The Royal Game of Ur is an ancient game predating backgammon. There are several interpretations as to the true history of the game and its rules. This post will follow the work of Irving Finkle and the British Museum. The British Museum YouTube channel has a great video where Irving Finkle plays Tom Scott. If you’re more visual you may find this a better way to learn the game but if you do end up watching the video over this post just know that there’s a PDF download of the rules at the bottom of the page which you can print and package with your 3D printed gift.
The goal of the game is to be the first player to move all your pieces along the board. Each player has 7 pieces. Each player takes it in turns to roll the four 4-sided tetrahedron dice. Each die has two pips, if the die lands such that a pip is face up you count the die as a 1. As such it’s possible to roll between 0 and 4. If you roll greater than a 0 you must move a piece if you are able. You may only move a single piece per roll. A piece can only move onto a space that’s unoccupied or occupied by an apponents piece, you cannot stack your own pieces. If you land on a space occupied by your opponent their piece is knocked off the board and must start again.
The black parts are the pips. If these are face up that die represents a 1.
You can jump an occupied space if you roll greater than that space. For example, you roll a 4 and the next 2 spaces are occupied, you can jump the two occupied spaces and move two more. If, however, you roll a 2 and the second space ahead of you is occupied by your own piece you cannot move to that space.
There are five rosette spaces on the board, in the image below they are the yellow and blue spaces. If you land on a rosette you must roll again and move again. You don’t need to move the same piece. If you land on another rosette you keep rolling and moving until you stop landing on a rosette. The central (blue) rosette space is a special tile. If you occupy this space that piece cannot be knocked off the board. One player moves pieces from the top row green space and follows the red path. Their opponent starts from the bottom row green space and follows the blue path.
How each player moves on the board.
To remove a winning piece from the board you must roll exactly. If your piece is 1 space from coming off the board you must roll a 1.
You must roll exactly to remove a winning piece. In this example red would require a roll of exactly 3 and blue would require exactly 4.
That’s all there really is to the game. I hope you enjoy playing your new 3D printed Royal Game of Ur set. There are other interpretations of the rules that you can find on the internet.
This post is mostly for gamers with a few technical and practical techniques. You’ll need to know your way around a 3D printer and how to mix epoxy glue as well as how to sand and similar skills.
Please note that when printing the demo for this post I discovered my printer had a loose pulley but I didn’t have time to fix it and start the print again so please excuse the wobbly print. It’s not the design it was my printer, it applies to the photos of the bronze-gold coloured board.
Back in May I watched a British Museum YouTube video about a game called the ‘Royal Game of Ur’, an ancient counter-based board game that predates even backgammon. I was instantly hooked by the idea of printing a copy. My mum absolutely loves backgammon and I thought she might get a kick out of playing something similar. I had a quick look on Thingiverse but while I found one, I didn’t like how long it would take to print. It was square-edged and designed to print long edge down which requires a lot of infill, resulting in a very long print. There was a thinner version designed for faster printing but I found that didn’t come out very well and I really wanted a full-sized game with a drawer to contain the counters and pieces. I could have printed the existing design, rotated onto its short end but I wanted one with rounded edges to make it my own. The design I’d found had a non-commercial clause on the license so I decided to go in from scratch and create a 100% new design in Blender.
Using references which I found online for the layout of the board tiles, I set about working on my design. Once it was finished I gave the edges a very large, smooth bevel. I knew this would cause issues with printing due to it having an overhang which was more than 45 degrees so I created some custom supports. For this project I thought I could generate better quality supports that would be easier to remove than auto-generated ones because of the simple nature of the shape.
Finally, I wanted to add some cut-outs to glue rubber pads to the bottom of the board to avoid any possibility of scratching tables because the rougher layer lines would be against the table and any movement might eventually cause small scratches. Because of the vertical nature of the design, I made sure that the tiles and pad cut-outs are as thin as possible so as to require no supports, whilst also giving enough definition.
If you have a 3D printer you can make a great present for someone who loves games like backgammon even with just under a week left until Christmas. Grab your filament (preferably 3-4 different colours) and get to printing!
