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Traditional Board Games

Asalto

A 19th century asalto board.
A 19th century asalto board.

Asalto is a hunt game from 19th-century Europe. It uses a cross-shaped board of 33 points, with one of the arms of the cross marked out as a fortress. Two loyal officers man the fortress, and they try to fend of 24 invading rebels who are trying to trap them.

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.

A number of variations were made on this game. German Tactics restricted the movement of the rebels. Officers & Sepoys enlarged the board to accommodate fifty rebels and three officers, and adopted the 1857 Indian mutiny as its theme.

History of Asalto

Asalto is a siege game, where a couple of officers face a rebellion by a large number of soldiers. The officers begin the game in a fortress, and attempt to defend it and themselves against the rebellious onslaught. The game was based on a medieval game of fox & geese.

Fox & geese pits one fox against a number of geese, but in the seventeenth century experiments were made by adding a second, and sometimes a third, fox and increasing the number of geese accordingly. By the nineteenth century these experiments had resulted in the game of asalto.

The precise origins of asalto are unknown. It is not Spanish, despite its name. A book of 1802 mentioned that a second fox had been added by some to fox & geese in England, and game was marketed as Officers & Sepoys after the 1857 Indian Mutiny. Such a game was also popular in Germany, where some variations were made. The game was also played in France under the name assaut. But it is not known which of these games came first.

Rules for Asalto

Rules for Asalto
Asalto is played by two players on a board resembling that used nowadays for solitaire. The differences are that the playing spaces are linked by lines, including some on the diagonals, to indicate allowable directions of movement. One end of the board is also marked out as the fortress, encompassing nine squares in total. One player has two officers, and the other has twenty-four rebels.

1. Players decide at random who takes which side. In subsequent games the players should swap sides.

2. The rebels are placed on the board, filling every space outside the fortress, as shown in the diagram.

3. The two officers are placed anywhere in the fortress, at the discretion of the player who controls them.

4. The rebels make the first move.

5. A rebel may move along a marked line in any direction which does not lead him away from the fortress.

6. An officer may move in any direction along a marked line, within, away from or towards the fortress.

7. Only one piece may occupy a point at any one time.

8. Officers cannot leap over each other, and rebels cannot leap at all.

9. An officer can capture a rebel by leaping over him onto the vacant space beyond.

10. Such a capture must be along a marked line, and the officer cannot turn a corner while leaping.

11. If the officers' player fails to make a capture when one is available, then the rebel player may point out the capture and remove the officer who failed to make it (called huffing), before continuing with his own move.

12. This is the only way an officer can be captured, as the rebels cannot leap.

13. If the nine points of the fort are occupied by the rebels, they win the game.

14. If the officers are trapped by the rebels so that they are unable to move, they lose the game and the rebels win.

15. If both the officers are huffed, then they have lost and the rebels win.

16. If the officers capture so many rebels that their task becomes impossible, then they win the game.

17. The precise number of rebels needed to win the game varies according to whether one or two officers remain on the board. But if only eight remain on the board, they will be unable to occupy the fortress and so could their cause may be considered lost.

On some boards, most of the horizontal lines are specially marked, using doubled lines or lines of a different colour. This is for the related game German Tactics. Rebels may not move along these specially marked lines, but officers may. The only horizontal lines along which they may move are the top line of the left- and right-hand arms of the cross.

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