Uckers is a two- or four-player board game traditionally played in the Royal Navy and has spread to many of the other arms of the UK Armed Forces as well as to, mainly Commonwealth Forces. It can now be found also in the Royal Marines, Army Air Corps, Royal Canadian Navy, Royal New Zealand Navy, Royal Australian Navy, Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and the Royal Air Force (RAF). It is believed to originate in the 18th/19th centuries from the Indian game Pachisi although the first reference to it in print does not appear until 1946. It is mentioned in a diary by EJF Records (served 1928-1950) in 1937 as Huckers. Uckers is generally played using the rules stated below, but these will vary from one branch of the Royal Navy to another, most famously with the WAFU Rules of the Fleet Air Arm. Where those branches of the RN have worked with the other Armed Forces usually has dictated what rules the new playing Service use; why fellow aviators tend to play under WAFU Rules for example.
So it is also played in units of the Army Air Corps (United Kingdom) where it was introduced by aircraft technicians on loan from the Fleet Air Arm in the late 1950s/early 1960s. Uckers boards can now also be found in most RAF Squadron crewroom, where the game has caught on, especially with the Aircraft Technicians. Most RAAF crew rooms feature uckers boards also. In addition to the units services, units mentioned, uckers was also played by units in the Royal Artillery, particularly meteorologists and CareFlight Toowoomba community crews aka Rescue 588. The current world champion is Queenslander Mark Arthur.
It is similar to the board game Ludo and is based on the same principles; getting four player pieces around the board before the opposition. However, the whole point of Uckers, is to get all player pieces home before the opponent does. However, greater glory is attached to achieving all pieces home without the opponent getting any home at all—this is known as an 8 piecer. The ultimate win is when the player gets all their pieces home and the opponent has all their pieces still in the base—this is called an 8 piece in harbour, or an eight-piece dicking.
Uckers is one of the many cross and circle games.
The game is played by either two or four people, if there are two people playing then each player takes two opposite colours, yellow and red vs green and blue If there are four players then the players opposite each other become partners, so Yellow partners with Red, and Green partners with Blue.
To travel around the board two dice are thrown, players moving the amount shown on the dice, a six permitting an extra turn. To see who goes first each player throws the dice and whoever throws the highest starts.
Some rules have evolved for the throwing of dices including no rolling of the dice from an open palm (Waterfall Technique), only tossing using the fingers. However, these are not used universally. If the dice leave the board, the IPS (International Playing Surface), accompanied by the call of "off the IPS" three times within the game this can be punished by losing the go up to all pieces home depending on which rules are being played. Unless the opponents deem it to have been done on purpose (for example to avoided moving a blob or mixing) then they may permit a re-roll.
No Dice rigging (no setting both sides to sixes and picking them up. dice must be picked up as they landed during the previous throw).
In order to exit the player's base it is necessary for a six to be thrown, which results in putting a piece on the coloured square joining the base known as the doorstep. However, if on the very first throw snake eyes (two ones) is thrown then all player (possibly partner's depending on which rules) pieces come out of the base onto the doorsteps - known as out all bits. Play then continues with the next player. If on rolling snake eyes on the first throw a player again throws snake eyes on their second throw all of their pieces return to the base. Under WAFU Rules, a player must call "snake eyes" prior to his first roll to benefit from rolling two "ones". He cannot do this retrospectively. If playing with a partner, then only his pieces come out not his partners.
A throw can be split up into the two separate numbers so it is possible to move two different pieces as in backgammon. However, unlike backgammon if a player is moving only a single piece, then they must move it the sum of the two dice rather than moving the value of the first die and then moving the value of the second die.
If a player's piece lands on a square with an opponent's piece, then, as in Ludo, that piece is sent back to the opponent's base.
If a piece lands on a square with a playing piece of the same colour then this is known as a tower and is basically a barrier. An opposing piece is not allowed to jump over them, but friendly pieces can. The two ways an opposing piece can get by a tower is to destroy it, or by using an adjacent friendly tower to jump over it. A player can destroy the barrier by landing on an opponent's 'tower' with a 'tower' of their own or to 'six' the 'tower' off. To do this they will need to have a playing piece adjacent to the tower and then on their turn throw X + 1 sixes where X = the number of playing pieces forming the tower. Note that if the tower is on its own colour doorstep, then an additional six (i.e. X + 2 sixes) must be thrown to remove the tower and exit the homebase.