Thee are three (and a bit) different designs. I’d recommend printing either version 1 or 2, though if you’re up for a challenge versions 2.5 or 3 are there for you if you like the look of them.
Version 1 – interlocking board parts
It’s quick to print and ready to play pretty much straight off the printer. It has a drawer for the parts but depending on your print settings, calibration and tolerances you may find this a little snug, requiring a little sanding of the cavity (and maybe the drawer too) to get a smooth fit. The latch that holds the drawer in place eventually wears off though honestly this isn’t too much of an issue most of the time, just don’t leave it face down in your bag.
For reference from now on I will refer to the board part on the left of the above photo the square board and the one on the right the tee board. I know these aren’t 100% accurate descriptions but they’re close enough.
Version 2 – inset magnets
The second design is for the more adventurous. It requires a few extra parts and more finishing time. The two board parts and the drawer, all, have cut-outs for small magnets. These need gluing in place and the cut-outs will likely need to be cleaned up a little. The magnets in my original design had a 10mm diameter and were 1mm thick, with a pull of 0.58kg. They weren’t VERY strong. They hold the drawer and board in place, even face down but if you shake the board, the drawer will usually fall out. The two board pieces will be held in place for a play session but can’t really be moved in-place like the first design. As a result, I’ve redesigned the cut-outs to take thicker magnets with a stronger pull. I’ve also made the cut-outs open faced insets rather than slots in the under side of the board.
The slot version is still available but I don’t really recommend you print it unless you want a “magic”/invisible magnetic effect as the clean-up is a little fiddly and the magnet covers are harder to attach. We’ll call this style version 2.5.
Version 2.5 with original side-by-side magic magnet slots
Version 3 – no drawer
The final design does away with the drawer, replacing it with a cover that is once again held in by magnets. This is a fancy design but I realised that I actually prefer playing with the drawer as it makes tidying up easier, just put your winning pawns straight back in the drawer and you can just slide it back in at the end of the game. As such I’ve mostly abandoned the design. You can print it if you like the look of the design but I wouldn’t really recommend it as I haven’t tested it properly. One major advantage however is that it can be printed on a single 170 x 170 x 130mm printer bed and takes just under 8 hours at 60mm/s.
In the original design that used magnets I had designed it to use two 10x3mm disc magnets next to each other in all the parts, the thinking being that you’d get a bit more pull and the magnets would have more chance of getting lined up when attaching parts, however I found that this made it quite hard to glue them in place as they kept trying to repel each other out of the slots. You can see this design in the Version 2.5 picture So with this in mind I’ve modified the slots for the two board parts to take thicker 10mm magnets which should result in a stronger pull of all the parts.
Print Settings and Stuff
I recommend printing both parts of the board together if your printer has a large enough build volume. This saves a little time over printing them separately as it reduces set up time but the true benefit is that it allows you to print faster, saving time, and still end up with a high quality print. The single tile-width part of the T shaped board part tends to buckle if printed by itself as the layers don’t have time to cool properly.
Buckled due to insufficient cooling
You can counteract this by lowering your head temperature a few layers before you get there or printing slower but honestly, printing both parts together works much better as it significantly increases the individual layer time thus almost guaranteeing that the layers will have cooled sufficiently by the time the next layer starts.
Recommended Resolution: 0.3mm.
Walls: 2-4 (I usually do 2 but 4 might give you a cleaner drawer cavity.
Top/Bottom Layers: 3-4 (I usually use 3)
Speed: 40-60mm/s – It should print fine at 60 but if you want a more consistent quality you might want to try a lower speed. Print the dice quite slow to keep the first layer stuck to the bed.
Brim: Not necessary but you may have trouble getting the dice to stick without one
Infill: 10% for the boards and drawers 15-25% for the counters, 100% for the dice to give an even weight and add some heft to them.
Square and Tee Board Parts
I’d recommend turning build-plate-only supports on in your slicing software for versions 1 and 2. This adds almost no print time but just makes sure that the build-plate facing cut-outs are clean and don’t collapse.
You may find it useful to turn on supports everywhere if printing versions 2.5 or 3 as the slots can collapse a little bit without them but it’s not strictly necessary.
