Cyningstan

Traditional Board Games

Konane

A game of konane just begun (hand-made set).
A game of konane just begun (hand-made set).

A game already being played by the Hawaiians when Captain James Cook made contact with the islanders in the eighteenth century. This is a game of capture where the object is not to take the most pieces, but to leave your opponent without a legal move. There is the original version and a simplified modern version.

Featured in A Book of Historic Board Games

This game is featured in A Book of Historic Board Games, by Damian Gareth Walker.  That volume, available as a hardback or paperback, covers twelve games in depth.  For each game there is an entertaining history, full rules, and a discussion of strategy, all in more detail than you'll see on this site.

In both games, you capture a piece of the opposing colour by jumping over it with one of your own pieces, horizontally or vertically, as in peg solitaire. In the older version, you can chain several jumps in your turn, as long as they involve moving the same piece in the same direction. In the modern game a piece makes a single jump.

The object of the game is not to capture all the enemy pieces, but to leave your enemy without a valid move. This makes the game very much like a two-player version of peg solitaire.

History of Konane

Konane is a game of strategy invented in Hawaii at some unknown time in the past. Captain Cook described the game, which was already being played when he made contact with the islanders in the eighteenth century.

Originally it was played on boards carved out of rock, using shells and pebbles of solid lava as pieces, and a number of these boards have been found around the islands. Nowadays it is more often played with pegged pieces or marbles on suitably made boards.

The game is for two players and has sometimes been called "Hawaiian draughts" or "Hawaiian checkers". Its resemblance to draughts is just superficial, though, and the game could more accurately be described as a two-player version of peg solitaire.

Rules for Konane

The konane board at the start of play
 Konane is played by two people on a rectangular board with an even number of playing spaces. A common size is ten rows of ten spaces, so that is the size adopted here and shown in the diagram. Such a board requires fifty black and fifty white pieces.

1. The game begins with the pieces filling the board in a chequerboard pattern, as shown in the diagram.

2. The black player begins by removing a black piece from one of the four central squares, or from one of the four corners.

3. The white player responds by removing a white piece adjacent to the space left by the black player.

4. Once this has been done, the capture phase can begin, black taking the first turn.

5. A player in his turn captures a piece by lifting one of his own pieces, jumping horizontally or vertically over a single opposing piece, and removing it from the board.

6. If possible, a player can use the same piece to jump over further enemy pieces in the same direction.

7. When making multiple captures in a single turn, the piece doing the jumping may not therefore change direction.

8. The player need not make all the captures that are available to him, if he thinks it would be to his disadvantage.

9. One player having made his captures, the other then takes his turn, and play alternates thereafter till the game is over.

10. The game is over when a player has no legal move.

11. The player who cannot move loses the game, his opponent being declared the winner.

12. Numbers of captured pieces on each side have no effect on who has won the game.

As mentioned earlier, boards can be of any size, as long as there is an even number of playing spaces and each player therefore has an equal number of pieces. The board need not be square; oblong boards were common in Hawaii.

Historically a minimum size was 10 rows of 10 squares, but in more recent times the game has been played on 8 by 8 and even 6 by 6 boards.

A modern form of the game revokes rules 6 & 8, and restricts players to making just a single capture in their turn. This form of the game might be better suited to the smaller boards.

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