Traditional Board Games

The Amusing Game of Kilkenny Cats

The Amusing Game of Kilkenny Cats
The Amusing Game of Kilkenny Cats

The nineteenth century was quite an innovative time for abstract and lightly-themed games. Typical of the type is The Amusing Game of Kilkenny Cats, a game that combines skill and luck for two or four players. Game publishers of the time often used to add prefixes like "The Amusing Game of..." to their titles which give some of the games a period flavour before one even looks at the components. And just as often, the title of the game has no relevance at all to its mechanics. The object of this game is to get two of your pieces across the board to occupy the two goal squares opposite your starting point. The rules are as follows:

1. Beginning the game: Kilkenny cats is played by two or four people on a board of 14x14 squares, the board having a pair of extra squares added to each edge. Each player has eight pieces set out in the diagram. If two play, they sit opposite. There is a die to influence the moves of the pieces. Players decide at random who begins.

2. Moving the pieces: a player moves a piece first by rolling the die, then by moving one of his pieces in any of the eight directions by exactly the number of squares shown on the die. Pieces may not jump on one another, and a player may not have two of his pieces in the same square. If no valid move is available then the turn is lost.

3. Capturing enemies: a piece captures an enemy by landing on it. The piece is removed from the board and takes no further part in play.

4. Winning the game: this is not done by capturing all your enemy's pieces, but by occupying the two goal squares at the edge of the board opposite where your pieces began.

This intriguing nineteenth century game was invented within a decade of halma and reversi, but did not manage to gain the same level of popularity. That's a shame, as it seems like quite a good game in the traditional style. The element of luck makes it a bit more light-hearted than either of the other two.


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