Royal Game of Ur

Royal Game of Ur

The Royal Game of Ur is a race between two players on a board of twenty squares. For three thousand years this was the most popular board game across the whole of the ancient Middle East, played by kings and commoners alike.

Understanding how it was played has been a detective story, combining archaeological evidence with ancient writings in Babylonian cuneiform and the recurring features found in traditional race games.

The amazing Dr Irving Finkel of the British museum is credited with finally deciphering how to play the game from a cuneiform tablet (which actually described a more complex version), and has a wonderful video about how it all was figured out:

If you want to give the game a try, there are modern replicas including one that the British Library itself sells.

Another option is to play the game for free online at

It’s definitely a game you could play today and find enjoyable. Tom Scott definitely did when he played Finkel

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