Traditional Board Games


Horseshoe is a simple strategy game of blockade. Each player has two pieces on a small board of five playing spaces. The object of the game is to block one's opponent so that they cannot move any of their pieces. It is a far eastern game, known under various names: do-guti in India, pong hau k'i in China, tok tong in Thailand and on-moul-ko-no in Korea.

History of Horseshoe

It is unknown where exactly horseshoe was invented, but it is clearly a far-eastern game. Though similar games have been known elsewhere, this one was not played outside south or south-east Asia until modern times. The name of horseshoe has been given to it due to the shape of its board.

Rules for Horseshoe

Rules for Horseshoe
1. Horseshoe is played on a simple board of five points, being a crossed square with one side missing, as shown in the diagram.

2. The game is played by two players, each having two pieces, which start the game on the corners, again as in the diagram.

3. Players decide between themselves, at random or by agreement, who will move first.

4. Each player in his turn moves a piece from its point, along a marked line, to an adjacent empty point.

5. There is no jumping as found in other games, nor is there capture.

6. The game is over when one of the players is trapped and cannot move. His opponent is declared the winner.

It has been suggested that instead of adopting the prescribed position at the start of the game, the board may start empty. In this case, players take turns to place one of their pieces at a point of their choice. Once the pieces have been so placed, the game proceeds as per rules 4 onwards.

Strategic Considerations in Horseshoe

Strategic Considerations in Horseshoe
The prescribed starting position would appear to be unbalanced, and at first sight one would think that a more balanced starting position would have one colour's pieces on the left and the other's on the right. This, however, gives a very easy win to the first player on their first turn: moving the uppermost piece down to the middle would immediately block the opponent.

As in noughts and crosses, it does not take long to learn the secret of this game. Once both players learn how to play optimally, the result is a draw, albeit an endlessly-moving one in this game.


NO DATE WHEN IT WAS MADE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Brett - 16:31, 13/10/2016

Sadly not, Brett! It's only recently that cultures have started documenting their games. I think this one was first recorded about 1900 but it may be much older than that (and my books aren't with me at the moment so I'd even take that 1900 date with a grain of salt).

Damian Walker - 17:41, 13/10/2016

Is there any relation between this game and mu torere? Rules are so similar! 

Ashwin M Iyer - 17:35, 21/05/2017

Does this have any connection with Mu Torere? Both are very similar!

Ashwin M Iyer - 17:44, 21/05/2017

Does this have any connection with the game of the Maori game Mu Torere? Rules are very similar!

Ashwin M Iyer - 07:55, 22/05/2017

Interesting question, Ashwin. They're virtually the same game. I think the similarities are coincidental, as I don't think there was contact between Maori cultures and mainland Asia at the time the games were developed. Given the simplicity of the games it's not beyond the realms of possibility that they developed separately.

Damian Walker - 14:18, 25/05/2017

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