Traditional Board Games

Battle Games

These are games in which the two or more sides fight against one another, trying to capture enemy pieces or trap a particular enemy piece. In most of these games, the forces are identical at the start of the game: two equal armies facing each other across the battlefield.

Alea Evangelii


An enigmatic variant of the Viking game hnefatafl, alea evangelii was recorded in the 12th century and said to be played at the court of the 10th century English king Athelstan. In hnefatafl games, the king tries to escape from the board with the help of his defenders, while twice as many attackers try to capture him. Alea evangelii is the biggest of these games ever recorded, being played with 73 pieces on a board of 19x19 playing spaces. ... (read more...)



Alquerque is a war game, in which two sides of twelve pieces face each other on a board of 25 points. These are joined by horizontal, vertical and diagonal lines, though not every point has diagonal connections. The aim of the game is to capture all of the opponent's pieces. Movement is to adjacent points along a marked line, and one piece can capture another by leaping over it to land on the empty point beyond. One of alquerque's ... (read more...)



The full name of this game is kolowis awithlaknannai, though it is usually known as awithlaknannai. It is a variant of alquerque, a game which also inspired the more common game of draughts, or checkers. Pieces in awithlaknannai move a single step from one point to an adjacent point along a marked line. They can capture enemy pieces by jumping, as in draughts. History of Awithlaknannai History of Awithlaknannai At some time after the Spanish conquest, the game of ... (read more...)



Brandub is a game of the hnefatafl family, played by the Irish. It is the smallest known hnefatafl game. A king and four defenders face eight attackers on a board of seven rows of seven points. The king must escape to one of the corner squares, while the attackers must capture the king. All pieces move in straight lines like the rook in chess, and capture an enemy by surrounding it on two opposite sides. History of Brandub History ... (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...)



Chess is one of the best-known board games in the world. It is one of the most deeply-studied games, and the subject of serious competition and scholarly analysis. There are many different forms of chess, not only historical curiosities but surviving regional variants. The version described here is the modern game as played in the west. It is played on a chequered board of eight rows of eight squares. 32 pieces are used, sixteen per player, of six different ... (read more...)


From west Africa, Choko is a game of strategy played in the sand with sticks for pieces. It is a bit like draughts, but with the unusual twist that when you jump over an opponent's piece you can select a second piece to capture from anywhere on the board. It is also a game of placement: the board starts empty, and you can choose in your turn whether to place a piece or to move one already on the ... (read more...)

Courier Game


The courier game is a mediaeval chess variant played on a 12x8 grid. Each side had a number of novel pieces. The courier which gave the game its name moved like a modern bishop, in contrast to the mediaeval bishop which moved exactly two spaces diagonally. The sage moved like a king, but was not liable to check. And the fool moved one space orthogonally, in contrast to the shatranj-like queen which moved one step diagonally. History of the ... (read more...)

Dablot Prejjesne


Dablot prejjesne is a Sami game from the nineteenth century. It recalls historical struggles between nomadic Sami warriors and Finnish settlers farming the land. One side has a king, prince and warriors, while the other has a landlord, his son and tenant farmers. Despite the differences in names, the sides are completely equal in number and power, making this an even-handed game of war. History of Dablot Prejjesne The nomadic Sami people from Lapland have been quite innovative over ... (read more...)


Dara is a row-building game from North Africa. Players enter their pieces one at a time, attempting to form a strategic arrangement. Once all pieces are placed, they move around the board, trying to form rows of three, which allows capture of an enemy piece. The first player reduced to two pieces loses the game. History of Dara There is an interesting family of games sometimes known as shiva, which are played across the Sahara and neighbouring parts of ... (read more...)



Called "checkers" in North America, draughts is a game of pure skill between two players. There are many regional variations on draughts, but the one described here is that played in English-speaking countries. Each player has twelve pieces, and play takes place on a chess board. Pieces advance to meet the enemy, and capture by jumping. Pieces reaching the edge are promoted to kings, and may move backwards as well as advancing. The player who captures all opposing pieces ... (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...)

Eleven Men's Morris

This is a variant of the game nine men's morris, with eleven men per side. It is played like twelve men's morris on the junctions of a board of three concentric squares, with the corners and edges joined. Whereas it is possible in twelve men's morris to jam the board up full of pieces causing a draw, eleven men's morris nearly always leaves the players a little room to move. History of Eleven and Twelve Men's Morris Eleven and ... (read more...)



Fanorona is a game of pure strategy from Madagascar. Based loosely on alquerque, the game is notable for its unusual methods of capture. Whole rows of enemy pieces are captured by approach and withdrawal, where a piece moves up to touch the enemies or, when touching, moves away. The capture of whole rows of pieces gives the game a dramatic beginning, with a full board providing many targets for capture to each player. History of Fanorona The game dates ... (read more...)


Felli is a simple game of strategy from Morocco. Two players face each other across an hourglass-shaped board, each player having six pieces set out at the start of the game. Piece move around the board from point to point, capturing by jumping. The player who captures all the opposing pieces is the winner. History of Felli and Lau Kata Kati The game of Alquerque, first documented in Spain, spread around the world, and its board adopted different shapes ... (read more...)

