Peg Pastimes

Classic games from cultures around the world.

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People have played games since the dawn of civilization, and quick placement games like Achi are found around the globe. This version originated in Ghana where it is often played by children using pebbles and a hand-drawn board. In England, fragments of the game were found dating back to the 3rd or 4th century. A version is played in India called "Yih" and the variation played in the Phillipines is called "Tapatan." Achi looks a bit like Tic-Tac-Toe (also known as Noughts and Crosses), but players can move their pieces after they are place on the board. A simple but challenging little game that has survived for centuries.

The game Brandubh is an Irish variation of ancient Norse games, and related to the Welsh game "tawlbrrd." A thousand-year-old carved wooden game board and pegs was found in Balinderry, Ireland. The original rules have never been found, but based on other games of that type, two sets of rules have been developed. The game is "asymmetrical" - meaning that the two players' sets of pegs are different, and their objectives are different. In both variations, the defender wins if they can get their King off the board, or to a specific place on the edges of the board; the attacker wins if they can capture the King before he escapes.

The name of this Japanese peg game means "it's your turn." A traditional game in Japan, the rules were refined in 1971 by Alexander Randolph for the Stancraft company. The game is unusual in that it can be played by two or three players, and that the players are not assigned a specific color of peg. Any peg can be played by any player on their turn, the objective being to form an equilateral triangle of any size in one color anywhere on the board. It's an entirely different challenge in Gamer and visualization, an innovative blend of pattern and planning.

The game of MuTorere originated among the Maori tribes of New Zeeland (though similar games are found elsewhere). No one knows how old the game really is, but when European colonists first recorded it in the 1850s, it had been around for generations. When the game was described by the famous game historian R.C. Bell in 1969, it found a new audience and became popular once again. It's a simple looking puzzle game for two, each player attempting to trap their opponent one step at a time. MuTorere is a great alternative to tic-tac-toe to introduce players to the genre of two-player puzzle games.

Seega - a game that has been played in Egypt for centuries, and spread throughout North Africa. Seega sets vary from finely crafted sets in ceramic and ivory to boards scratched out in the dirt using colored pebbles for the pieces. The game begins with each player's 12 pieces off the board, and a placement phase of two pieces at a time, turn-by-turn. Once all these are in play, the game becomes one of capture. Your opponent's pieces are captured by trapping one between two of your own orthogonally. Throughout this exchange, the center position remains immune to capture, but this is not such an advantage as it might seem. A deep abstract game, the moves are simple and quick.

This race game comes from the Moki and Hopi people of southwestern North America. There are several variations of the arrangement, including a version for four players. In all cases, each player has but one peg, and must race to the opponent's home space and back again to win. The movement is determined by a toss of casting sticks or coins, and there's a definitive push-your-luck aspect to these coin-tosses. Control of the center space is the real key to the game. Fun and straightforward, a series of games is typical to determine a final winner (best three out of five, and so on).

In Nigeria, the Dakarkari people have played this two-player board game for generations. It's also played by the Zarma in Niger, who call it "Dili." The objective is to form three-in-row patterns on the board, allowing you to remove an opponent's peg. It's a familiar goal, but with 12 pegs for each player, and 42 possible positions, many challenging strategies can be discovered. All moves are orthogonal, and there are restrictions on positioning pieces that add to the challenge. (The Dara board can also be used to play Fanorona.)

Felli is a two-player strategy game from Morocco. The goal of each player is simply to capture all of your opponent's pieces, or to stalemate the other player by immobilizing their pieces. Movement, turn-by-turn, is simply one space per turn along the lines of the board, and captures are made by short jumps, much like checkers, draughts, or alquerques. (However, no chain jumps are allowed.) Felli is quick little game of strategy and tactics, and a series of games can be played in a short time.

Five Lines is one of the oldest board games known, surviving from ancient Greece where it was known as "Pente Grammai." Around 600 BC the Greek poet Alkaios refered to the game in one of his poems, and clay game boards have been found dating to the same period. Around 500 BC the Athenians wrote that Ajax and Achilles played it during the siege of Troy. Players' pawns race around the outer circle attempting to get their pieces into the peg-holes on the center line by a count of the die. Chance is a significant element in the game, which it has in common with most race games.

Kōnane is an ancient two-player strategy board game from Hawaii. Before contact with Europeans, the game was played using small pieces of white coral and black lava on a large carved rock which doubled as both board and table. The Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park features one of these ancient stone game boards. Konane is sometimes called “Hawaiian Checkers” - but, aside from jumping captures, there is almost no resemblance. Konane does, however, have some similarities to the games of Leap Frog, and Main Chuki or Tjuki. The more you play, the more you see the deeper strategies.

This is a game from ancient Siam, also played in other parts of southeast Asia (with variations). One player takes on the role of a Tiger, and the other has control of six Leopards. The Tiger eliminates Leopards with a simple jump to an empty space beyond, following the lines on the board. The Leopards' task is to trap the Tiger so it cannot move. It's a common type of game (Hounds and Hares, Fox and Geese, etc.) except for the configuration of the board and the initial "drop phase" of the game.


Round the Clock is adaptation of the old game "Shut The Box." The traditional game uses the numbers 1 through 9, and this variant expands it to 12. But instead of only addition, this one can also use multiplication. For example, a dice result of 3 and 4 could claim the 3 and 4, or the 7, or the 12, or any combination of available numbers that could be added or multiplied to equal 12. As usual with Shut the Box, after a die roll with no playable options, the total of the unclaimed numbers is the player's score, and the game is played in a predetermined series of rounds, the lowest final score winning the game.