It’s hard to believe that board games have been around for more than a few centuries, but did you know that some board games are over 4500 years old? Find out more about one of the oldest games known to date by reading these Royal Game of Ur rules.
The Royal Game of Ur received its name from the cemetery from which it was excavated back in the early 1900s: The Royal Cemetery of Ur. Since then, other versions have been found, but no one understood how to play the game until Irving Finkel deciphered the game in the 1980s.
If you are interested in learning more about the game’s history and how to play it yourself, keep reading on, and you’ll find out why this was such a beloved game thousands of years ago and is still loved and played by many today!
This Royal Game of Ur rules guide will cover the following:
- What is the Royal Game of Ur?
- What you’ll need to play the Royal Game of Ur
- A brief history of the Royal Game of Ur
- Royal Game of Ur rules
- How to win the Royal Game of Ur
- Similar game guides
Find out how to play the Royal Game of Ur by reading more below!
What is the Royal Game of Ur?
The Royal Game of Ur is a 1 vs 1 race to the finish game where you must successfully move all of your tokens around a full track of the game board before your opponent beats you to it.
Number of players: 2
Length of play: 30min
Category: Dice rolling, abstract strategy, racing, luck
Main Objective: Be the first player to get all your tokens to complete a full track of the game board before your opponent.
Why We Love It: We love the ancient history behind the game and how simple yet challenging it is to play!
A Brief History of the Royal Game of Ur
Between the years 1926-1930, the archaeologist Sir Leonard Woolley was involved in the excavation of the Royal Cemetery of Ur. During this excavation, they found objects such as clay vases, golden beads, royal tombs, and, you guessed it – a board game!
No one knew how to play the game until the 1980s when Irving Finkel, a curator at the British Museum, deciphered the instructions off of a later found tablet that had a diagram of the game on one side and the rules on the other.
To find out more about the history and how to play the Royal Game of Ur, check out the video tutorial below, which is played by none other than Irving Finkel himself!
What You’ll Need to Play the Royal Game of Ur
Everything you need to play the Royal Game of Ur can be found in the box:
The following components are found inside each game:
- Wooden game board with built-in storage
- 8 Black 4-sided dice with white tips
- 14 Player tokens
The Royal Game of Ur Rules
To set up a game, lay the board within reach of both players while sitting across from each other. Each player gets 7 player tokens (one color per player) and 4 dice.
How to Play the Royal Game of Ur
In the Royal Game of Ur, each player must race to the finish to get all of their tokens to complete a full track on the gameboard before the other player.
Players start the game with their tokens in front of them on the table and the game board in between players so they are sitting opposite from each other.
The game board has one long middle section, which is a shared space between players. The sides of the game board (the 4 adjacent tiles and the 2 adjacent tiles on each opposite side) are each player’s starting and ending spaces.
When a player places a token on the game board at the start of their turn, it must be placed on their respective starting space adjacent to the middle row “starburst”. Movement must first be made on their 4 spaces of the board and can enter the middle row when they pass their starburst.
The player’s starting sections and ending sections cannot have any opponent tokens placed on them. The only shared space on the gameboard is the long middle section of the game board.
- The first player rolls all 4 of their dice to determine their movement. When a player rolls the dice, they look to see how many white tips of the dice are pointing upwards. This determines the amount of movement they will take on their turn.
If the player rolls the dice and no white tips have been rolled, they must skip their turn.
- When a player successfully rolls for movement, they must choose one of these two options for movement:
- They may place one of their player tokens on their starting space of the board and move the amount rolled (the starting space must be accounted for 1 movement).
- They may move 1 token that has already been placed on the gameboard the amount of spaces they rolled for.
NOTE: Movement cannot be split between two tokens. When moving a token, you must move it the full amount of movement that was rolled. You cannot move a token if you cannot complete the full movement. If you can move any token the full amount of spaces, you must make that movement.
- You may move a token through other tokens placed on the board, but you cannot land on a tile that contains one of your tokens. However, you can land on the same space as an opponent, which removes their token from the board and returns it to its owner!
If you land on a “starburst” space, you may immediately roll again for movement! You may move any of your tokens on the board with this second roll, not just the one that landed on the starburst.
NOTE: The “starburst” space in the middle of the game board is considered a “safe” space. If an opponent has a token on that space, you cannot land there and remove their token.
- Your goal is to get all of your tokens to move along the entire track of the game and leave off the end space. In order to move a token off of the board, you must roll the exact amount of spaces needed.
For Example: If you have a token on the last space of the gameboard, you can only remove it from the track if you roll a 1 for movement.
The first player to get all of their tokens to make a full round of the track and off of the game board wins the game!
How to Win the Royal Game of Ur
To win the Royal Game of Ur, you must be the first player to successfully move all of your tokens around a full track of the game board before the other player.
Video Tutorial for the Royal Game of Ur
Frequently Asked Questions
Is the Royal Game of Ur still popular today?
It’s not widely known, but there are a lot of people who still play the game today!
Is the Royal Game of Ur the oldest board game?
Currently, it’s the oldest “playable” board game known to man!
Where can I find more about the history of the Royal Game of Ur?
Here is a site from the British Museum regarding the Royal Game of Ur and other ancient board games!: Top 10 Historical Board Games
Other Similar Games to the Royal Game of Ur (Our Guides)
If you enjoyed reading this guide on the Royal Game of Ur, check out these similar game guides (if we have covered them):