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4,500 year old board game seeks funds on Kickstarter

The Royal Game of Ur is the earliest known board game, first played in ancient Mesopotamia - and there’s a new edition up on Kickstarter.

A hand reaches in to move a piece on a modern recreation of a 4500 year old board game, the Royal Game of Ur - a race track box with a mixture of blue and red beads.

A modern interpretation of the truly ancient Royal Game of Ur is currently being crowdfunded on Kickstarter. Dating back to the early third millennium BCE, this 4,500 year old board game may be the first in human history, and was played in Mesopotamia, part of modern day Iraq.

When we mention classic board games, the Royal Game of Ur probably doesn’t come to mind in the same way that Chess, Go, or even Mancala might. Though it’s now little more than an academic curiosity, it was one of the best board games in the ancient world, enjoying 3,000 years of play in the Mediterranean region before finally dying out.

From behind the backs of two onlookers, we can see two modern recreations of the 4,500 year old Royal Game of Ur, a race track board game with a mixture of red and blue token playing pieces

That makes the 30 years that Magic the Gathering celebrated in 2023, and 50 years that DnD is celebrating this year, seem rather quaint.

The edition seeking funds on Kickstarter, called ‘Ur: The Royal Game’ includes two rule sets. One is a “reimagined, more modern version heavily inspired by the original rules”, while the other is an approximation of the original rule reconstructed by academics through careful research of ancient documents and similar games.

This video explains the rules of the modern game:

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Two different versions of the game are available in the Kickstarter, a base pledge for $30 (€27) and a Deluxe pledge for $47 (€43) complete with prettier game pieces and a history booklet about the culture of Mesopotamia and history of the game. The campaign will run until 5am PST / 8am EST / 1pm GMT on March 28.

The Kickstarter is being run by first-time developer Spartan Development, with assistance from established miniature wargame maker Freecompany. Freecompany consulted on the development of rules and assisted with graphic design and production.

Wargamer has a particular fondness for ancient board games. We broke the news of an Ancient Mesopotamian collectible card game as an April fools gag, tricking a non-zero number of academics for one glorious morning. Then there was the time we interviewed an archaeologist who found a 500 year old board game in the ruins of a Polish castle, which wasn’t an April fools joke, we swear.