Uckers - What is it and where does it come from?

'Uckers' is a traditional board game played by members of the British Armed Forces, particularly in the Royal Navy. The game has a strong naval tradition and is often played to pass the time during long deployments at sea. The origins of uckers are somewhat unclear, but it is believed to have evolved from earlier board games like Ludo and similar cross-and-circle games.

The game being played in the tropics on deck in the 1960s.

The first mention of Uckers in printed form was in the 1930s, though it is thought that it was popular long before then.

The game is typically played on a square board divided into four quarters, with each player having four pieces that they move around the board according to the roll of dice. The objective is to move all of your pieces around the board and into your home base before your opponent does.

Prince Harry getting to grips with the game whilst on a tour in Afghanistan 

Uckers has its own set of rules, which can vary slightly depending on the branch of the military or the specific ship or unit where it is being played. The game is known for its lively and often humorous banter among the players, and it has become a social activity that fosters camaraderie among military personnel.

The name "uckers" itself is believed to be derived from the phrase "you can't play," which is often exclaimed by one player to another during the course of the game. The game has become deeply ingrained in naval culture and is played on many Royal Navy ships and submarines. It's worth noting that the rules and traditions surrounding uckers may differ between different units or branches of the military.

Members of the Royal Australian Navy playing Uckers in the mess deck.

The popularity of the game has naturally extended to other parts of the world with other navies and armed forces enjoying its competitiveness and banter.  It is known to be regularly played in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Want to learn more?

We've put together some tutorials for you to learn about both the great game and also how to navigate the game on Android and iOS.

Some of our favourites

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