. The rules of the Game of Ur as it was played in the second century BC have been preserved on a Babylonian clay tablet written by the scribe Itti-Marduk-balāṭu. Based on this tablet and the shape of the gameboard, British Museum curator Irving Finkel reconstructed the basic rules of how the game might have been played. The object of the game is to run the course of the board and bear all one’s pieces off before one’s opponent. Like modern backgammon, the game combines elements of both strategy and luck.



This is my obsession right now. :slight_smile:

Movements are determined by rolling a set of four-sided, pyramid-shaped dice.[12][14] Two of the four corners of each die are marked and the other two are not, giving each die an equal chance of landing with a marked or unmarked corner facing up.[4][14] The number of marked ends facing upwards after a roll of the dice indicates how many spaces a player may move during that turn.[21]

dice that used CORNERS as the information-carriers instead of faces! this is totally blowing my mind ^^

A single game can last up to half an hour[12] and can be very intense.[12]


1 Like

Oh, this is a whole thing!

Tables is a general name given to a class of board games similar to backgammon, played on a board with two rows of 12 vertical markings called “points”. Players roll dice to determine the movement of pieces. Tables games are among the oldest known board games, and many variants are played throughout the world.

This is so fascinating to me!

1 Like

A bit of a tangent, and significantly younger (It feels a bit odd to call 115 BC young) but ive been vaguely interested in the ancient game of Latrunculi ever since one of my favorite webcomic authors did their own reconstruction of it.