Dice and Counters
There’s no need for supports on these items
Regarding the drawer itself you can enable supports for the handle overhang, however it’s not strictly necessary.
You may not need supports for the drawer handle.
I recommend printing the counters in either white and black or some garish colours like fluorescent green and orange. The board looks amazing in chocolate brown or dark grey and if you want to go even more garish why not try the drawer in some other colour that complements the board colour.
The board in chocolate brown (looks nicer without flash)
Great colour combination
If you’ve printed well all that should be needed is to use a small, flat screw driver or pliers to pry away the custom supports (and magnet supports), a little medium-grit sand paper can be used to remove any left over support sprue and can be useful for loosening the fit of the drawer cavity. If you really want you can try to go for a glass finish. This will take a lot of time and require pretty much every grit of sandpaper there is. You can see how to do this in the references at the bottom of this post though I think the print looks fine as it comes straight off the printer.
First layer supports
Clean removal of custom supports, gently pulled off by hand.
Little bit of clean up needed.
One more thing you will need to do is to remove the rabbit ears that are built into the drawer files. These help to keep the drawer from warping on the bed. They’re relatively easy to remove, at 0.3mm resolution they should only be a single layer thick, just use a pair of scissors or a sharp knife to cut around the edge of the drawer, this will get rid of the bulk of the ears, you then just need to sand, file or use a deburring tool to remove the rest.
Clean up the magnet inset/slot then insert the magnets a little way, try not to push them in all the way (if printing version 2.5-3). You just want to check the polarity, the magnets in the drawer and square should attract and the magnets in the square and tee boards should attract. Once you’ve got this sorted, you’ll need to glue them in place. You can either rough up the surfaces of the magnets with some sandpaper or a file then use some Loctite Precision super glue or try your hand with some 2-part epoxy glue. The epoxy may work better as the magnets don’t stick that well with regular super glue and filing the surfaces can sometimes snap them as they’re quite brittle.
Unglued magnet testing fit and orientation
Add the pads
If you have some 10-12mm rubber pads, stick them to the bottom of the board parts.
Add the Magnet Covers
Hopefully you’ve made sure all your magnets are aligned correctly, now take the magnet covers you printed and apply a small amount of super glue (or expoxy) to the cover and press it into their designated slots. You may find it helpful to use some needle nose pliers to keep your fingers free of glue.
For the inset design (version 2) you want to have two circular covers, these should be placed on top of the tee board and under the square board. If possible try to align them so that the infill pattern matches the infill pattern on the board for a more seamless transition. The magnet covers for versions 1-2 are supplied in their own file. You may find it better to print them at a higher resolution like 0.1mm.
For the magnet slot in the drawer (versions 1-2.5) and on the slotted boards (versions 2.5-3) take the small printed magnet cover sticks and try to fit them in the slot groove. You will see that there is a small lip on which the cover can rest. You may need to trim/sand it a little depending on your tolerances. Once you’re happy that it fits, add a small dab of super glue to the lip of the slot and gently hold the cover in place. If you find you can’t remove the magnet cover but haven’t glued it, just gently add a little dab that fills the gap between the slot and cover.
Test the cover fits in the slot groove. You can see this one doesn’t fit as it’s from a different design.
For version 3 the magnet covers are supplied as part of the cavity cover file (the green item in the picture below), the two longest covers are for the slots in the square board (red in the below image). The middle length covers are for the magnets in the cover (green in the below picture). The final two covers (shortest) are for covering the magnets in the slots underneath the two board pieces.
The longest magnet covers cover the red section
Finishing the Dice
One last thing to do is to accent the pips on the dice. Each die has 2 pips denoted by a slight dent or cut-out. These can be a little unclear at a quick glance. If you have printed them in a light coloured filament you can try marking the dents with a sharpie marker. Otherwise you could use some acrylic paint to paint the pips in.
The dice pips, which I filled in with a Sharpie
Everything should now be done!
If you feel like you want to add your own touch to the finish of the game why not paint the tiles or add some glow in the dark powder to the rosette tiles. The rosettes are the ones that look a little like flowers.
The rosette tile design.
