The Royal Game of Ur is the oldest board game for which we have a near-complete set of rules. People were playing it five thousand years ago, and it is still played today.
The game was popular throughout the Middle East and India. The earliest boards date back to 3000 BCE, dug up from the Royal Cemetery at Ur – hence the game’s name – and are now housed at the British Museum. That’s roughly as old as one of the other contenders for oldest game: Senet. But we’re not entirely sure of the original rules to play Senet. We know the rules of the Royal Game of Ur because a Babylonian scribe named Itti-Marduk-Balāṭu wrote them down around 177 BCE.
The game plays like backgammon but with four-sided dice. You can see an example of the gameplay in the video below. Two players race their pieces around a track, bumping each other back to the start and trying to be the first to get all their pieces to the end. Thanks Itti-Marduk-Balāṭu, for being the first rulebook editor in history!
3 Replies to “Oldest board game”
Well, that was fun!!
Played as late as the 1950s among the Jewish population of Malabar, Wikipedia tells me.