Traditional Board Games

Agon: One of the Earliest Hexagonal Games

Home-made agon board with borrowed chess pieces.
Home-made agon board with borrowed chess pieces.

Thursday, 23rd June 2016

Board games played on a hexagonal grid went through a very popular period in the 1970s.  But there were much older examples, and Agon is one of them.  Its background is mysterious, and various dates from the 1780s to the 1870s have been claimed for it.  Like Halma which I wrote about yesterday, it is a race game that relies upon strategy rather than luck: each player tries to get their team to the centre of the board, the queen in the central hex with her six guards around her.

When putting together a list of games for my book A Book of Historic Board Games, it hadn't been my intention to include two such unusual race games, but Agon is a very interesting game.  Its capture mechanism has two interesting aspects.  Firstly a piece is captured by surrounding it on two opposite sides, which is common in very old games but rare in modern ones.  Secondly, when a piece has been captured, its owner has to use their own move to remove it from its position, placing it anywhere on the edge of the board (or in the queen's case, safe square on the board).

Despite its lacking any sort of detailed history, the tactical possibilities and the general unfamiliarity of the game put it ahead of many other race games for a chapter in my book.  If you are interested in the book, then please visit its page on Lulu.


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