Traditional Board Games

Meurimüeng Rimüeng Do

In a game from Sumatra with the challenging name of meurimüeng-rimüeng-do, five tigers face fifteen sheep on a board which is triangular with lateral extensions. It is a hunt game: the sheep try to hem in the tigers while the tigers try to capture the sheep. The sheep are successful if the tigers cannot move, while the tigers win if there are too few sheep to trap them.

History of Meurimüeng Rimüeng Do

Hunt games played on triangular boards have been popular for some centuries in south-east Asia. Their history is often unrecorded, as in the case of Meurimüeng Rimüeng Do. It is closely related to the Indian game of pulujudam, which in turn is related to the square "tiger game" hunt games. The tiger games have similar rules and board to the European game "Catch the Hare", recorded in 1283.

It is tempting, then, to construct a history starting at 1283 in which the game travels east, adopting a triangular board on its way. But the lack of early written evidence of the Asian hunt games does not preclude the possibility that they were the earlier games and that catch-the-hare was derived from them.

Meurimüeng rimüeng do in particular was observed by the Dutch scholar Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje who lived in the Dutch East Indies between 1889 and 1906. Snouck Hurgronje documented a number of games played in the region, confirming that meurimüeng rimüeng do was a foreign import to Sumatra.

Rules for Meurimüeng Rimüeng Do

Rules for Meurimüeng Rimüeng Do
The game is played on the points of the board shown in the diagram, one side having three tigers and the other having fifteen lambs. On some boards there are arcs instead of the horizontal lines shown here, but this does not affect the way the game is played.

1. The board starts empty, the tigers taking the first move.

2. If a player has pieces in hand, one of the pieces is placed on any empty space on the board.

3. No piece may be moved while its owner still has pieces waiting to be placed.

4. If a player has no more pieces to add to the board, then instead he moves one of his pieces from its current position, along a marked line, to the adjacent position, in any direction.

5. A tiger may, instead of moving to an adjacent point, capture a lamb by leaping over it onto the vacant point beyond.

6. The tiger may not change direction during a leap, it must jump over only a single lamb, and it may make only one such leap in its turn.

7. Lambs may not leap over tigers.

8. The lambs win the game by confining the tigers such that no tiger may move in its turn.

9. The tigers win the game by capturing so many lambs that their task is no longer possible.

Strategic Considerations in Meurimüeng Rimüeng Do

Unlike its parent game pulijudam, tigers in this game are placed in the same manner as sheep. This gives the tiger player some freedom to shape the game; by placing the tigers in different areas of the board, the sheep are prevented from homing in on all of the tigers at once.

This consideration, and the increase in the number of tigers over pulijudam, means that the balance of meurimüeng rimüeng do is somewhat different. Where the sheep are expected to win in pulijudam, this may not be as certain in meurimüeng rimüeng do.


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