THE traditional (non-race) abstract games list
Moshe Callen
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ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ/ πλάγχθη, ἐπεὶ Τροίης ἱερὸν πτολίεθρον ἔπερσεν./...
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μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος/ οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί᾽ Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε᾽ ἔθηκε,/...
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Since I both like abstract games, especially traditional ones, and [let's face it] I only want to bother spending money on getting a game if some REAL reason exists to do so, I have looked at several purported lists of traditional abstract games. Some things that have struck me are that the lists 1. are usually grossly incomplete [although I will invite people to supply any omissions I might make], 2. usually include little if any discussion of the game AS A GAME [which I think for public domain games ought either include rules, etc., or links to these] and 3. again pay little or no attention to the question whether I should shell out the money for a professionally made set or not.

For the first, this list seeks to be as complete as possible but card/tile and dice games [or things like Dreidel or Ceexstem which aren't really board games]-- as well as race games [in which category I include more complex manifestations of the variety such as Backgammon and Pachisi, the name of which is more correctly spelled Parchisi, as well]-- are excluded. Zodiac is rejected because it appears more of a form of gambling than a genuine abstract game; yet Astronomical Tables qualifies because, in spite of its similarities to Backgammon, it is distinct;y a war-game. Oversights and omissions I invite people to add.

For the second, I will try and include either my own explanations and/or links-- though a good deal of info already exists here on BGG.

For the last, I'll best explain by example of a non-public domain game: Oshi. How I got the rules and know that it can be played on a shogi-ban I leave for one's imagination. Whether or not the game itself plays well it not the issue; the fact that I can easily play it on a shogi-ban with components from another game without missing anything is. In principle, it's the sort of game one could make on the fly one's self and just isn't worth the invertment in my opinion. On the other hand, if a given game is a game I will want to play often, it is usually worth the investment even if I can easily make or print out my own set.

Finally, I will try and stick to abstracts and specifically traditional ones but pasted on themes are okay; again, to use a non-public domain analogy, if Stratego were a traditional game, it would fit this list.

NB: I also exclude from this list games like Ashtapada for which both the original rules have been lost and no genuinely playable version has to my knowledge been proposed, although I include games for which the original rules have been lost but I am aware of at least one [possibly more] playable version by proposed rules. Likewise, I exclude games like El Tablero de Jesus which, while public domain, are not actually traditional; the pseudo-traditional Spanish Chess is excluded for the same reason. Thus I do list some Chess, Shogi and Xiangqi variants for example but just the ones which are as I understand it actually traditional. Finally, I exclude Tic-Tac-Toe because, while the game is certainly traditional, calling it a board game is a bit of a stretch.

I also feel I should point out the great work by BBG user Damian Walker [snigfarp] and his leaflets linked to many of these games here on BBG. Occasionally, I disagree with his reconstructions whether grossly or on fine details but they are an impressive body of work nonetheless deserving due credit.
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51. Board Game: Rithmomachy [Average Rating:5.64 Unranked]
Moshe Callen
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ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ/ πλάγχθη, ἐπεὶ Τροίης ἱερὸν πτολίεθρον ἔπερσεν./...
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μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος/ οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί᾽ Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε᾽ ἔθηκε,/...
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The link http://www-cs.canisius.edu/~salley/Articles/rithmomachy.html includes rules but saysit is not complete and cites a reference book for the complete rules. I have found no better source on-line.

A set for this if available would be cool.

I can't comment on the game as a game since I don't know how to play but what I have read of the rules makes me think this was a game played to show off to others, not to actually enjoy the game.
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52. Board Game: Seega [Average Rating:5.68 Unranked]
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ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ/ πλάγχθη, ἐπεὶ Τροίης ἱερὸν πτολίεθρον ἔπερσεν./...
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μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος/ οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί᾽ Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε᾽ ἔθηκε,/...
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The BGG entry does includea rules link.

This is one of those games which can be played with equipment from so many other games that again I would not recommend purchasing a set especially for it unless the set was quite nice.