Five Men's Morris

This is a merels game from Europe, functionally almost identical to six men's morris which was favoured for a time in continental Europe. Each player has five pieces to be placed, then moved, on a lined board. Forming a row of three along a marked line allows an enemy piece to be taken. The player who is reduced to two pieces loses the game. History of Five and Six Men's Morris Six men's morris was popular in mediaeval Europe. ... (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...)

Four Seasons Chess


Four seasons chess is a version of chess for four players, dating back to at least 1283. It was featured in a book of games commissioned by Alfonso X of Castille. It uses a standard chess board and splits to usual two forces into four, giving each player four pieces and four pawns. It is unusual in that the pawns are split, two going in each direction from the corner in which their player starts. A cross is marked ... (read more...)


Gabata is a three-rank mancala game from Ethiopia, first recorded in the nineteenth century. Players try to capture one another's pieces by lifting and sowing, as in other mancala games. It is characterised by a race at the beginning, players moving simultaneously until one player sows a piece into an empty hole. Pieces are captured when a piece is sown into an empty hole, all enemy pieces in that hole's column becoming captives. History of Gabata Mancala is a ... (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...)



The game of hnefatafl is unusual in having two differing sides. One, with the king at its head, has a number of guards with whose help the king must escape from the board. The other side is twice as numerous, and must capture the king before he makes his escape. It differs from traditional hunt games in that the king himself, though prey, has an army of his own, each defending piece having the same powers of movement and ... (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...)



A game already being played by the Hawaiians when Captain James Cook made contact with the islanders in the eighteenth century. This is a game of capture where the object is not to take the most pieces, but to leave your opponent without a legal move. There is the original version and a simplified modern version. In both games, you capture a piece of the opposing colour by jumping over it with one of your own pieces, horizontally ... (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...)


Leapfrog is a game of capture for almost any number of players, from nineteenth-century England. It plays like a multi-player peg solitaire: players capture pieces by jumping over them, and this is the only move permitted. Once no more moves are possible, the winner is the player with the most pieces. History of Leapfrog Leapfrog is one of those games about whose origins we know very little. It was invented some time before 1898, as the game historian H. ... (read more...)

Ludus Latrunculorum

Ludus Latrunculorum is an ancient Roman game of pure skill. Two players face each other across a rectangular board which is marked with a grid of squares. The players each have an equal number of pieces, with one player's pieces differing from the other in colour. In some versions of this game, each player also has a "dux", a special piece with increased powers. Pieces move around the board and capture one another by surrounding; a piece of one ... (read more...)


Madelinette is a game of blockade. Two players each control three pieces. Players move their pieces in turn from one point to an adjacent unoccupied point, trying to block the other. The player who first cannot move loses the game. The historicity of this game is now under doubt. History of Madelinette In many games, a player is awarded an incidental victory by trapping his opponent such that the opponent has no legal move. There are a few games ... (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...)


This family of board games is played throughout most of Africa, some parts of the middle east, and further into south-east Asia. Boards consist of a grid of holes, usually in a grid of two, three or four rows. Pieces are seeds, beans or stones which are piled into the holes in varying quantities. Players do not have their own set of pieces, but instead each player takes control of a particular half of the board and all the ... (read more...)


Mefuvha is a mancala game played in the Transvaal. It is one of the most impressive looking mancala games, or in fact one of the most impressive looking board games altogether. It has four rows of twenty-eight playing spaces, 112 in all, and the game starts with 218 pieces on the board! The object of mefuvha is to capture all of your opponent's pieces. Movement, as in all mancala games, is by lifting all the pieces from one playing ... (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...)

Mu torere

Mu torere is said to be the only native board game of the Maori. It is played on the points and centre of an 8-pointed star, by two players with four pieces each. The object of the game is to block your opponent so he cannot move. History of Mu Torere Maori culture has brought forth a variety of games and pastimes, but among them is only one board game. The Maori generally favour more active pursuits, and string ... (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...)

Nine Men's Morris


Nine men's morris is a classic game of pure strategy. It has been described as "noughts and crosses for adults", as it shares the simpler game's aim for forming rows of three, but weaves that aim into a much more sophisticated game of wits. The rows of three, called "mills", are not the main aim of the game, they are a means to an end. The board starts empty, and players place their pieces in turn; forming a row ... (read more...)



Petteia is an ancient Greek game of pure skill. Two players face each other across a rectangular board which is marked with a grid of squares. The players each have an equal number of pieces, all of the same type, with one player's pieces differing from the other in colour. Pieces move around the board and capture one another by surrounding; a piece of one colour caught between two of the other is removed from play. The winner is ... (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...)



Puluc, also called Boolik and Bul, is a game played by the Kekchi people of North Guatemala in Central America. It is played in the outlying districts, often by the light of a fire. The Kekchi people are descendants of the Mayans, which induces some authors to speculate that Puluc is a Mayan game. It is a running fight game, a kind of war game played on a one-dimensional track, or “maize highway”. The forces of each player race ... (read more...)


