The Game of Ur

Senet

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Rule Facts

Links to Ur

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Various routes used.
A: ABCD12345678EF
B: ABCD1234567fe8EF
C: DCBA4567FE8ef7654321
D: ABCD1234567fe8EF7654321

Brief rules for above routes

Reference Ur board


Game reconstruction - Visitors input

Request or leave information here

View information or requests here

Lucky Dog Rules
New sets of rules for the game of Ur


More than 4,500 years old, Ur is the oldest complete game board in the world. In the late 1920’s, during excavation of the city of UR in Mesopotamia (Iraq), Sir Leonard Woolley discovered four boards, three complete, with dice and pieces. Played for over 2000 years, the game must have had some merit.
The only thing missing is the original rules of play.

P. S. Neeley pages: Very good source of shareware games of this type. They include a lot of information about the civilisations.
Well worth a visit here


One board, thanks to the expert work of Woolley, was rescued relatively intact. This board, decorated with geometric patterns of lapis lazuli and red limestone in shell plaques, is now in the British Museum. One other board partially reconstructed had squares depicting animals and wild beasts. The other boards were too decayed for reconstruction and their pieces, dice and plaques were scattered around. One feature all the boards had in common was an arrangement of five squares, each decorated with an eight petal rosette. A later find however had only three rosettes on the board.

 
In Egypt the game evolved by unfolding the last six squares of the board into a straight line. This is known as the game of twenty squares and was played in many parts of the ancient world. Boards have been found as far as India and some boards found dating to relatively recent times.
Recently a cuneiform tablet has been discovered that gives some clues to the play of that game. The Babylonian tablet was discovered by Irving Finkel and dates around 177 BC. At this time two knucklebones, one of a sheep and one of an ox, were used instead of binary dice.
The tablet indicates that the game was a race to get ones pieces to the end of the board. The playing pieces were reduced from seven to five and each was named, requiring a special throw to enter each piece at the start of play. Some details about one die and the throws were also given. Rosette squares brought good luck and an advantage if landed upon; a penalty was paid if the rosette was passed over. No detail of the movement of the pieces was given. The tablet shows that the game was used for gambling and divination.
It should be pointed out that there is little difference between using a single knucklebone and three binary dice. The knucklebone can land on one of four faces, with a different probability for flat, concave, convex and twisted sides in that order. Three binary dice have four outcomes, 0 or 3 points showing is 1/8 chance each and 1 or 2 points showing is a 3/8 chance each.





 


Ishtar of Babylon
Note Rosettes at the top
either side of entrance, this was a common theme.

This could indicate that the entrance in the game passes between two rosettes.



 

 


Facts and assumptions on which rules should be based.

Rosettes:
Special squares that must be rewarded if landed on and a corresponding penalty paid if crossed over. Not all rosettes are shared by both players and this must be taken into account when considering rewards.

 

Eyes
Followers of Horus invaded early Egypt. The eyes and some attributes may be linked to the game rules.
Blind on the night of a new moon.
Fights injustice. Protects from danger.
Warrior god. Flight over battles.


The difference between the 20 square boards, for which the tablet was written, and the Ur board is the unfolding of the last six squares. This would mean that all pieces of both sides would move in the same direction and be forced to exit at the last rosette.


Rosettes, rams and bulls were recurring themes found in the tombs of Ur and in Mesopotamian imagery. Images of people or animals between, tethered to or eating rosettes are also common.

gambling
The River

Fortune telling
On the back of the tablet are twelve squares with zodiac signs and lucky or unlucky messages. “The scribe has described the fate of each pawn in a poetical way, the wins and the losses corresponding to the same effort required to win enough food, drink and love”.





 


Ancient Mesopotamia
The royal tomb of Ur. Good site for images of all things Mesopotamian and rosettes.

Game Cabinet - Ur and Senet
A few hints at some ancient rules here

Phluzein
A few pointers on rosettes in Ur game.

