Traditional Board Games

Renju: the Aristocrat of Five-in-a-Row Games

A home-made renju board with glass pieces.
A home-made renju board with glass pieces.

Saturday, 2nd July 2016

Many people are familiar with games of three, four and five in a row.  Renju is a five-in-a-row game from Japan, invented at the end of the nineteenth century and refined in the decades since.  Many row games naturally favour the first player, and Renju was an attempt to balance out the game by placing restrictions on what the first player can do.  Twentieth-century refinements include the addition of set opening moves and an elaborate kind of pie rule, both of which can be dispensed with in casual play.

Up to chapter 11, A Book of Historic Board Games has a distinct lack of building games.  Building is one of the four categories of human activity modelled by traditional board games, in the system adopted by the book.  Nine Men's Morris, the feature of an earlier chapter, is a hybrid game of building and war, so I needed a pure building game to complete the set.  Many such games, like noughts and crosses, are too trivial to provide any scope for entertaining strategic play, so I adopted Renju as an example of this category.

If you're interested in reading the book then please visit its page on the Lulu web site.


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