Traditional Board Games

Games of Asia

Asia is probably the most diverse source of board games, as befits the largest and most populous of the continents. India, China and Korea were major contributors to the world's board games, and a number of interesting games also came from the middle east.

Bagh Chal

Bagh Chal is an ancient hunt board game from Nepal. Its name means "moving tigers", and is played by two players, one controlling four tigers, the other controlling twenty goats. The four tigers must eat five of the goats, but the goats must trap the tigers. Some have called bagh chal the national game of Nepal. History of Bagh Chal It is said that the game is a thousand years old. Some sources say the game originated ... (read more...)

Bagh Guti

Bagh Guti is a hunt game played on a square board. Two tigers come face to face with twenty goats. What makes this game unusual is that the goats begin the game stacked up on four points; most games of this type do not allow stacking. The tigers in this game have to eat the goats, while the goats have to block the tigers preventing them from moving. History of Bagh Guti There is a large and varied class ... (read more...)


Chaturaji is a four-handed dice chess variant from India. Four play in two partnerships, black and green against red and yellow. A die is used to decide which pieces can move at any given turn. This game differs from many other chess variants in that kings are not subject to check, but may be captured and ransomed. History of Chaturaji Once considered as the original game of chess, this four handed Indian variant is now thought to be a ... (read more...)



When people say that chess was invented in India in the sixth century, they are not exactly talking about the game we play today, with its powerful queens and striding bishops.  The chess invented in India, called chaturanga, while recognisable as a kind of chess, had some differences from the modern game. History Chaturanga means "four limbs", or "four parts", a poetic reference to the four divisions of the army as used in India in ancient times: ... (read more...)



Also known as chausar or chaupad, this game has many similarities to the more well-known pachisi .  A cross-shaped board hosts the pieces of four players, who play in two partnerships, each player having four pieces.  The pieces begin at fixed positions around the board, racing around the board to finish at the centre. History The history of chaupar is linked to that of pachisi, not least because the boards are identical and that it is therefore ... (read more...)

Coan Ki


The name of this Chinese game means "the bottle game", and reflects the traditional shape of the pieces. It is a race game with a slight resemblance to backgammon, but it is played by completely different rules. The rules are only partially recorded, but some credible attempts have been made at reconstruction. Players aim to race their pieces anti-clockwise around the board in response to the rolls of two dice. The game is played for a stake, and a ... (read more...)

Egara Guti

Egara Guti is an Indian battle game. Each player has eleven pieces, the contending forces facing each other on the points of a lined board. Pieces move to adjacent connected points, and capture by jumping. The first player to capture all of the opponent's pieces wins the game. History of Egara Guti This game was first recorded in 1924, in the Central Provinces of India, but its actual age is uncertain. It is part of the alquerque family of ... (read more...)

Five Field Kono

Five field Kono is a game from Korea, of unknown antiquity but first recorded in the west in 1895. Two players each try to get their pieces across the board to the opposite side. The first to occupy the starting positions of his opponent wins the game. History of Five Field Kono At the end of the nineteenth century, a number of board games then current in Korea were recorded by the American ethnographer Stewart Culin. Ko-no was the ... (read more...)

Four Field Kono

This is an interesting abstract strategy game from Korea. The game is played on a board of 4x4 points, each player having eight pieces. The object of the game is to capture your opponent's piece till he has only one left. Pieces move a single step along a marked line to an adjacent point; an enemy is captured by leaping one of your pieces over an adjacent piece to land on the enemy immediately beyond. History of Four Field ... (read more...)



Go is a war game of territorial capture from the far east. It was invented in China thousands of years ago, and spread to Korea and Japan in the early centuries of our era. The game is very simple but very deep. Players must lay down stones on the board, claiming the territory they surround. Occasional captures of stones (or "armies") are made, but the winner is the player who claims the most territory. In the past century go ... (read more...)

Hat Diviyan Keliya

Hat diviyan keliya is a hunt game from Sri Lanka. It is played on a simple triangular board of ten points. One player has a tiger, and the other has seven 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 ... (read more...)


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 ... (read more...)


Kerala is a race game of unknown, probably Asian, origin. It may not be historic, given the lack of documentary sources, but has been assumed to be so by a number of writers. Two or three players race their pieces from their own "runways" to a shared square track, which they have to circumnavigate twice, before returning pieces to their own runway. Between each circuit of the board, a player's pieces must all gather in the centre. The first ... (read more...)

