The Royal Game of Ur

This is an implementation of the "Game of Ur", a race game dating back to the Bronze Age that has been played for over 4,000 years. The rules used here are those of Irving Finkel's, based on a Babylonian cuneiform tablet of game rules dating back to the 2nd century BCE. The board is based on the famous grave goods discovered at the site of the ancient city of Ur (hence the name.) More information on Wikipedia!

This game is an ancient ancestor of the backgammon family. Undoubtedly skill is required to consistently win the game, but there is enough chance involved that even a beginner can sometimes beat an expert player. The end of the game is very fast-paced, and many games are very close races. There is only a very slight advantage (about 51%) to moving first.

You may play as White or Black, against a computer player with three difficulty settings:

Random mover
Plays legal moves picked at random. Not in any sense a challenging opponent, but maybe fun to kick around for a while.

Quick player
Competent player with a few exploitable foibles. Moves generated by various heuristics. Will aggressively try to control the center track -- watch out for traffic jams!

Expert player
A grandmaster of Ur. Moves are calculated. Beatable with a few lucky throws, but it'll be a challenge.

Rules & How To Play

When it's your turn, you may click on the piece on the board that you want to move, or the "Bring in Piece" link that appears in your start area. If you don't have any legal moves, the game will tell you so; there will be a button at the bottom right to advance to the next turn.

When it's your opponent's turn, their roll and move will be declared, and a button at bottom right will advance the turn. The highest level player may need a few seconds to decide on a move.

Goal: The object of the game is to bring your seven starting pieces around the Game of Ur track and bear them off the board to your home.

Track: Each side has their own starting track four squares in length (where new pieces enter the board) and their own home stretch two squares in length. Pieces here are safe from the opponent. Between these two is a shared central track eight squares in length that both players may occupy. Pieces enter the board on their side's starting track, then travel the center track toward their side's home.

Moving: Four dice are rolled; each die has a 50% chance of showing one pip and a 50% chance of being blank. The sum of the pips showing is your roll. You may then either bring a new piece onto the board (if one is available) or advance one piece on the board the number of squares indicated by the dice. If you cannot make a valid move, your turn is passed. If you can make a valid move, you must move.

Rosettes: If your piece ends on a rosette square, you take another turn. Pieces on rosette squares cannot be captured!

Captures: Only one piece can occupy a board square at a time. If your piece reaches a square occupied by an enemy piece, and the square is not a rosette square, the enemy piece is captured and leaves the board. The captured piece must be brought back to the board from start.

Home: You bear pieces home by reaching one square beyond the end of the track. You can only reach your home by exact count. Pieces that have reached home have effectively left the game.

Winning: The first player to bring all seven of their pieces home wins the game.

Program copyright © 2021 Chris Street.