The game is sometimes thought to be a descendent game of Petteia but is a fascinating game in its own right, whether one plays the 5x5 or 7x7 version. How one plays in the initial stage placing pieces on the board will dictate to a good degree how well one plays in the latter stage of making custodial captures. Thus, the game requires both skill at usign the position of the board at hand and also a great deal of thinking ahead.
 
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53. Board Game: Senterej [Average Rating:7.50 Unranked]
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ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ/ πλάγχθη, ἐπεὶ Τροίης ἱερὸν πτολίεθρον ἔπερσεν./...
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μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος/ οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί᾽ Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε᾽ ἔθηκε,/...
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The BGG entry contains a short up clear rules summary.

This game can be played with a standard Chess set.

This is the standard chess game of Ethiopia. The BGG entry makes much of the fact that the game officially involves an initial phase of simultaneous movement until the first capture is made, but frankly I've known many to play standard chess tis way in practice.
 
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54. Board Game: Shatar [Average Rating:8.38 Unranked]
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ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ/ πλάγχθη, ἐπεὶ Τροίης ἱερὸν πτολίεθρον ἔπερσεν./...
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μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος/ οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί᾽ Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε᾽ ἔθηκε,/...
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The BGG entry summairzes the rules nicely.

This can be placed with a standard Chess set.

This is the standard chess game of Mongolia. The most interesting feature of this game is that the piece analogous to the Western queen moves like a ryuo ["dragon-king"] of Mini Shogi.
 
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55. Board Game: Shatranj [Average Rating:6.62 Unranked]
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μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος/ οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί᾽ Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε᾽ ἔθηκε,/...
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The BGG entry includes a link for rules.

This can be played with a standard Chess set.

This is chess as it was played in medieval Europe and the Islamic world, although today much of the Islamic world has adopted Western style chess. While on the one hand, I understand the reasons why the game was changed into the modern form, this older version of the game does have a distinct elegance to it that should not be lost in a vain comparison.
 
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56. Board Game: Shogi [Average Rating:7.28 Overall Rank:775]
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ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ/ πλάγχθη, ἐπεὶ Τροίης ἱερὸν πτολίεθρον ἔπερσεν./...
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μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος/ οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί᾽ Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε᾽ ἔθηκε,/...
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I wrote an introductory article to this game which is linked to the BGG entry; it discusses the basics of how practically to play as well as the rules. At least one player more experienced than myself has also commented on that discussion. there are also other rules links for this game on the BGG entry.

The equipment for this game is both so unique and so impressive that, even if a 9x9 board were not so incredibly useful for any gamer, this game still would be a must-get for any serious gamer.

As I commented on the entry for Chess on this list, Shogi is the only game I have seen which surpasses the related game Chess in its combination of simple rules and strategic depth. The reason I say that it surpasses Chess in this regard is that whereas in both Chess and Xiangqi during the end-game the board has a relatively few pieces and the respective kings or generals, in this game the drop mechanism keeps all pieces in play throughout the game. Captured pieces can always be placed on the board at any position where the piece would have a legal move [subject to one or two other restrictions as well] throughout the game. Shogi therefore never reduces to an empty board apart from respective generals and a few pieces; from beginning ot end, this game involves all forty pieces and the full mental effort of both players.
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57. Board Game: Six Men's Morris [Average Rating:4.60 Unranked]
Moshe Callen
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ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ/ πλάγχθη, ἐπεὶ Τροίης ἱερὸν πτολίεθρον ἔπερσεν./...
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μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος/ οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί᾽ Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε᾽ ἔθηκε,/...
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The rules to this can be found in a leaflet linked to the BGG entry for Three Men's Morris.

For this, I would not personally recommend using other than a home-made set unless one finds an extremely nicely made set.

See my comments on Nine Men's Morris.
 
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58. Board Game: Solitaire [Average Rating:4.16 Overall Rank:11147]
Moshe Callen
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ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ/ πλάγχθη, ἐπεὶ Τροίης ἱερὸν πτολίεθρον ἔπερσεν./...
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μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος/ οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί᾽ Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε᾽ ἔθηκε,/...
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The BGG entry summarizes the rules succinctly but completely.

This is played with a Fox and Geese set but ignoring the diagonal lines on the board or simply without lines on the board.

