THE MESOPOTAMIAN GAME OF UR was lost to the modern world until its excavation from the ancient Sumerian city of UR in the 1920’s, for which it is named after. It rivals the African “Mancala” as the “oldest game in the world.” Its discovery is credited to the British Archaeologist Sir Leonard Wooley when he unearthed an incredible hoard of ancient art pieces for the British Museum and University of Pennsylvania.
THE GAME OF UR “boards” were found in the graves of kings, members of the royal court and priest-magicians who controlled the systemology of Sumerian/Mesopotamian society – the “cradle of modern human civilization.” As a result academicians have also consider “UR OF ANTIQUITY” to be a “Royal Game” of ancient Sumer. The game later appears among royalty and priesthoods of Egypt. Elsewhere, temporary versions of the “board” were even found carved on rocks.
Game pieces — “tokens” and accompanying “dice” — were found with “boards” and we are also fortunate enough to have recovered cuneiform clay tablets describing methods of play.
Tokens are made from small circular clay “chips” marked on one side with five dots or asterisks, allowing the distinction of the two sides, similar to the “game” use of coins today. There is a set for each player, one dark (black) and one light (white). Complete game sets, allowing for all prescribed methods of play, generally have seven of each type, although only six pieces are used in a standard GAME OF UR.
Dice consist of small dark clay four-sided tetrahedrons – essentially the d4 of today’s role-playing games – with two of the four tips marked white. This means when rolled, there is a fifty percent chance of the dice coming up with a marked “tip.” The dice are used to decide a starting player and during the game to indicate the number of moves allowed in a player’s turn. In a standard GAME OF UR each player uses four of these dice for their rolls, scoring the throws as follows:
1 point = 1 marked tip
2 points = 2 marked tips
3 points = 3 marked tips
4 points = 4 marked tips
5 points = no marked tips
The standard GAME OF UR begins with two players, each with six playing tokens and four tetrahedral dice. The dice are thrown for the privilege of going first. The player scoring highest wins this honor. Players then take turns strategically placing their tokens (with the marked side up) onto board squares. When each player has placed all six of their tokens, the next phase of game play ensues.
THE GAME OF UR is won by a player having four of their tokens on four of the identical squares of any one of the three sets of the five identical designs:
— The Flower of Life (a lotus wheel)
— The Four Elements (four eyes and crosses)
— The Heavens and Gods (five dots within circles)
…plus one more of the tokens on one of the other squares:
— The Solar/Fire God (four zig-zag squares with five dots each)
— The Celebration (sixteen dots with crosses)
— The All-God (zig-zag squares or all seeing eye)
When first placed, all six of a player’s tokens are played marked side up. Each time a player moves a token it is flipped over, showing it has been moved or played. A player cannot move or play this token again until all tokens show they have been moved/played. This continues until the object of the GAME OF UR has been achieved or until a player traps their opponent into a position where they cannot move. In many respects, the GAME OF UR resembles elements later found in tic-tac-toe, connect-four, checkers, chinese checkers and chess.
[In October 2016, the Archives of the Mardukite Research Organization gained possession of a deluxe complete set wooden replica of the GAME OF UR on display in the British Museum. This official Mardukite informative blog is based on this new acquisition of our offices. For more information on Sumerians, Babylonians and mysteries of the ancient world of Mesopotamia, please refer to the Mardukite Bookshop.]