Leapfrog is a game of capture for almost any number of players, from nineteenth-century England. It plays like a multi-player peg solitaire: players capture pieces by jumping over them, and this is the only move permitted. Once no more moves are possible, the winner is the player with the most pieces.
History of Leapfrog
Leapfrog is one of those games about whose origins we know very little. It was invented some time before 1898, as the game historian H. J. R. Murray invented his own variation on it in that year. Murray says that the game is from England, which is probable as there is no historical mention of it outside the country.
In the original version, all pieces were undifferentiated, the number of pieces captured at the end of a game being the players' scores. Murray's version improved the game by introducing four different types of piece, each one having its own score value.
Rules for Leapfrog
Here is described both versions of the game, the old version described by Murray and the new version invented by him.
1. The game is played on a large square board, itself split into squares. Various sizes are possible, but the board is usually between 15 and 18 squares on a side.
2. In the old version of the game, each square is filled with a piece, all pieces being undifferentiated.
3. In the new version of the game, each square is filled at random with a coloured piece. The colours of the pieces are 1 green for every 2 red, for every 3 yellow, for every 4 white. Thus a 15×15 board would have 22 green, 45 red, 68 yellow and 90 white pieces. An example layout is shown in the diagram.
4. At the start of the game, each player captures a piece from the board by simply removing it.
5. Players then take turns to move a piece.
6. A piece moves by jumping over an adjacent piece, in any of the 4 horizontal or vertical directions, into an empty space beyond. The piece over which the jump was made is captured by the player.
7. If possible, the player may make further jumps with the same piece, capturing further pieces as in draughts. Ending the Game
8. The game is finished when no more jumps are possible.
9. In the old game, the winner is the player who has captured the most pieces.
10. In the new game, the pieces are valued at 1 for white, 2 for yellow, 3 for red and 4 for green. The winner is the player who has captured the pieces of most value.
Murray in his account of the game does not specify that the moves of the pieces are limited to the horizontal and vertical directions. This is implied by the game's resemblance to peg solitaire. The adventurous player might like to experiment with the addition of diagonal jumps to the game.