If one succeeds in knocking the tower off then the single playing piece used to attack the tower is moved to the square that the tower was on and the pieces forming the tower are returned to the base. Play then continues to the next player.
If a player's piece lands on a square with a playing piece that belongs to their partner or is their other colour, then this is called a mixi tower (or a mixed barrier). Unlike towers, a mixi tower is equivalent to a single playing piece so the opponent can land on the square and send all the playing bits back to their relevant bases. The opponent can pass over a friendly mixi tower as it provides no barrier to movement; a tower may not be attacked by a piece from an adjacent opposing mixi tower.
As in Ludo, one does need to roll the exact number of spaces left to get home and if a player's pieces are in the tube (or pipe)then they cannot be attacked unless they are playing WAFU rules. If playing with a partner and all their pieces get home first, then they can continue rolling in the hopes of getting a six. If they do roll a six, then, on their next turn, they can then roll for and move their partner's pieces as well. However, remaining pieces cannot be moved by the partner once they are in the tube. WAFU Rules also require an exact out, not just a number in excess of that required to take the piece home.
A player can either move normally or attack (or six) a tower. A piece cannot be moved next to a tower and then, on the same go, attack it.
If only one die value is able to be played, the higher value must always take preference.
If a player is unable to get any of his pieces home before losing, he has been subject to an "8-piece dicking" and should have name written on the reverse side of the board with a date.
Another rule, which is often accepted in the game, is the formation of superblobs, this is more than two of one players pieces on the same space. A superblob can not be moved around the board.
Once a player has got one or more pieces into the pipe, an opposing player that lands on the end of that pipe can, on their next go, declare suckback. The player then rolls the dice and if one of the numbers on the dice, or the sum of both, is the same as the number of spaces the other piece is up the pipe, it is returned to its base. If the number is missed then he moves on a square preventing multiple attempts at a "suckback." In addition a "blowback" is the reverse of this, with the player of the piece in the "pipe/tube" risks it remaining vulnerable to a "suckback" by attempting to role the exact number of spaces between his piece and that of his opponent. If thrown, the opponent's piece is removed to the start. The inclusion of these extra rules are generally referred to as "WAFUrules" as they are most commonly played within Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy. Though recently these rules have spread into the RAF and AAC as the three services now train together.
Mixi-blobs can also be formed, where the blob consists of more than one colour. This is often done when two players have paired up as the blob can no longer be moved. To move the blob the top piece must be moved, and so on until the blob becomes all one colour.
Although not strictly required of by the rules, there are several other traditions. A player purely throwing and moving his pieces to end the game without entering into the spirit of the game can be politely censured for being a "Ludo player" or heckled and embarrassed by the surrounding throng that can gather around heated games.
Cheating is not cheating unless caught. Whereupon a charge of "timber shifting" (the pieces usually having been made from a cut up broom handle) can be issued, returning a piece to its rightful place. Any timber shifting call should only come from those playing, hints from the crowd should be restricted to overly complex discussions of tactics or superfluous detail that serves only to distract.
If an 8-piece dicking is threatened, a player may resort to "upboarding" (depositing all pieces onto the floor) but he will be punished for such an action, inline with an 8-piecing, by having his named added to the reverse side of the board.
A "stand up" finish is for the more debonair player who wishes to finish in style. When requiring a number to finish that is possible from one dice throw. The player can state "stand up finish", throw his dice, stand up and walk away from the game without looking at the resulting throw in the hope that the correct number has appeared and he has won. Failing to do so, results in a slinking back to the board to continue, accompanied by polite banter from those present.
The game can also not be played with anyone with the last name of Brom. This is because these people make up random rules and also have a problem with how other players throw dice.
In the event of an extended dispute over any specialised local rules one of the players can request to see the rules, legend has it that the rules are printed on the underside of the board. The game is over as soon as the board is flipped to check the rules.
- Ludo—uses the same gameboard