There is one special rosette and four regular rosettes. I’d add some green/blue powder to the regular rosettes and maybe some orange or purple to the special rosette.
On my Kossel Mini printer I can get it to print at around 66mm/s, at this speed the whole project takes about 10 hours, though I suspect the drawer cavity would be a little less tight if printed at a slower speed.
Board Parts: 7-8 hours
Dice: 40 min-1 hour
Counters 40 min (per player)
These times assume you have a well calibrated printer and can print each part first time.
You only need to print 14 counters in total, I’d recommend printing 7 of the traditional counters (counter-fingerGrip or counterStandard) in 2 colours OR printing 7 star counters and 7 moon counters.
The star and moon counters are my own interpretation of the counters to make it easier to distinguish between players and make it easier to pick the pieces up, however they may be a bit trickier to print.
Approx Print Time (at 60mm/s)
1x 10 x 2mm magnet, rubber pads
1x 10 x 2mm magnet, rubber pads
1x 10 x 2mm magnet
V.2 (inset magnets)
1x 10 x 2mm magnet, rubber pads
1x 10 x 2mm magnet, rubber pads
1x 10 x 2mm magnet
V.2.5 (slot magnets)
1x 10 x 2mm magnet, rubber pads
1x 10 x 2mm magnet, rubber pads
1x 10 x 2mm magnet
V.3 (no drawer)
4x 10 x 2mm magnet, rubber pads
2x 10 x 2mm magnet, rubber pads
2x 10 x 2mm magnet
You can download the STL files required for this project on Bitbucket.
OK so this was a bit of a mammoth post but I wanted it all in one place for people to speedily get printing in time for Christmas. I’ll do a follow up post on how to play Royal Game of Ur shortly and if it proves popular, I will try to do a post on how to add glow in the dark powder to the board. I hope you find this project interesing. Please let me know if there are any issues.
Oh! one last thing, here’s the YouTube video that inspired all of this in case you haven’t already rushed off to find it.
This is a quick top tip for playing Sub Terra, a game I backed on Kickstarter. I backed at the Collectors Edition level which means that I received a little UV torch in the box, among other things, such as the 3 expansions, an art book and developer diary. A lot of the art on the game pieces is UV reactive (the logo on the big box glows in the dark too which is cool). I find, however that the torch tends to be too direct and blow out the UV reactive effect. I’m also concerned that it will be difficult or expensive to replace the battery when it runs out so don’t really want to use it that much. A quick note, all products mentioned in this post can be found in links at the bottom of the page.
It’s actually possible to get LED strips that emit UV-A light relatively cheaply, around £8 if you already have a 12V power supply, £18 for the strip and power supply . These usually come in 5 metre strips, around 300 LEDs and use about 24 watts. What’s cool about them is they have a sticky tape on the back and come on a flexible PCB so can be shaped around the room to maximise the UV effect. Some, like the set I got can be chained together though I suspect you may need a power supply that can provide more than 2 amps for more than one strip.
A look at the UV LED strip.
How I ended up using them was to run them up the wall, over part of the door frame and then draped them over the struts of the chandelier that hangs over over the dining table, this gave a really nice ambient light around the room with a nice strong light over the game pieces. The way they’re draped gives a nice organic look, a bit like some ethereal, glowing tentacled horror, perfect for the theme of the game. The strand running across the room in the photo below isn’t hanging as low as it seems, the photo was taken from a high angle to get the Sub Terra box in the same shot. I’ve since tacked the strip to the ceiling so it’s even less in the way.
The lights draped over the chandelier
The set-up is also pretty portable. I was able to take the entire strip to my friend’s flat and we managed to illuminate the room by draping them over his lamp shade and some shelf units around the room, a completely non-damaging solution. This worked pretty well even when the lights FELL DOWN in a real life jump scare during an actually tense moment in the game, bah gawd my heart!
A finished game illuminated by just the UV LEDs
Closer to the brightness in the room
The above photo(s) show the game we played at my friend’s flat. The room is lit entirely by the UV LEDs but even the lower picture doesn’t really come close to how bright it seems in real life. This was probably realistically only about 1/3 of the LEDs providing useful illumination. To the right of the image you can see two little green blobs which are the official glowing die (the brighter one) and my custom designed horror tokens, activated entirely by the LEDs.