Lau Kata Kati

This game is similar to that of Felli, and is a version of Alquerque, the forerunner of draughts. Lau Kata Kati is played with nine pieces on each side, on a board in the shape of an hourglass. The board is similar in layout to that of Felli, but slightly larger, with the nine pieces of each player being arrayed in three rows. History of Felli and Lau Kata Kati The game of Alquerque, first documented in Spain, spread ... (read more...)

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 ... (read more...)



Liubo is an ancient lost race game from China. Said to be about two thousand years old, the game was mentioned in a fifth century Chinese translation of the Indian Brahmasutra as being obsolete by that time. Though the original rules are lost, plenty of relics survive to give us clues about game play. The game was played by two on a square board. The board possessed peculiar markings resembling a symmetrical pattern of T and L shapes, the ... (read more...)


Mak-ruk is chess as played in Thailand. It differs from western chess in that the pawns start the game on the third row, and that some of the pieces have different moves. There are also rules to ensure a more speedy end game in the case where one side is reduced to a lone king. This form of chess is still played in Thailand, and has recently received some attention around the rest of the world. History of Mak-ruk ... (read more...)

Meurimüeng Rimüeng Do

In a game from Sumatra with the challenging name of meurimüeng-rimüeng-do, five tigers face fifteen sheep on a board which is triangular with lateral extensions. It is a hunt game: the sheep try to hem in the tigers while the tigers try to capture the sheep. The sheep are successful if the tigers cannot move, while the tigers win if there are too few sheep to trap them. History of Meurimüeng Rimüeng Do Hunt games played on triangular boards ... (read more...)

Ming Mang

Ming Mang is a Tibetan game of strategy. Players start with their pieces arrayed around the edge of the board. Pieces move around like rooks in chess, sandwiching enemies in the same way as reversi. The winner is the first player to turn all the enemy pieces into his own colour. It is played on a board looking a bit like a go board, and pieces are placed on the lines in the same way. Traditionally, it was played ... (read more...)


There are at least two games from Persia called nard. A more well-known game is of the backgammon family, played with the familiar backgammon board, dice and pieces. Another game is this one. Nard is a game of war, where two equal sides each try and overcome the other with skill and an element of luck. Each player has a king and eight soldiers, on a square board. The object of the game is to capture all of the ... (read more...)



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 ... (read more...)



Pachisi, sometimes called the National Game of India, is a race game for four players played on a cross-shaped board. Each player must race their pieces from the centre, around the board, and back again, landing on their opponents where possible to send them back to the start. Players form partnerships, and the game is won and lost by partners, not individuals. History of Pachisi History of Pachisi Among the many board games that India has given the world, ... (read more...)


This attractive variant of alquerque, a forerunner of draughts, was played in Bihar in India. Its board is of three concentric circles joined by six spokes, the spokes not meeting in the middle. A variant with 7 concentric circles was also played. Though nowhere stated in Western accounts of the game, it is assumed that one piece may jump over another along a curved line. Rules for Pretwa Rules for Pretwa 1. Pretwa is played by two people on ... (read more...)



The Tiger Game, or Tigers and Lambs, is a game played in India where it is known as pulijudam. The board is roughly triangular, and fifteen lambs attempt to trap three tigers by hemming them in so they cannot move. The tigers have the power to devour the lambs, though, so the hunt will not be an easy one. History of Pulijudam and Rafaya Throughout southeast Asia there are a number of “hunt” games played on triangular boards. Two ... (read more...)



This Indian game, called demala diviyan keliya in Sri Lanka, pits three tigers against fifteen dogs. Its board is shaped like a triangle with arms projecting from two of the sides. The tigers have to kill the dogs, while the dogs have to blockade the tigers so that they cannot move. It is played in much the same way as the smaller game pulijudam. History of Pulijudam and Rafaya Throughout southeast Asia there are a number of “hunt” games ... (read more...)



Renju is a Japanese game more popular in its homeland than abroad. Two players, black and white, place stones on a grid, attempting to form a row of five. Because the first player normally has a great advantage in such connection games, there are limitations placed on the first player's formations that do not apply to the opponent. This makes the game fairly well-balanced and suitable for serious play. History of Renju For many years in Japan, games have ... (read more...)

