Download the SVG file and laser cut your own Royal Game of Ur.

It was like most any other night at my place. I was up late watching Praveen Mohan’s YouTube videos about Advanced Ancient Technology and just as I began to drift off into some other form of consciousness the analytics at YouTube took over and started showing me random videos. Up popped Irving Finkle playing the ancient game of 20 Squares which is better known as The Royal Game of Ur.

It got me all excited. It was the perfect mixture of all the things I love so much. Archaeology, Lost Ancient Knowledge, Magic, Divination, Entertainment, Toys, Games… the toy maker, oracle seer, and the anthropologist in me all wanted to squeal with delight at the same time.

Royal Game of Ur
Laser Cut your own Royal Game of Ur!

Download the SVG file and laser cut your own Royal Game of Ur.

As soon as the game was introduced I morphed into Veruca Salt from Willy Wonka. The first thing I thought was, I want a Royal Game of Ur, Daddy, and I want it now! I decided I would use the game board and basic rules Dr. Finkle shared as inspiration and do my best to recreate this game that is about 5000 years old into a proper file for laser cutting on my Glowforge. Now that I’ve done all the hard parts, all you need is access to any laser cutter to recreate this fun piece of history.

Detail: Royal Game of Ur
Game is also known as: Twenty Squares.

Download the SVG file and laser cut your own Royal Game of Ur.

While designing the game using Inkscape I wanted to include a few new features that seemed somehow obvious after a few plays of the first version I made of the game. It was like the board started to communicate to me. I saw how brilliant and adaptable the board could be. The game board had aspects of both dice and card suits. Players could designate any symbol to be a wild card of sorts. Safe spots, play again spots, gambling spots (land on this or that symbol and players must toss another coin in the pot for the winner), etc, can all be invented by the players as they go along. The reason 20 Squares was the most popular game of ancient times was the ability to create different challenges to keep it interesting.

I wanted my design to be a container box that can hold all the pieces for storage. Being an old seasoned game maker, I like to create gadgets or simple mechanisms that feel good to the user to give the game playability. Where the game is normally indented I instead created coin slots in the lid so when a player gets a piece all the way to the end, they slip their playing piece into the slot with a gratifying ka-plunk sound. A simple change, but effective. Playing pieces that have made it out of the game no longer get mixed up with pieces waiting to get into play.

Another aspect I wanted to change was where all the playing pieces go before they are on the board. I like all game parts to always have a place. I don’t like the disorder of the pieces just being left wherever. They tend to roll off the table and get lost.

To remedy this, I created a stand and made the playing pieces into little donuts with holes in the middle that slip over a rod to keep them stacked up. This way the players can compare side by side how many pieces they have left to get through the course. It is also gratifying to remove a game piece of your opponent from the board, and return it to their stack. Take that you dog.

Close up of Royal Game of Ur
Player pieces stack on pegs like little donuts.

I know these two changes are not keeping with history, but what I love about great games is that they survive over the years only because they can be modified through time. The coin slots and stacking stand keep the game contained. Now it’s easy to get out of Mom’s way, pass the game back and forth, take a break and come back later, or move to another location. Plus it is now easier to see where you stand against your opponent. The changes bring form with function.

Download the SVG file and laser cut your own Royal Game of Ur.

Rules to the Royal Game of Ur

A game for 2 players: I painted mine red and blue. The dice are four 3-sided pyramids. Each pyramid has four tips. Two tips have a hole, and two do not. You roll the four pyramids and count only the tips with holes that land on top. With this method you can roll a 0, 1, 2, 3, or 4.

Dice Variation: Casting Sticks are long rectangular dice that can only roll on four sides. They have a mark on only 2 of the 4 sides. Roll four casting sticks and count the holes that land on top. I find that the casting sticks are way easier to pick up than the slippery pyramids. The casting sticks must be cut from the thicker 1/4″ inch thick wood or acrylic, whereas the rest of the game is made using 1/8″ inch thick wood.

Red and blue arrows show the path of the playing pieces.
Star of Ur

Download the SVG file and laser cut your own Royal Game of Ur.

You will need access to a laser cutter, 1/8″ inch thick plywood, white glue or super glue, red and blue (or some other combination) paint or paint pens to color the game pieces and decorate your board.

Settings for Glowforge Laser Cutter

Game of Ur SVG for Glowforge Laser Cutter
  1. PINK: Engrave (HD Graphic)
  2. BLACK: Score (Hi Def)
  3. RED: Cut
  4. BLUE: Cut

NOTE: The process will take 2 hours or more on the Glowforge.

Download the SVG file and laser cut your own Royal Game of Ur.

Putting the laser cut pieces together. White glue or super glue will do.

Casting Sticks 4 sided dice
Four Casting Sticks laser cut from 1/4″ thick Clear Pink Acrylic
Stacking Stand for game pieces
How to set up the Stacking Stand to hold game pieces.
Insert C-Pin to lock the stand in place.
C-Pin locks stand inside game box.

Check out my other SVG files for Glowforge Laser Cutter

Download the SVG file and laser cut your own Royal Game of Ur.