Alternatively if you don’t have many draping points in your games room you could get some cheap light stands. There are some pretty cheap ones on Amazon for about £20. You could then drape the lights around these, over the table, maybe using a small patch of the 3M backing tape to secure them to avoid slippage.
Of course this lighting setup might not work for everyone. You really need to own your own property to make the most of the set-up permanently as it’s best when the strips are pinned to the wall/ceiling. Or if you’re using the light stands you need a decent amount of space around your gaming table so as not to crowd the players. If you like the idea of UV atmospheric lighting but don’t want the hassle of the strip, there is one final simple option. You can actually get some UV bulbs that fit into standard light fittings though I’ve not personally tried any. If they provide anywhere near the same level of light you could just replace the standard bulb in your games room for the evening and play all your scariest games.
A More Advanced Solution
If you have electronics skills how about controlling your new UV LEDs with an Arduino. While the LEDs aren’t individually addressable like some other strips they can be split up every 3rd LED. You could use a set of relays or transistors to control the 12V power supply to several smaller strips, making them flicker at random to increase the atmosphere. If you add some RGB LED strips and a couple of buttons you could code them to respond to certain in-game events. Say you encounter a horror and lose consciousness, hit the button and the room temporarily lights up bright red or white. If you reach the “Out of Time” state in the game you could dim the UV LEDs over time and have some red LEDs fade up at the same time. Finally if you’re looking to make this a more permanent solution you could have a button that turns the RGB or maybe some white LED strips on full, disabling the UV LEDs and have these be your house lights for regular gaming sessions. If you like this idea and want another post on how to set this up, let me know in the comments.
The below Amazon affiliate links are actual recommendations.
Zombie Dice – a dice game about risking it all to become the most well fed zombie out there
Cthulhu Dice – A dice game by the same people who brought you Zombie Dice featuring your favourite madness bringing eldritch horror. I’ve not played the physical version of this game but there is a digital one you can try out that I quite enjoyed.
There are others such as Arkham Horror and Eldritch Horror which seem like they’d be a good fit however I’ve not played them so can’t really recommend them at the moment.
The below affiliate links are provided for convenience but as I haven’t used them they are not recommendations.
Large Cable Clips – These look similar to the ones I used but again, only really usable if you own your property.
Some Light Stands – While I haven’t used exactly these stands I have used ones very similar and ordered other things from the same manufacturer so I’m sure they’ll hold up fine.
DISCLAIMER: The techniques used in this blog may be considered copyright infringement however the steps taken were used purely for personal, non-commercial fan improvements to the game. With that in mind you are recommended to replicate these steps only for the same non-commercial purposes and at your own risk.
Earlier in the year I backed a game on Kickstarter called Sub Terra which I like to describe as a weird mix where Carcassonne meets Forbidden Island in a deadly caver setting, I guess some wouldn’t agree but it’s what I feel describes the game quite well. The game turned up in late October and it was super exciting to unbox and play. One of the main parts of the game is “horrors” which spawn and chase you round the map, causing immediate loss of consciousness for any player they touch. These can be quite threatening however during the campaign the production company explained that their custom designed horror pieces hadn’t come out as they’d anticipated and had resorted to using stock black wooden pieces.
Not very threatening wooden tokens
Honestly, this was a bit of a let-down partly due to the size and shape of the pieces (a short untextured cylinder) and partly due to the fact that the cave tiles are quite dark and the black colour of the pieces made them vanish on the board. That said their decision somewhat understandable from a production standpoint.
On a tile, gets a bit invisible under atmospheric lighting.
So, having been excited to play and being an avid 3D printer with 3D modelling skills I decided to make my own custom pieces. Now it’s worth quickly mentioning that they do offer a version of the game with custom miniatures and it’s only £18 more than the version I purchased and had I been in possession a bit more spare cash at the time and a bit more confidence in the campaign I would have almost certainly backed this and if you can afford it I’d recommend you investigate that.
