Royal Game of Ur


20 - 80
# race game
# Asia
# Eastern
# Ancient
# Traditional
# Race
# action selection
# chasing sticks
# dice
# dice rolling

How to set-up

1. The Royal Game of Ur is played on a board with two blocks of squares (4 x 3 and 2 x 3) connected by a bridge of 2 squares. The board is marked with five rosettes.

2. The Royal Game of Ur also requires a die-four. You can use 3 dice instead; odd numbers representing 1, and even numbers 0. Moves are calculated as the sum of the dice (1 through 3). If a throw shows 3 even numbers, the player misses their turn.

3. Each player selects 7 BEADs colour of their choice. BEADs start off the board.

4. Players decide who begins the game by rolling a die.

How to play

1. No special roll is required to start a BEAD.

2. Players roll to determine how many spaces they can move their BEAD.

3. Each player enters the board on the square directly under the rosette on the middle row of play spaces (players enter directly opposite each other).

4. Players move the BEAD along the long side of the larger block of squares towards the rosette in the corner, turning onto the middle row and proceeding across the bridge to the second block of squares.

5. Once they reach the end of the row, they turn onto the row on their opponent’s side of the board, exiting after the rosette. This routing provides 14 spaces, with the 15th move exiting the board.

6. When a player lands on a rosette, they can roll the dice again and continue to play however with their next role they do not have to move the BEAD on the rosette.

7. A player can have as many BEADs as they like on a square, but only one BEAD can land on a rosette.

8. If a player lands on a square that is occupied by their opponent’s BEAD, the opponent’s BEAD is removed from the board, requiring the player to start the BEAD again.

9. Players must roil and exact number for their BEAD to leave the board.

How to win

To win the game, a player must be the first to move all 7 of their BEADs off the board.


1. The Royal Game of Ur gets its name from two boardgames which were found in tombs by Sir Leonard Wooley, who was carrying out excavations in the ancient city of Ur in the 1920s.

2. The two boards date from before 2600 BCE. Each of the game boards is composed of a set of twelve squares and a set of six cases linked by a bridge of two cases. One of the two boardgames is famous and is exhibited in the collections of the British Museum in London. It is sumptuously decorated with shells carved with lapis lazuli and limestone.

3. Sets of pawns were also found: seven white pawns with five black dots on each and seven black pawns with five white dots. Also two sets of three pyramid-like dice.

4. The Ur-style Twenty Squares gameboard was also known in Egypt as Asseb, and has been found in Pharaoh Tutankhamen's tomb, among other places.