Cyningstan

Traditional Board Games

Seega

A seega game in progress.
A seega game in progress.

Seega is a small battle game played in Egypt in the 19th and 20th centuries. Two players drop pieces onto a board, leaving only the central square empty, after which pieces are moved around the board from one square to the next. Pieces are captured by surrounding them on opposite sides, and the player who captures all of the opponent's pieces wins the game.

History of Seega

Egypt was a source of many interesting games in ancient times, but its inventiveness has continued into the modern age. The game of seega was apparently unknown in the 17th century, but became popular in the early 19th century, only to decline in its homeland late in the 20th.

The game was more a pastime of the poor than the rich. Boards were scratched into the temple stones at Kurna, but they appear to be relatively recent and of poor quality. The game was more usually played with pebbles on a lattice scratched into the ground.

The game is especially interesting as it resembles games played in ancient Greece and Rome, petteia and latrunculi. The Greeks claimed that petteia came from Egypt, and it would be tempting to think that this game of seega is the one the Greeks adopted, but there is very little evidence to support this. It is therefore possible that the resemblance is entirely coincidental.

Rules for Seega

Rules for Seega
There are some variations in different countries, but the rules that follow are a fair summary.

1. Seega is played on a board of 5 squares by 5, the central square of which is marked with a pattern, as shown in the diagram. The board starts empty, and each player starts with 12 pieces of his own colour in hand.

2. Players decide at random who begins.

3. Players take turns to place 2 pieces each anywhere on the board, except for the central square.

4. When all pieces are placed, the second player begins the movement phase. Moving the Pieces

5. A piece may move one square in any horizontal or vertical direction. Diagonal moves are not allowed.

6. In this phase pieces may move onto the central square.

7. If a player is unable to move, his opponent must take an extra turn and create an opening.

8. If a player in his move traps an enemy piece between two of his own, the enemy is captured and removed from the board. Diagonal entrapment does not count here.

9. After moving a piece to capture an enemy, the player may continue to move the same piece while it can make further captures.

10. If, when moving a piece, two or three enemies become simultaneously trapped, then all these trapped enemies are captured and removed from the board.

11. It is permissible to move a piece between two enemies without its being harmed. One of the enemies must move away and back again to effect a capture.

12. A piece on the central square is immune from capture, but may itself be used to capture enemy pieces.

13. The game is won by the player who has captured all his enemy’s pieces.

The game is often played on a 7×7 board with 24 pieces for each player, and on a 9×9 board with 40 pieces each.

Some writers have noted that it is possible to force a draw by creating a straight, impenetrable barrier of pieces with no enemies behind. To prevent this, players may agree beforehand that such a situation gives victory to the player with the most pieces remaining on the board at the end of the game.

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