Reversi, commercially known as Othello since the 1970s, is a game of placement and capture. The game starts with four pieces in the centre of the board, two of each colour. Players place pieces one at a time, capturing rows of opposing pieces that are sandwiched between the newly-placed piece and other friendly pieces around the board. Pieces are black on one side and white on another; a captured black piece is turned over to show its white side. ... (read more...)



Seega is a small battle game played in Egypt in the 19th and 20th centuries. Two players drop pieces onto a board, leaving only the central square empty, after which pieces are moved around the board from one square to the next. Pieces are captured by surrounding them on opposite sides, and the player who captures all of the opponent's pieces wins the game. History of Seega Egypt was a source of many interesting games in ancient times, but ... (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...)

Six Men's Morris

This is a smaller counterpart to the better-known nine men's morris. Each player has six pieces to be placed, then moved, on a lined board. Forming a row of three along a marked line allows an enemy piece to be taken. The player who is reduced to two pieces loses the game. History of Five and Six Men's Morris Six men's morris was popular in mediaeval Europe. It is mentioned in a French source from 1412, and a sixteenth ... (read more...)

Sixpenny Maddell

This curious combination of Six and Nine Men's Morris was played in Wiltshire in England, and was observed in 1897. The game is played with six men per side on a board of three concentric triangles joined at the middle. In a similar way to Nine Men's Morris, it allows a row of three men to be formed on the lines that connect the triangles together. Rules for Sixpenny Maddell Rules for Sixpenny Maddell 1. Sixpenny maddell is played ... (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...)



Tâb is a war game from the middle east. Historically it was played a across the Islamic world, from West Africa to Iran in the east, and from Turkey in the north to Anjouan in the south. The game is played by two on a board of four rows of (typically) nine squares. Each player has nine pieces which move around the board as if it were a track, according to the throws of four casting sticks. Pieces do ... (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...)



Tablut is a hybrid hunt/war game from Lapland. It is one of many variants of the old Norse game of hnefatafl, played throughout Northern Europe. A king attempts to escape from the board with the help of eight defenders. Sixteen attackers attempt to capture him. History of Tablut In 1732, the famous Swedish botan­ist Linnaeus took a tour of Lapland, keeping a journal of all that inter­ested him. Among the non-botanic­al observations that he included in this journal were ... (read more...)



Tawlbwrdd (pronounced something like towel-boorth) is a Welsh game, a member of the hnefatafl family of games introduced to the British Isles by the Vikings. These games are unusual among traditional games, in that the sides are unequal and the objectives different. A king and a group of loyal defenders occupy the centre of the board, and around the edges are twice their number of rebellious attackers. The object of the game for the king's side is to get ... (read more...)

The Amusing Game of Kilkenny Cats


The nineteenth century was quite an innovative time for abstract and lightly-themed games. Typical of the type is The Amusing Game of Kilkenny Cats, a game that combines skill and luck for two or four players. Game publishers of the time often used to add prefixes like "The Amusing Game of..." to their titles which give some of the games a period flavour before one even looks at the components. And just as often, the title of the game ... (read more...)

The Queah Game

Queah is a draughts-like game from Liberia. The board is a grid, usually rotated so that the playing spaces are interlocking diamonds rather than squares. Each player has ten pieces, four of which start on the board, the other six being entered each time a piece is lost. The pieces move around the board step-by-step, capturing each other by leaping. The player who captures all opposing pieces is the winner. History of the Queah Game The official name for ... (read more...)

Twelve Men's Morris

Twelve men's morris is a strategic three-in-a-row game. Two players each have twelve pieces, and play on a board of 24 points. The players strive to make rows of three along the marked lines, first by placing the pieces on the board one at a time (as in tic-tac-toe), and then by moving the pieces from one point to another along a marked line. Forming a row of three pieces allows a player to remove an enemy piece. A ... (read more...)



Wari is a game from the mancala family, in which pieces are moved around the board by lifting and sowing, i.e. lifting all the pieces from one of the holes, and dropping them singly in consecutive holes around a given route. Pieces are not marked as belonging to players; instead, players own all the pieces on their own side of the board. In wari there are two ranks of six holes, each one having four pieces at the start ... (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...)



Yoté is a game from west Africa. Its rules are a little like draughts, but it has a peculiar double-capture rule which allow the fortunes of the game to change rapidly. Another strategic twist is that the board starts empty and pieces are placed or moved at will. You do not have to wait till all your pieces are entered before you start moving them, but you can keep them in reserve! History of Yoté and Choko Yoté and ... (read more...)


This is a variant of the popular game of Alquerque, described elsewhere on this site. In the Sahara desert, the board was quadrupled to give the game of zamma, each side having 40 men. There is a common version of the board where some of the lines are omitted from the board. A difference between this game and alquerque is that men may only move forwards, or diagonally forwards, though they can capture in any direction as in alquerque. ... (read more...)


Great site. Please note: tic tac mo

Ken Mask - 15:41, 07/11/2017

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