Traditional Board Games

Fanorona: an Unusual Method of Capture

Fanorona, by Cyningstan
Fanorona, by Cyningstan

Saturday, 25th June 2016

A few years ago, the video game Assassin's Creed III was published.  It was an adventure game, and among various puzzles and tasks that the player had to undertake was a game of Fanorona.  This created a wave of popularity in the game while lasted a couple of years.

Before Assassin's Creed, fanorona had been a popular choice for game books because of the unusual method of capturing pieces.  Instead of jumping on or over a piece, captures can be made by approaching a column of pieces, ramming them like a kind of demolition derby so that the piece hit and those beyond are removed from the board. Captures can also be made by withdrawing from enemy pieces, as if pulling them over in a tug of war.  Given that captures can be chained like the jumps in Draughts, the initial phases of the game can be dramatic affairs.

I had already decided upon Fanorona for my book A Book of Historic Board Games when I found a fascinating article on the game from the 1880s.  Its author, W. Montgomery, told some amusing tales about fanorona's history and its place in society which provides probably the most entertaining history in the book.  If you're interested in ordering the book, please visit its page on the Lulu website.


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