Sometimes referred to as The Game of Twenty Squares, The Royal Game of Ur was originally a race game played by both the Egyptian rulers and the common gamblers. The game was played all over the Eastern World, and is thought to date from around 3000BC. The board (see bellow), has been excavated in Iraq, Iran, Syria, Jordan, Turkey, Crete, Palastine and Israel, and a descendant of the game is still played in India today. The example of the board bellow is based on the one discovered in a royal grave in the Sumerian city of Ur by Sir Leonard Woolley. Thought to date from 2600BC, it is now on display in the British Museum in London.

 _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _         _ _ _ _
| # |<--|<--| 1 |       | # |<--|
|_ _|_ _|_ _|_ _|_ _ _ _|_ _|_ _|
|   |-->|-->| # |-->|-->|-->|-->|
|_ _|_ _|_ _|_ _|_ _|_ _|_ _|_ _|
| # |<--|<--| 2 |       | # |<--|
|_ _|_ _|_ _|_ _|       |_ _|_ _|

The rules listed here are based on a cuneiform tablet from Babylon shortly after 200 BC, the oldest set of gaming rules ever discovered. Player 1 starts on the square marked 1, and player 2 starts on the square marked 2. Each player has seven throwing pieces, and share four throwsticks, which are thrown against the table. The first player to move all his pieces to the end of the board is the winner. Players pieces are entered from opposite sides of the board. As with many ancient eastern games, throwing sticks are used. These are sticks with one side flat and the other rounded. If a stick lands with the flat side down, the stick is said to be 'rounded', vice versa. The player with the highest score on the throwing stick starts. The throwstick scores are as follows:

1 flat, 3 rounded = 1
2 flat, 2 rounded = 2
3 flat, 1 rounded = 3
4 flat            = 4
4 rounded         = 0

The first square counts as 1. Only one piece can be moved each go, and can only be moved forward. If you land on a rosette (#), take another turn (you do not have to move the same piece the second time). Only one piece is permitted in a square at any one time. The first two squares and the last four squares are safe territory for each player. If your opponent lands on a piece occupied by you in the middle section of the board, your piece is knocked off the board and you must start again. You must make a move if at all possible, and an exact throw is needed to move a piece off the board to the finish.

Rules for Alternate Gambling Version

Each player has 5 "bird" playing pieces.

Storm bird   1 point
Raven        2 points
Cockerel     3 points
Eagle        4 points
Swallow      5 points
Throwing sticks:
Thirty white counters, 1 point each
Ten red counters, 2 points each
Ten blue counters, 3 points each

To begin with, each player takes 5 points of counters from the pool. The player with the highest throw-score begins first. Taking alternate turns, try to align your pieces in numerable order on the board. You must throw 1, 2, 3 and 4 to start the Storm Bird, Raven, Cockerel and Eagle respectively. If you throw 5, you may launch the Swallow, which, being "wild", may be placed on any square immediately before a rosette square. Pieces cannot move until all are entered into formation. If you land on a square occupied by an opponent, his piece is removed, and he must start again by throwing the appropriate score. If a piece in on a rosette square, it is immune to being knocked off, and you may gain another go. As with the original version of the game, if possible you must always make your move or else substitute your go.

When a piece lands on a rosette, take counters from the pool, for example, five for a swallow. If you pass over a rosette, you must pay the corresponding ammount into the pool, unless the square is occupied by your opponent, in which case the counters go to him. If you cannot pay, the piece must be removed from the board and the necessary throw must be made to start. The winner of the round is awarded 5 points from the pool, and the loser pays the value of all the pieces still in play or still waiting to re-start to the winner. If he has insufficient points to do so, the winner takes instead from the pool. The final winner is the one with the most points after three rounds.

Source: Ancient Board Games, by Irving Finkel

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