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
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
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.