The Royal Game of Ur (Game of Twenty Squares)

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About: A hobbyist maker.

I have a big interest in hobby board games and I do love them. Ever since I saw the "Royal Game of Ur" on a tour of the British Museum, I was interested in it (British Museum: http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_o... ). But a video on YouTube by The British Museum with Tom Scott and Prof. Irvin Finkel got me enthralled with it (Tom Scott vs Irving Finkel: The Royal Game of Ur | PLAYTHROUGH | International Tabletop Day 2017:

I wanted to play and have one of the oldest known board games. So I set out to build one myself.

Step 1: The Materials and Tools

Materials

  • Wood (minimum 110mm x 301mm x 24mm)
  • Rod of wood (minimum diameter of 20mm and height of 12mm)
  • PLA 3D printer filament (or appropriate sized wood for dice)
  • Paint

About the wood for the project, I used wood from an shelf we didn't use anymore and cut slices of a broom rod. As I have a 3D printer I used it to make the dice so they would become as accurate as possible. But you could of course make the dice by carving them out of wood.

For paints I used model paint I already had, for painting plastic models, and it worked great on both the wood and 3D printed plastic pieces.

Tools

  • Saw
  • Rasp
  • Sanding machine (or a block and sandpaper)
  • Small paint brush
  • 3D printer (or another way to make or carve four dice)

Except for the 3D printer, I used very basic tools as that is what I have. If you don't have a 3D printer, just think of another way to make four accurate dice.

Step 2: Cutting

Next it's time to get to the physical work, as you need to cut out the game board and the pieces.

Game board

As the game board has somewhat of a odd shape, start by cutting out the rectangle and then take out the "notches" in the narrow "neck" part. I made a drawing, with measurements, of the game board that I have attached. To make the drawing I used the dimensions and pictures on The British Museum's own website ( http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_o... ).

Player pieces

To make the circular player pieces I found it easiest to start with a rod and then just cut about 12mm slices from it. You need 14 of these pieces (7 for each player).

Step 3: Sanding and Smoothing

To make the touch of the board and pieces feel good, it is VERY important to sand smooth all the parts. Especially sand the corners and edges to make them round.

As I wanted the playing pieces more rounded I sanded their edges quite a lot. I placed the orbital sander between my knees and the held the circular piece and pushed it around lightly against the sander. It took some time but I got all the pieces round and smooth. In the end it was really worth the effort.

Step 4: The Dice

Firstly I was thinking of making the dice out of wood too, by carving them out of a block of wood. But I doubted my ability to make the dice fair and accurate that way. So, as said before, I used a 3D printer to make the dice.

If you have access to a 3D printer (your own, a friends, at the library, at a maker space, 3D hubs etc...) I have attached the stl file I created for a blank D4 dice with rounded corners and in a suitable size for this game. Or you can find it here on Thingiverse: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:3056066

You need four of these D4 dice with pips on 2 of the 4 sides.

Step 5: Painting

When the board, pieces and dice where finished, I painted them. I used Revell and Vallejo paints, as I already had them for painting model spaceships and figures. They worked great on wood.

First I traced lines to follow. For that I printed a top down drawing that I made (attached as a pdf) on two sheets of paper, as the board was to long to fit on one A4 sheet. You could also just measure and draw (and I have the measurements in the drawing).

Tried to stick to the color scheme that was on the game on display in The British Museum (great pictures here: http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_o... ).

Then just paint! On the squares on the game board I choose to just paint the flowers as the are the only ones used for the actual gameplay, and that I'm not that great of a detailed painter, and left the other squares empty as you can see. I liked the wood being visibel.

Dice

The dice have pips on 2 of the four sides.

Step 6: Finished Game

Here's the finished game!

I'm happy with the result! Although I wonder if it has turned against it's maker, as I have so far lost all games I've played on this.

Game Life Contest

Runner Up in the
Game Life Contest

3 People Made This Project!

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18 Discussions

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Schabenstolz

2 months ago

Argh, after publishing my Instructable I have seen in the recommendation that you had the same idea. ^^
Nice implementation, I especially like the flowers and the rounded stones. I would have liked a 3D printer as well. The making of the dice was not a nice job and I am not completely satisfied with the result. : x


For people with printers i linked your instructable, hope this is fine for you.

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RobhJohWVSundown

Reply 2 months ago

Wow, great. Thank you for sharing that site.

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WVSundown

3 months ago

Excellent! I enjoyed this very much, as well as, the links and video of the game being played!! Thank you for posting and good luck in the Game of Life contest!

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RobhJohWVSundown

Reply 3 months ago

Thank you very much WVSundown! Yea, that video really made me want to make this.

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John Harwood

3 months ago

To win this game, you need to be aware that the dice are not random... There is three times the chance of throwing a one or a two as there is of throwing a three or a four. So tactics dictate that if you are at least three squares away from your opponent's piece, you have the odds on your side.

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cneibarger

Question 3 months ago

I love remaking board games for home use! I'm in the middle of one right now, so seeing your post excited me. (Dice are always the hardest part, right?!?) Anyways, I tried to find the rules for this game, but there seems to be many varients that I'm not sure which are the true rules. Which do you use?

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Alex in NZ

3 months ago

Many years ago I had a replica which an aunt had bought from the gift shop at the Museum. I absolutely _love_ your version! Thank you so much for sharing it :-)

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RobhJohAlex in NZ

Reply 3 months ago

Thank you Alex!! Yea, I heard they had a replica before. How was it, what material was it made of?

Again, thanks!!!

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Alex in NZRobhJoh

Reply 3 months ago

The board was about twelve inches by five (30cm x12cm) and quite thick (say over an inch/3cm). The counters were inch diameter red or white discs of wood, and there were three dice, each with three blank faces and three with one large gold dot on them.

The board itself did not have the side cut-outs, but rather was a solid rectangle covered in a high-gloss photographic reproduction of the original (top and sides) and with a load of small print on the bottom. I don't know what the substrate of the board was, but it was fairly light and also pretty robust, so it might have been MDF (if they had that back in the 1970s), or possibly kiln-dried pine.

The instructions were on a scroll, about four inches (10cm) wide which unrolled to about eight inches (20cm) long. I can ask the relative who gave it to me if she can remember anything more about it, and I'll let you know.

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RobhJohAlex in NZ

Reply 3 months ago

That was interesting to hear. Thank you!

Must have been to make the production easier and cheaper to skip the side cut-outs. And well, the odds of geting one of three dots on a D6 is the same as geting on of two on a D4.

Thanks, it was really interesting to find out how they made theirs.

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Gadisha

3 months ago

Very interesting project, I like how you recreated this historical game :)

1 reply