Traditional Board Games

Len Choa

Len choa is a hunt game from Thailand. It is played on a simple triangular board of ten points. One player has a tiger, and the other has six leopards who are used to hunt the tiger. The leopard player must trap the tiger so that it cannot move; the tiger player must kill enough leopards to make their task impossible.

History of Len Choa and Hat Diviyan Keliya

In the far east, there are a number of hunt games played on triangular boards, termed leopard games, from the name usually given to the hunter pieces. The simplest of these is len choa, which comes from Thailand. In Sri Lanka there is a very similar game, called hat diviyan keliya.

The age of these games are unknown, but len choa was observed by the traveller Captain Low, who published a description of it in the periodical Asiatic Researches, 1836. An account of hat diviyan keliya was published in 1873.

Rules for Len Choa and Hat Diviyan Keliya

Rules for Len Choa and Hat Diviyan Keliya
The detail in Captain Low’s account of Len Choa is sparse, but hat diviyan keliya provides clues enough to reconstruct a playable set of rules.

1. The games are played on a triangular board of ten points, joined by lines as shown in the diagram.

2. Two players take part, one controlling a tiger who starts at the apex of the board, the other controlling six leopards (in len choa) or seven (in hat diviyan keliya) who start in his hand.

3. The leopard player takes the first turn, the tiger moving next, turns alternating thereafter.

4. If the leopard player still holds pieces in his hand, he must place one of them on any vacant point, thus ending his turn.

5. The tiger in his turn may move along a marked line to any adjacent point.

6. Once all the leopards have been placed, they may move from point to point in the same manner as the tiger.

7. The tiger may, instead of moving to an adjacent point, capture a leopard on an adjacent point by leaping over it onto a vacant point beyond.

8. The tiger may not leap off the board; there must be a vacant point beyond the leopard for it to land on.

9. The tiger may make only one leap in its turn. Multiple captures as in some other games are not allowed in len choa.

10. Leopards may not leap over the tiger.

11. The game will end if the tiger cannot move. The leopards then claim victory.

12. The game also ends if the tiger captures three of the leopards. The remaining three leopards are insufficient to entrap the tiger.

Strategic Considerations in Len Choa and Hat Diviyan Keliya

The two games differ only in the size of the hunting force. This means that if one is perfectly balanced, then the other cannot be likewise. The strategy of these games hasn't been studied in sufficient depth, however, to determine which is the better one.


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