Game Review: The Game of Ur

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Number of Players: 2

Game Time: 30 Mins

Game Type: Variable

Gamer Type: Classic

Complexity: 4-6

I know this column reviews games that have been on the market for a while. Our first review was Settlers of Catan, which is a classic game. However, I think this may take the cake. Today we are reviewing the Game of Ur, the oldest known game on the planet. So whether you like classic (and I mean classic) games, or you are just hoping we do not go back in time any farther, you are in luck as we travel back to the very first game known to be created.


This game has a pretty basic story, from what we can tell. You are a ruler competing against another ruler for control of an area. Why we are fighting has been lost to time, but what we do know is that we have to get our units (or people) to points on the map or off the map. See, this is where the story gets interesting. While we are reviewing the Spartan games version of the Game of Ur, there are about five recognized versions on the market. Each has their own goals and moves based on the board which was found in a ruin. This makes the game very unique as people have been speculating about how people centuries ago played the game (8 of 10).


While we often talk about the difference between modern and classic board games, very rarely do we have the chance to look at a game that is literally ancient. To start with, the box for the game (which is a modern invention) has classic Babylonian artwork on it, based on the game. This gives a good feel before you even get into the game. The box is a small, long box – much like the size for citadels.

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Inside the box, there is a faithful recreation of the board from the classic game. The pieces are small gems, which emulate what were likely small rocks the ancients played with. The dice are D4s with gold marks on one tip, silver marks on another, and two blank tips. Overall, this game has amazing artwork, from when artisans were making the first board games. (8 of 10).


Here is where things get a little complicated. There are many sets of rules out there for the game. If you want a simple game, I recommend the British Museum rules. This gives you a very simple, chess-like feel to the game. If you want to play a more advanced version, I recommend you go with the Spartan Games rules, which allow you to have more advanced tactics based on the individual squares. Overall, the mechanics, regardless of the route you go, are interesting. (8 of 10).


Since Spartan Games was kind enough to send us a copy to review, we are going to look at the rules they have set. In this version, your goal is to occupy all four forts on the board at the end of the game. Simple enough, although your opponent can bump you off the forts if they land on you. This means you are balancing the strategy of where you are with the challenge of what you might roll.

What really makes this version compelling is that different squares mean different things. Unlike the British Museum version, where the rosettes are just another roll of the dice, the Spartan version allows for game effects to come into play when you land on different spaces. This means you need to balance the goal of reaching the fortresses with control of the game effects or you opponent will bounce you. Even in this classic game, offense, defense, rush and engine building are present, making it a great strategy game for its time (10 of 10).


Ok, I am not going to say much here. This game is the original, so that makes it…well, original. You will have seen all the mechanics before in games, but that’s because this is the genesis of board games. For this we need to give the great, great, great granddaddy of gaming a 10 of 10.


While it is true that games have evolved over time, this is still a fun two-player game you can play with your friends. It is complex enough that it keeps your attention, but simple enough that anyone can play it. It is a great game to have for your self. Overall, it gets a 44 of 50, meaning it just got better with age.

Christopher W Smithmyer
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