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The set is a recreation of a game called “The Royal Game of Ur” or sometimes just “The Game of Ur” or “A Game of Twenty Squares”. The game is a 2 player race game and is thought to be around 4500 years old.
The set contains a board, a set of 7 white pieces and a set of 7 black pieces (one set for each player, with each piece being a 1x1 round brick) and 4 dice-like pieces. The board can be opened and all of the pieces and dice stored inside. The pieces can also be attached to the squares on the board, meaning they won’t fall off and the game is very easy to transport.
The model is made up of 167 pieces (166 if the two plates used for the base of the model are replaced with a single 6x16 plate) and the dimensions of the board are, to one decimal place:
- Length: 12.7cm (5.0”)
- Width: 4.7cm (1.9”)
- Height: 2.9cm (1.1”)
There are some variations on what the rules are believed to have been and the route it is thought players are supposed to take, but a basic and fairly common set of rules for the game is as follows:
- The route pieces take around the board and the aim of the game: Players start on the squares on either side of the central red square, with one player on one side and one on the other. They then travel up to dark red squares in the far corners, move into the middle lane, go across the board and at the far end, go back into their own lane and go off the board and onto the red rectangles on either side of the middle lane. This means that a player’s piece should have made a near-complete loop through the middle lane and the player’s own lane before leaving the board. The goal is to have all 7 of your pieces go around the board once and be placed in the lowered dark red rectangle before your opponent does the same.
- Rolling the dice: Players take it in turns to roll 4 dice - Traditionally 4 sided dice with two of the corners marked with a different colour, but as it is a 50-50 chance of landing with or without one of the different coloured points facing up, they can be substituted with any 4 events each with a 50-50 chance. These are represented with the 4 coin-like pieces included in the set, which are red on one side and dark grey on the other - the rubber bands wrapped around the pieces help to prevent the pieces from landing on their sides too often.
- How players move pieces around the board: After rolling the dice, players can move one of their 7 pieces around the board, the number of spaces moved being dictated by the number of dice which land red-side-up. If the player has no pieces on the board (which is always the case at the start of the game) they can move a piece onto the board by the appropriate number of spaces dictated by the dice, with the starting square counting as one of those spaces. (For example, if you roll a 1, you can only move the piece onto the first square). Players can have multiple pieces on the board, and if they do, can choose which piece they move after rolling the dice. If none of the dice land red side up, the player doesn’t get to move at all, and the same is true if all of the player’s pieces are blocked from moving. Players cannot move one of their pieces onto a spot already occupied by another of their own pieces, and players must get the exact right number to get their pieces off the board (eg, if they are 1 away from moving a piece off the board and roll a 3, they cannot move that piece).
- Taking pieces and red squares: If a player moves one of their pieces and it lands on an opponent’s piece, the opponent has their piece taken off the board, and the piece must move around the board from the starting square again. Landing on the 4 dark red squares or the central bright red square grants the player an extra turn (usually these are represented by a rosette pattern on actual boards). The bright red square also grants pieces on that square immunity from being taken by the opponent’s pieces.