Royal Game of Ur


The Royal Game of Ur is a modern name for an ancient race game known only from archaeological excavations. Two players race around a figure-of-8-shaped board, with seven pieces, according to the throws of three binary lots. It is assumed that the pieces were entered onto the board at one place and exited at another; the shape of the board and its symmetrical markings also raise the possibility that each player started and finished on his own half of ... (read more...)


Saturankam is a race game played on a square board, around which the players' pieces move in a labyrinthine path. It is played in southern India and Sri Lanka. It is of unknown antiquity, but square-board race games in India are thought to predate chess. The name “saturankam” in fact means “chess”, and chess is thought to have been designed around an 8×8 square race game board. The dice in saturankam, called “kemadi”, often made of brass, have values ... (read more...)



In Arabic, chess is called shatranj. In English language texts, shatranj refers to the particular form of mediaeval chess brought to Europe from the middle east. It has major variations from the modern western game, making it of much different character. Shatranj gives much shorter moves to some of the pieces. The pawns only move one square forwards, even on their first turn. The long move of the bishop, called the elephant in shatranj, is instead a short diagonal ... (read more...)



Shogi, or “the general's game”, is the form of chess popular in Japan. It is played on a board of nine rows of nine squares, each side having twenty pieces. It is unusual among chess variants in that captured pieces may be re-entered into the game on the captor's side; the pieces are formed in such a way that the piece's ownership is indicated by its direction of facing, not its colour. History of Shogi History of Shogi Tradition ... (read more...)



Sittuyin is the Burmese form of chess. It uses the older, short-range moves of some of the pieces like the queen (which it calls commander) and the bishop (which it calls an elephant). But the most remarkable thing about this game is the initial setup of the pieces. The pawns (which are called soldiers) are set up on the third and fourth row of the board, two enemies already in contact. All the other pieces can be placed behind ... (read more...)

Sixteen Soldiers

In Sri Lanka and parts of India, the standard alquerque board was expanded with a triangle on each side, with sixteen pieces per player. This is the game of sixteen soldiers. The triangle to the left of each player was filled with his pieces to give the game of perali kotuma, and the last two points beside the centre of the board were filled in another variant, called kotu ellima, in which the central square is therefore laid out ... (read more...)


Surakarta is a battle game from Java. Play takes place on a grid of six rows of six points, between contending forces which have twelve pieces each. Pieces move like chess kings to adjacent points, but capture in a unique fashion, moving in a bobsleigh-like path that take in circular extensions at the edge of the board. Some have doubted the authenticity of the game. History of Surakarta The island of Java has given the world the peculiar and ... (read more...)


T'shu-p'u is a race game played on a small cross-shaped board. It is a Chinese version of the various cross-shaped race games played in India, and is very old. It is a partnership game, where four players compete in two teams of two. Each player must race their pieces around the board and up to the centre; the first partnership to achieve this wins the game. History of T'shu-p'u Some Chinese sources claim that the game was introduced in ... (read more...)


Tablan is a "running fight" game from Mysore in India. Two bands of twelve warriors fight their way to each other's stronghold. Can you get more of your warriors into enemy territory than your enemy can get into yours? The game is a traditional blend of luck and strategy still played relatively recently. History of Tablan There is a class of games known as running fight games, in which two players advance towards each other on a straight course ... (read more...)


There is a picturesque setting for thaayam in R. C. Bell's book Board and Table Games from Many Civilizations. Girls employed to scare birds away from the rice crop as it was ripening would play this to while away the hours (presumably, those hours when the birds were elsewhere). Thaayam is a race game played on a square board. The pieces follow a simple but labyrinthine path around the board, starting on the edges closest to each player and ... (read more...)

The Game of Twenty Squares


This is a race game, most popular in ancient Egypt but spread, and probably originating, all over the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent. The board is set out in two sections: a block of three rows of four squares at one end, and an 8-square extension of the middle row. It is supposed that two players each started their pieces on one of the short rows, and moved them onto the middle row in a race to the ... (read more...)

Xiang Qi


The Chinese have their own game of chess, called xiang qi, pronounced "shyang chee". It differs from the European game in a number of ways. The board is a lattice grid of ten ranks nine points each. A river divides the two sides, and at each end is a marked 'castle', to which the generals (kings) and ministers (queens) are confined. The pieces sit on the points, not in the squares. The moves of the pieces are similar to ... (read more...)


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