Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Royal Game of Ur Dice That Anyone Can Make - Popsicle Sticks (Part VI)

It occurred to me that some enthusiasts of the Royal Game of Ur might stumble upon this series of blog posts. Here is a set of dice that require almost no skill at all to make.
Marked on only one side.
Yes, that's right. Popsicle sticks.
Popsicle sticks

Larry left a thoughtful comment on one of my posts last night which got me thinking. He said there is research that flat sticks were probably the most common dice used for this game.

I made some. It took about five minutes.

All I did was cut the popsicle sticks in half (as you can see, I didn't even get all the color off of them), round over the square ends with sandpaper until they matched the roundover on the un-cut end, and in my case I used a couple of leather punches to make a mark on one side.

A mark could be made on one side with anything. Woodburning, Magic Marker, crayon, anything.

And because I'm me, I put on a coat of boiled linseed oil, then wiped them down.
These dice will work just as well as any other. And if one gets lost, a good excuse for a treat is born.


Larry made some similar dice from some dried bamboo that was in his back yard. One side is naturally black. Here's a photo, and his description is in the comments.
Larry's bamboo dice.

Larry made an entire set.
Nickels would have been cheaper. Just sayin'.


  1. Hmmmm?
    It seems that binary dice change odds of dice rolling. Sure, the 4 sided dice produced a binary result, but it was a 1 in 4 result. These sticks make it a 1 in 2 result. How about a square rod, as in a previous post, but with a dot on only one face of the 4 sides (not 2)? Wouldn't that mimic the original dies more closely?

    1. Hi Bob!

      The idea is for the dice to give a 1 in 2 result. That's why the tetrahedron dice have two white pips on the four corners of the die.


  2. Ahhhh! Thanks. I was thinking there was only one white pip on each tetrahedron die.

    1. Someone else asked the same question. It must not be obvious.

      Thanks for the comment!

    2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Sounds perfect! Send a photo once they are done.

    2. More dice:

      I think it was Finkel who also said the sticks were sometimes flat on one side and round on the other, as if made from split sticks. With those, no additional marking is necessary.

      It occurs to me that I have a near endless source in the back yard by way of a stand of black bamboo that is following its hundred year cycle of going to seed and dieing. As a bonus, a split stalk is black on one side and light on the other.

  4. https://i11.servimg.com/u/f11/11/36/05/99/img_6910.jpg

    Time from harvest to completion - 4 minutes.
    It took longer to find a place to host the picture.

    The edges are a little sharp, so a little sandpaper is probably in order.

    But a couple dozen casts( I drop them vertically out of my fist from a few inches) seems to give a normal probability distribution.

    1. Those are really cool. And I love that you timed the whole thing!

      Now all you need to do is draw a board on the sidewalk with some chalk and you're in business.

  5. Having no chalk, I used a sharpie on a scrap piece of cedar fence board.


    The project cost was 77¢ USD, Though if my yard had some rocks, I may have done better. Such is life in a city.

    I suppose I'll have to set aside some time for a real set, though that probably means I'll have to open the tool chest.

    But for now, I'll spend some time seeing how the game plays.

    1. The good news is if you find out you hate this game, you can get you money back.

  6. I can see where this is going.

    Next we will be reproducing the Hebrew high priest's Urim and Thummin, which were used to divine the will of Yahweh, though I don't know where to get black and white Onyx, and I don't know Hebrew script.

    Yale University's crest has Urim and Thummin written on it in Hebrew, and the motto Lux et Veritas is their best Latin translation of the names.

  7. Thanks.
    This project just got more expensive.
    Now I have to justify $400 for the combo plane and another $30 for the box.

    1. Don't forget $17 each for all the extra blades you'll need.

  8. Brian,

    You've inspired a movement! We made a board over the weekend. My wife found a picture on the internet and I cut some pine to the dimensions, about 4 x 10, of the picture and she used a clear adhesive (Modge Podge) to affix it. We are using buttons for pieces and have been playing variations of a 3,5, and 7 piece games. 3 Piece games are quick, so we play best out of 3. Everyone from my 9 year old daughter on up is playing to see who can beat mom and Dad. Thank you so much for introducing it to us. As Irma bears down on us, I think we will be playing the Royal Game of UR in the traditional style using candlelight. Ok, I'm off to find some Popsicle sticks, although I haven't given up on my tetrahedral dice.

    Take Care,

    Chris Barnes from Florida

    1. Ok, not to be outdone. I've put some picture of the makeshift board on the interwebs. Enjoy.

    2. I haven't seen Modge Podge since the great decoupage craze of the 70's. perfect! Buttons are a great idea, too.

      I have to say, it is really satisfying to me that you and your family are enjoying this game so much. Once he lights come back on, let us know who the tournament champion is!

      Stay safe!