I have had for years two set of this I was given as a kid. I never have found this game especially captivating but is is really not a bad little game.
 
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59. Board Game: Surakarta [Average Rating:5.99 Overall Rank:7336]
Moshe Callen
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μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος/ οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί᾽ Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε᾽ ἔθηκε,/...
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The BGG entry includes a rules link.

The distinctive board seems well worth a purchase.

The game uses replacement captures like Chess rather than jump-captures like Checkers or Alquerque to which it is more often compared. Another interesting point is that ordinary movement is only to an adjacent point of the central square grid-- not viathe circular outer paths-- and yet a capturing move must utilize the circular outer paths and is not confined to adjacent points. This makes for a unique strategic picture.
 
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60. Board Game: Tablan [Average Rating:5.50 Unranked]
Moshe Callen
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ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ/ πλάγχθη, ἐπεὶ Τροίης ἱερὸν πτολίεθρον ἔπερσεν./...
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μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος/ οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί᾽ Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε᾽ ἔθηκε,/...
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The BGG entry doe not include a complete set of rules nor a link to these. The information about the game-play I have been able to find is that:

1. this game is a "running war" game played on a 12x4 with each player starting with 12 pieces placed on the row nearest to him,

2. the game uses four cowry shells or 2-sided dice-sticks rolled in a manner similar to Pachisi [the misspelled BGG entry for Parchisi],

and

3. the object is to at the game's end occupy more spaces of the opponent's pieces' starting position with one's pieces than the opponent's pieces occupy of one's own pieces' starting position.

It is remarked in a few places that Bell's book Board and Table Games from Many Civilizations gives the rules but I do not have access to that book and unfortunately Dover says it's out of print without plans to reprint it. Would someone who does have a copy kindly supply a summary of the rules, etc.?
 
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61. Board Game: Three Men's Morris [Average Rating:4.42 Overall Rank:10336]
Moshe Callen
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ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ/ πλάγχθη, ἐπεὶ Τροίης ἱερὸν πτολίεθρον ἔπερσεν./...
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μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος/ οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί᾽ Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε᾽ ἔθηκε,/...
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A link exists on the BGG entry for rules of this game and of related games.

Although a different game than Achi, the two games are similar and the comments and link above apply to both games.
 
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62. Board Game: Three Men's Morris [Average Rating:4.42 Overall Rank:10336]
Moshe Callen
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ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ/ πλάγχθη, ἐπεὶ Τροίης ἱερὸν πτολίεθρον ἔπερσεν./...
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μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος/ οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί᾽ Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε᾽ ἔθηκε,/...
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The BGG does include a link for rules but that link leaves out the rather important position of the specific initial placement of pieces; this seems to be implied as each playeroccupying one corner of the board and the two adjacent points on the outside of the board, players occupying opposite corners, but this is not clearly stated and so may be in error.

The board can be drawn on a piece of paper in seconds and the game played with three pawns or draughtsmen each. Thus, I would not recommend buying any but a gorgeously wrought commerical set.

The game seems a few steps removed from Tic-Tac-Toe; I can see afive-year-old playing it repeatedly but a smart five-year-old will become quickly bored with it.
 
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63. Board Game: Tori Shogi [Average Rating:6.64 Unranked]
Moshe Callen
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μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος/ οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί᾽ Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε᾽ ἔθηκε,/...
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The BGG entry for this game includes a rules link.

The bird-theme of the pieces and the usefulness of a 7x7 board to any gamer makes this worth a purchase perhaps but I must admit that for now I play this using pieces adapted from a standard Shogi set on the center of the shogi-ban [thus ignoring the outer edge of spaces].

This is believed the first game in the Shogi family to have used a drop-mechanism. This keeps all pieces in play throughout the game so that the level of the game's complexity never diminishes, just as in the more familiar standard Shogi. Personally, I find the immediately adjacent starting position of the pieces for the two players does not allow one to develop a defensive position. Both players are similarly handicapped, but I think the game the poorer for it nonetheless. That being said, this is still a game extremely similar to standard Shogi with all the good which that implies.
 
