How To Play The Royal Game of Ur

Following on from my post about printing a Royal Game of Ur set as a last minute Christmas present I thought I’d do a quick post on how to actually play the game.

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.

You can download a nice PDF of the rules to package with your gift. There’s even a low ink version if you’d like to save ink.

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