Aseb, aka the game of Twenty Squares, is a race game for two players. It’s like the Royal Game of Ur but even simpler.

The board for Aseb
  1. The object of the game is to be the first to move all five of your pawns off the board.
  2. The game uses four throwing sticks instead of dice. Every stick that lands with the fancy side up counts 1; every stick that lands with the plain side up counts 0. A player may therefore throw 0, 1, 2, 3, or 4.
  3. Each player has their own starting space, where their five pawns are placed to begin the game, and their own squares 1–4. The other player’s pawns will never move to those spaces. Squares 5–16 are shared by both players.
  4. Players throw sticks to see who goes first. Whoever goes first throws again for their first turn.
  5. If a player throws a zero, their turn ends.
  6. A player may choose to apply their throw either to move a pawn from the starting space, or to advance a pawn that is already on a square space.
  7. If the player chooses to advance a pawn already on a square, it moves according to the throw, along the path from 1 to 16 (using their own squares 1–4 and the shared squares 5–16).
  8. If a pawn lands on a square marked with hieroglyphs, the player immediately gets another turn. This may happen repeatedly before the play passes to the other player.
  9. If the pawn lands on a square occupied by one of the opponent’s pawns, the opponent’s pawn is returned to the opponent’s starting space. A pawn may pass an opposing pawn without returning it to the starting space.
  10. The player may not pass nor land on a square containing one of their own pawns.
  11. If the player chooses to bring a pawn from their starting space, they move the pawn to space 1–4 according to their throw.
  12. A pawn can only be removed from the board, contributing to victory, by an exact throw, i.e. a throw of 1 from square 16, 2 from square 15, etc.
  13. Pawns may only move forward.
  14. Pawns may only move the exact number shown on the throw.
    1. For example, if a pawn is on square 15, a throw of 2 would remove it from the board and a throw of 1 would move it to square 16, but a throw of 3 or 4 cannot be applied to that pawn.
    2. Similarly, if a player’s has pawns on squares 5 and 8, a throw of 3 or 4 cannot be applied to the pawn on square 5, since it cannot land on or pass the player’s own pawn on square 8.
  15. A player must move if they have any legal move for their throw, either advancing a pawn along the path or bringing a new one onto the path, if they have any in their starting space.
  16. Pawns may only move forward.

Points for discussion

  1. Should a player be allowed to “pass” one of their own pawns in the process of bringing one onto the board, e.g. if there’s a pawn on 1, can I bring one directly to 3?
  2. Some Aseb boards are made with hieroglyphs (i.e. bonus turns) on each player’s square 4, so if you bring a piece on with a throw of 4 you then immediately get another throw. Do we like that?