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64. Board Game: Turkish Checkers [Average Rating:6.17 Unranked]
Moshe Callen
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ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ/ πλάγχθη, ἐπεὶ Τροίης ἱερὸν πτολίεθρον ἔπερσεν./...
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μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος/ οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί᾽ Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε᾽ ἔθηκε,/...
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Links for rules to this game can be found on the BGG entry for Checkers.

The game canbe played with a standard Checkers set if it includes a few extra pieces or if it includes enough to play Backgammon.

Like all the games in the draughts family, this one is simple and elegant but strategically quite deep.
 
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65. Board Game: Twelve Men's Morris [Average Rating:5.83 Unranked]
Moshe Callen
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ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ/ πλάγχθη, ἐπεὶ Τροίης ἱερὸν πτολίεθρον ἔπερσεν./...
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μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος/ οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί᾽ Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε᾽ ἔθηκε,/...
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This is 12 Man's Morris. The rules are identical to Nine Man's Morris but the three concentric squares are linked at corners by diagonal lines as well and one uses twelve pieces instead of nine. The BGG entry does summarize the rules but a link can also be found on the entry for Three Men's Morris.

This is one of those games where I am ambivalent whether buying a set is worth it or not. At the moment, i am inclined to favr usign a home-made set, but if I came across a nice commercially made set I would likely buy it.

See my comments about Nine Men's Morris.
 
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66. Board Game: Vultures & Crows [Average Rating:5.00 Unranked]
Moshe Callen
Israel
Jerusalem
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ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ/ πλάγχθη, ἐπεὶ Τροίης ἱερὸν πτολίεθρον ἔπερσεν./...
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μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος/ οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί᾽ Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε᾽ ἔθηκε,/...
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The BGG summarized the rules and has a picture of the board. the ambiguities in the rules can be corrected by noting that this is a standard hunt game and so the prey captures pieces by jumping while the hunters cannot capture pieces but try to manipulate the prey into a positionso that he cannot move.

This could be a very picturesque board and so merit a purchase, but the game is easily played with home-made equipment in that the board can be drawn in seconds.

The board makes this game somewhat less one-sided than most hunt games but not much.
 
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67. Board Game: Xi Gua Qi [Average Rating:4.25 Unranked]
Moshe Callen
Israel
Jerusalem
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ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ/ πλάγχθη, ἐπεὶ Τροίης ἱερὸν πτολίεθρον ἔπερσεν./...
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μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος/ οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί᾽ Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε᾽ ἔθηκε,/...
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Te BGG entry summairzes the rules and the initial set-up is as pictured. The ambiguities can be summarized as follows: pieces move along lines from one point [intersection of lines] to the next adjacent point. A capture is made by a player if all points adjacent to the position of an opponent's piece are occupied by that player's pieces. The piece thus surrounded is then removed from the board.

The board is different enough to warrant a purchase perhaps but simple enough that I would only recommend purchasing a nice-looking set.

According to the BGG entry, this is traditionally a children's game but it has enough strategy to interest an adult perhaps.
 
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68. Board Game: Xiangqi [Average Rating:7.18 Overall Rank:693]
Moshe Callen
Israel
Jerusalem
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ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ/ πλάγχθη, ἐπεὶ Τροίης ἱερὸν πτολίεθρον ἔπερσεν./...
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μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος/ οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί᾽ Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε᾽ ἔθηκε,/...
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The BGG entry for this game includes a link for rules.

One should most definitely purchase a set for this game.

This is said to be the most popular board game in the world , and although I would wonder if Go might not be a stronger contender for that title this game is certainly the most played game of the Chess family. That says itall perhaps.
 
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69. Board Game: Yoté [Average Rating:5.42 Unranked]
Moshe Callen
Israel
Jerusalem
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ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ/ πλάγχθη, ἐπεὶ Τροίης ἱερὸν πτολίεθρον ἔπερσεν./...
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μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος/ οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί᾽ Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε᾽ ἔθηκε,/...
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The BGG entry includes a description fo the rules and links.

The game can be played with euipment from enough other games I would recommend a purchase only for a nice set.

Like most members of the Alquerque or Checkers family of games, this is simple and elegant yet strategically deep. The game however seems most reminiscent of Seega.
 
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