Reference links

Where to buy the game of Ur
Astral Castle - With rules and history.
Great Hall Games (Where I got mine)
S U Q Good historical background.
British Museum  Not as good as USA set.


Some other links are in the rules below.

British Museum Mesopotamia
Tombs of Ur. Learn, tour and play.

Piccione - Senet
Very good article. Could link to Ur rules.

Knossos game board
Links with the Ur game board here.

Any thing else please Email me here

Various sets of rules and sources in brief.

Route A: ABCD12345678EF  [ 14 squares ]
3 dice: 3 up = 5 pts, 0 up = 4, 1 up = 0, 2 up = 1. Take extra throws until 0 points thrown. Enter board on 1st square with 5pts only. Land on rosette and opponent pays a fine. Only one piece per square and an opponent piece is sent back to the start if landed on. An exact throw is needed to bear off. - R. C. Bell.
Same dice, points, throws and entry as “Bell” plus: One piece per square, any piece hit (even own piece) is sent home. Land on a rosette and you can enter another piece onto the board. Land on the eyes and the opponent moves 1 piece 4 spaces. “Double space??” = repeat distance just moved. Exit rules unknown. Source lost.
Same as “Bell” but land on rosette and you can enter a new piece on square one. - Dagonell the Juggler and Shahira bint Al-Sammad.
4 dice, points 0 – 4. Enter with any number, 1 piece per square and send opponent to start when hit. Miss a turn with 0. Rosettes are safe squares and give an extra go when landed on. Exit with any number past the last rosette.   – The British Museum. [Play it here]
Another set of rules given with the British Museum set involves 5 special pieces from a much later set.
4 dice, points 1 – 5. Enter with any. One piece per square but exits can hold any number of pieces, even both colours at the same time. Land on rosette for an extra turn. Exit with exact throw. Source lost.

Route B: ABCD1234567fe8EF  [ 16 squares ]
3 dice = 1-4 points. Enter with any number. 1 piece per square. Land on a piece and send it home. Land on a rosette and get an extra turn. Exit with exact number. – J. Masters.
3 dice = 0 – 3 points. Enter with a 1 only.  Throw 1 or 3 for extra turn. If no move is possible then turn ends. Land on rosette and the reward is to move any piece on the board 5 spaces without penalty. Rewards must be taken. Jump over a rosette and lose the turn and the opponent takes the rosette reward. All squares can hold any number of pieces. Rosettes can hold both colours at once, other squares a single opponent hit is sent to the start, multiple opponents hit and you are sent to the start. Exact throw = exit and get reward.  - P. S. Neeley. [Ur Game]
4 dice, 1 – 4 and 0 = 6 points. Enter first piece with 6 or 4, after that, any number. 1 piece per square. Hit a piece and send it home. Land on rosette or throw a 6 = extra turn. Exit with exact throw and get extra turn. (Adapted from 20 square game)  - P. S. Neeley.

Route C: DCBA4567FE8ef7654321  [ 20 squares ]
3 dice, 0 – 3 = 4,0,1,5 points. Enter with a 5. Hit a piece and send to start. Rosettes = extra turn. Exits can hold any number and both colours. Exit with 4 or 5. - Le monde des Jeux.

Route D: ABCD1234567fe8EF7654321  [ 23 squares ]
3 dice. Sorry, details to be found and posted here.  – H. J. R. Murray.

No route.
4 dice 1 – 4 (0?). 6 pieces each, placed 1 at a time in turn on any vacant square. Then, in turn, move in any directions according to points on dice, jumping if needed and landing on a vacant square, but not counting any square twice. The piece is then turned over and cannot be used again until all pieces have been played. If you trap your opponent where no move is possible, you win. The object of the game is to place 4 pieces on one of the three sets of 5 identical designs and one piece on one of the other 3 sets.  – Northwest Corner. (They produce a nice set)

Lucky Dogs Rules => [Rule set 1 Blocking] - [Rule set 2 Running] - [Rule set 3 Jumping]

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