I mulled over how to make some custom pieces from finding some “horror” like figure on sites like Thingiverse to a more standard looking “token” shaped item. I couldn’t find anything I particularly liked on the web so I decided that something akin to their original design would work well. The creators had released a print and play version of the game and I thought it would be cool to model something similar to the official horror artwork, which looks like a monstrous triple claw slash on a jagged outline background. I had planned to import the artwork into Illustrator and trace the outline of the claws fairly accurately but with ease of printing in mind. As it turned out the artwork in the print and play downloads is semi-editable PDF vectors. As such I was actually able to extract the claw and jagged outline design into Illustrator, export the shape in an SVG file and import THAT file into Blender.
Extracting the design from the PNP files
In Blender the SVG is represented by a NURBS curve. This needs converting to a mesh. After a bit of scaling and face/edge cleanup I was able to extrude the claw and outline shapes. I modelled a simple cylinder shaped token based on a guesstimate measurement of the game tiles and applied a boolean modifier between the cylinder and the imported shape, resulting in a really nice claw cutout on the top face.
I exported the STL and opened it in my 3D printing slicer of choice (usually Cura – slic3r seems to make my printer act weird).
Single token in Cura
My first attempt in Cura didn’t go so well, the claws were too small and I knew they wouldn’t print cleanly. I scaled the token up a bit until the claws had definition then went back into Blender to make the tweaks final, adjusting the cylinder to better fit the scaled design without letting the volume get too large. I still wanted these to print as quickly as possible.
The final design.
They came out great! They also print pretty quickly. The game requires 3 tokens and this turns out to be the perfect number for the design. Being quite small you really need to print multiple copies at once to improve the quality of each one. If you’d like a more detailed blog on 3D printing let me know in the comments, though I’m assuming you already have a printer or a friend who has one if you’re reading this post. As it turns out, three copies were just enough to optimise the print quality.
The printed pieces
Like I said the prints looked great however there was one last touch missing. When I got my printer, one of the first non-filament items I got for it was some strontium aluminate powder. This is a non-toxic, non-radioactive (despite the name) glow in the dark powder that can be mixed with almost any liquid binder. I had always planned to add this to the cut out face around the claws to give the design an eerie, sinister, threatening feel. I mixed the powder with some clear nail varnish and used a small brush to get the paste right into the design. In the past I’ve had trouble with the nail varnish evaporating and leaving just the residue stuck to the printed part.
The tokens and supplied die glowing after a short charge under a daylight bulb
This works quite well but doesn’t look all that great when the lights are on (and uncharged), especially if you’re not too accurate with the brush like I am, however in the dark this looks amazing! As such I would recommend trying a binder less likely to evaporate like epoxy resin or even better maybe using some pre-made glow in the dark paint. If I had any glow in the dark PLA filament I would maybe redesign the tokens to have a second “fill” part that would fit into the top face, around the claws, however getting the tolerance on the fit may take a few attempts. I don’t think printing the entire thing in glow in the dark filament would be as impressive, you’d probably lose the claw design in the glow.
How the strontium aluminate looks under regular lights
What surprised me about the glow in the dark powder was that I had anticipated needing to leave the tokens out in the sun for the better part of a day to get a good game’s length of glow out of them, however I found that they glow really well under the UV light from the torch (and from my atmospheric lighting that I’ll cover in the next post).
I will be looking to get the blessing from the game’s creators, ITB to release the designs, using the original artwork I’m not even comfortable releasing the design for free, however using the steps above you should be able to make your own if you fancy it. If you don’t have and can’t afford a 3D printer (they’re not for the faint of heart) you might be able to find a local hackspace where you could get help or having made your design you could try a service like shapeways, a commercial 3D printing company.
I have been toying with a 3D printable token for my own game, coming to Kickstarter soon, for the community to print if they want a more personalised feel to their game and hope that this will be a nice post-release add-on for fans with 3D printers.
If you have a 3D printer and would like to print some of these yourself you may find the following products useful. The Amazon affiliate links are not recommendations, they are purely supplied for convenience. That said I have used the strontium aluminate powder and it works about as well as you would expect and these are products I have considered and would consider trying in the future.