Traditional Board Games


Nyout publicity photograph
Nyout publicity photograph

Nyout is a Korean race game for two, three or four players. Each player races their pieces, or "horses", around a track to try to be the first one to bear the horses off the board. Nyout differs from some games in having a number of short-cuts to the finish line, which pieces may take if they land on the appropriate squares.

History of Nyout

Korea is rich in interesting traditional board games. It has its own version of chess, and go is played here by the more intellectual strata of society. But people of humbler background and simpler education also have their games, and nyout is one of these. Nyout is a race game, often played as a gambling game, for a stake. Even without the wager, it is enjoyable as a pastime in its own right.

The age and history of nyout is unknown. A similar board game was imported to Korea from China in the third century. Since then, it disappeared from China, but its history in Korea was untracked until it was brought to international attention, by the renowned American ethnologist and board game historian Stewart Culin in 1895.

Rules for Nyout

Rules for Nyout
The rules here are based on those given by the board game historian R. C. Bell. Though different accounts vary, these are the simplest and most logical.

1. Nyout is played on board in which the playing spaces are laid out in a circle, with more laid out as a cross inside it, as shown in the diagram.

2. Two, three or four can play. Two players have four pieces each, called horses, three have three horses each, and four players play as partnerships, having two horses per player.

3. Four casting sticks control the movement of the horses. The casting sticks are marked on one side and blank on the other.

4. Players throw the casting sticks to decide the order of play, the highest scoring player taking the first turn. The value of a throw is the number of marked sides showing, or 5 if no marked sides show.

5. A player begins his turn by throwing the casting sticks. If a 4 or 5 is thrown, the casting sticks are thrown a second time and the results of both throws noted.

6. Once the casting sticks are thrown, the player may do one of the following:

(i). a horse may be entered on the course, onto point 1-5 (see the diagram for point notation) according to the value of the throw;

(ii). a horse already on the outer circle may be moved anti-clock wise by the number of points indicated, as shown in the diagram; a horse moving past N has finished its race and is borne off the board (no exact throw is needed to bear off);

(iii). a horse on E, S or W may be moved along one of the arms of the cross towards the centre, turning to N as also shown in the diagram;

(iv). a horse already on the cross may be moved towards the centre, turning to N, being borne off the board as in 6(ii) above if it passes N.

7. If a player's horse lands on the same square as another of his horses, the two may subsequently be moved as a pair. Three or four horses may be joined in this way, if so many are in play.

8. Where the sticks have been thrown twice, the throws may both be used to move the same horse, or to move different horses as the player wishes.

9. If a player's horse lands on an opponent's horse or horses, the opponent's horses are captured, removed from the board, and they must begin their race again.

10. A player or partnership wins the game when all their horses have completed the race and been borne off.

11. Optionally, a two-player game may be won when the first player bears off his first horse.

Strategy in Nyout

Pieces newly entered on the board are highly likely to be knocked off again if others have pieces to enter, especially when three or more are playing, So the first thing a player will aim to do, if a piece survives its first turn on the board, is to get the piece away from the starting section of the track. Pieces cannot be defended, so more pieces are more targets for opponents.

Entering the central cross is a bonus, especially from the west and south entrances. Even from the eastern entrance, which gives the pieces a longer path than right around the circle, there is sometimes an advantage to entering the cross, as doing so will take the piece out of the way of enemy pieces moving around the outer circle. A piece on the cross may stop for a while, until such time as an opponent enters the cross behind it.

Pairing pieces up tends not to affect the strategy greatly. It should not normally be a strategic aim to do so, though if the opportunity arises, and the pieces are not in immediate danger, then pairing up is obviously advantageous as the pieces will finish the course much more quickly.


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