The Royal Game of Ur, which was excavated in the late 1920s in the ruins of Ur, is the oldest complete board game ever discovered, dating back to 3000 BCE. A tablet discovered in 1879 but finally translated in 2007 describes a variation in the rules of the game, but no one truly knows how the game was being played 5000 years ago. In keeping with the spirit of the idea that this game has evolved before, game designer Alex Coburn is now introducing a modern take of his own with Urgency. I received access to a review copy of Urgency for this article.
What Is Urgency?
Urgency is a strategic racing game for 2 players ages 10+ and takes around 30 minutes to play. It is a game with echoes of Sorry!, but with a strategic aspect that advances the gameplay and makes it more appealing for older kids to adults. It is currently seeking funding on Kickstarter. It has three tiers: $29 will get you the cardboard board and all stretch goals, $49 will get you a wooden board version (limited to 50) and all stretch goals, and at $89 dollars 10 backers will get to pick from a selection of premium woods with metallic paint with an upgraded dice bag and all stretch goals. Backing it will help unlock such additions as upgraded components and an additional deck. It has an estimated delivery date of December 2020.
Note: My review is based on access to a prototype, so pictures may not reflect the final quality and are subject to change. Overall, I really like what I am seeing from the prototype components so far.
Urgency contains the following:
- 1 Game Board
- 8 Dice (two different colors)
- 17 Tokens (two different colors)
- 24 Rule Cards (Rosette, Bull, Ibex, and Lion)
- 2 Reference Cards
- 1 Rule Book
My first impression was just how much I love seeing so many wooden components, especially for a game that’s meant to be a modern take on a 5000-year-old game. I immediately got memories of the almost decade I spent as a member of the Society of Creative Anachronism in the early ’00s. This is exactly the sort of thing we would have loved to have taken to an event because it gives a feeling of not being too modern and doesn’t have too many pieces to keep track of.
I got to see two versions of the board. The cardboard version is a nice, sturdy board that folds and tucks nicely into the box and is small enough to be easily tucked into your game collection. The art is lovely and well-marked, still giving an ancient feel to the game. The wooden board, which is for 50 backers at the $49 dollar level, is a solid piece of workmanship that is gorgeous and easy to read. It just gives off the feel of an old game looking at it. I have received the note that this copy is close but not fully representative of the release quality and I’m already well impressed with the piece in front of me.
The tokens and dice are also made of wood and the contrasting colors are visually easy to read. This is particularly important with the four-sided dice that use colors on the corners instead of numbers. The tokens will have printed dots instead of hand-painted for the release edition.
The cards are about playing card thickness and texture. I particularly like how the artwork on the back continues that ancient game feels to the entire thing. There will be some adjustments and changes made to the cards in the release version to standardize and clarify the rules.
The box art (which I love because, once again, it helps build that ancient feel) will be tweaked a touch and the final Rule Book will also be larger.
Overall, it’s well designed. I love the component quality, and I love that effort was made to preserve the feel of just how old this game really is.
How to Play Urgency
My first impression is that Urgency is what happens when someone takes the game Sorry! to a more strategic level.
The goal of Urgency is to be the first player to score 6 out of the 7 tokens.
Setting up the game is actually pretty quick and simple. Players simply need to do the following:
- Each player gets dealt two Rosette cards. They select one to place face-up in front of them, and the other is discarded.
- Each player gets either the black or white set of dice and matching tokens as well as a Rule Card Deck (Bull, Ibex, or Lion).
- Players shuffle their Rule Cards and make 3 face-down piles of two cards each.
- Each player rolls their four dice and the player with the highest roll goes first.
- In order to move, you roll all four dice. For every die with a colored pip pointing up, you get to move a space.
- You must move if able.
- Tokens cannot occupy the same tile but tokens can jump over other tokens.
- Tokens follow a specific Board Flow.
- If a rule says “If you land on ___ tile,” that must be where your token rests after the full roll amount.
- You score when your token lands one space beyond the last tile. An exact roll is needed to score.
- When you score do the following:
- Take the action on your Rosette Card.
- Your opponent looks at the cards in their next Rule Pile and selects one, discarding the other.
- Your opponent now takes their turn.
- Rule Cards only apply to the player who plays them and are in effect the entire game.
- Rule Cards override any rules in the Rule Book (like not being able to attack a token on a safe tile).
- Each player starts the game with 1 Rosette Card in play.
- Up to 4 additional cards from your pile can come in to play as your opponent scores.
- When your opponent scores the fourth time, you select a Rule Card from your discard deck. You will not select any more Rule Cards after this point.
- Basic attack: You land on your opponent’s token in the center row and remove it unless it is on a safe tile.
- Special attack: Attacks that let you remove your opponent’s tokens in other ways unless they are on safe tiles.
- If you land on a Rosette tile, you may roll again (you only get one additional roll).
- Tokens are safe on the Black Rosette tile.
The game ends when one player scores their sixth token and is thus declared the winner.
Why You Should Play Urgency
Urgency is based on a classic, arguably the most classic of all board games to exist. It’s been given rule variations before, so it’s only natural that it be done once again.
The components are nicely made with quite a few wooden pieces, and anyone who springs for a wooden board is going to have a beautiful set on their hands. The aesthetic of the game is a nice compliment to its ancient origins, and when I first saw the pitch it was the image of the components that made me feel that this was something I should check out.
Setup is super easy and uncomplicated, making this a game that will appeal to a wider ranger of gamer experience levels. Playing the game is nice and fast to catch on to as the basic mechanics are not difficult to master. This is a game that you can pull out for those friends or family members that prefer more traditional games than the ones with a more sci-fi/fantasy twist to them. It’s also a game that’s going to appeal heavily to families.
The recommended age is 10+, but I feel like kids who are drawn to strategy games are really going to take to this one and I really feel like this is the sort of game that deserves a place in a gifted classroom. While the mechanic is easy, there’s a very definite strategy component in selecting your cards and recognizing how to play them that makes you feel like the game of Sorry! leveled up in complexity. At the same time, there’s a certain randomness that mixes up the game because which card decks are selected as well as which cards end up actually in the game throws just enough of a challenge and variation into things to really up to how re-playable the game is. Your ruthlessness level may vary and so, like Sorry!, this is a game that can get a little cutthroat depending on how nice the players want to be to each other.
The $29 dollar version of the game is priced right within range of what I’ve seen for game complexity and component quality. The more upgrades that get unlocked, the nicer the game is going to get. If you covet that ancient feel and really want a version that will last, you just might have to pledge at one of the wooden board tiers.