Traditional Board Games

Mu torere

Mu torere is said to be the only native board game of the Maori. It is played on the points and centre of an 8-pointed star, by two players with four pieces each. The object of the game is to block your opponent so he cannot move.

History of Mu Torere

Maori culture has brought forth a variety of games and pastimes, but among them is only one board game. The Maori generally favour more active pursuits, and string games, but at some point they saw fit to invent mu torere, a blockade game of pure strategy. Mu torere is played mainly by the Ngati Porou tribe on the east coast of North Island, but it has spread over time to other tribes.

The board is a star with 8 points or arms (kewai), the pieces (perepere) being placed at the ends or in the centre. Boards are sometimes marked with charcoal on a stone slab, or occasionally marked with a stick in the ground. More permanent boards are made of the bark of the evergreen Totara tree, which is marked when green such that the markings remain when dry. A stick tied to each end of the bark fragment stops it from warping as the game dries.

Some in the west have tried to demonstrate that mu torere derived from draughts, which the Maori call mu. There is no basis for this, however, as the two games have no similarity to each other. Mu torere is therefore most likely a native Maori game.

Rules for Mu Torere

Rules for Mu Torere
Mu torere is played by two people using the board shown in the diagram, with eight points, the points being called kewai by the Maori. The board is often drawn as a star, rather than the wheel shown here. The central point is called the putahi. Each player has four pieces of his colour, black or white, the pieces being called perepere.

1. The game begins with the pieces filling the eight kewai, pieces of each colour being grouped together as shown in the diagram. The putahi starts empty.

2. Black makes the first move. Players then alternate in making a move. Moving the Pieces

3. A player in his turn moves one piece along a marked line to an adjacent empty point, according to the following rules.

4. A piece on the putahi can be moved to the empty kewai.

5. Alternatively, a piece on a kewai may be moved to an adjacent empty kewai.

6. Or finally, a piece may be moved from a kewai to the putahi if it is empty.

7. A piece moving from a kewai to the putahi must be flanked by at least one enemy on an adjacent kewai.

8. Pieces may not leap over each other.

9. There are no captures in this game.

10. The game is ended when one player is blocked in and cannot move. He loses the game and his opponent is declared the winner.

11. The players swap colours for the next game, so that each gets a chance to move first.


Some sources expand on rule 7 which prevents an immediate victory by the first player:

7(i). This rule applies only to the first two turns for each player; subsequently any piece may move from a kewai to the empty putahi.

Mu torere: try it out!


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