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|Fanorona is the national game of Madagascar and has three standard versions: Fanoron-Telo, Fanoron-Dimyand, and Fanoron-Tsivy, the difference being the size of board. Fanoron-Telo is played on a 3×3 board and the difficulty of this game can be compared to the game of tic-tac-toe. Fanoron-Dimyand is played on a 5×5 board and Fanoron-Tsivy is played on a 9×5 board. We will call Fanoron-Tsivy from now on Fanorona since it is the widest-known variant.|
There's quite another way in which the game is unique: it is the mother of all forms of contact checkers, or karate checkers if you like, which to my knowledge amounts to precisely one other game, namely Bushka.
I have no idea why capturing a man by leapfrogging it has given rise to a whole class of games throughout the cultures of the world, whereas the at least as logical hitting it karatewise has only blossomed in Madagascar, at least till Bushka's arrival.
Fanorona is played on a board with a grid of 5x9 points connected with lines indicating valid movements as in the diagram.
There are two players: White and Red. Initially 22 pieces of each color are placed on the board as shown.
The object of Fanorona is to capture all opponent's men.
Players move in turn, starting with White. There are two kind of moves: non-capturing (called paika) and capturing moves:
- A paika move consists of moving one piece to an adjacent point along any drawn line.
- A capturing move results in removing one or more pieces of the opponent. A capturing move is mandatory: if a player on his turn can capture some pieces of the opponent then he is obliged to do so.
There are two kind of capturing moves: by approach or by withdrawal.
- By approach - if a player moves one of his pieces along a line to an adjacent point and the next point on the same line is occupied by an opponent piece then the opponent piece is captured and all successive opponent pieces that lie in an unbroken row behind it on the same line are captured as well.
- By withdrawal - if a player moves one of his pieces along a line to an adjacent point and the previous point on the same line is occupied by an opponent piece then the opponent piece is captured and all successive opponent pieces that lie in an unbroken row behind it on the same line are captured as well.
- If a player makes an approach that is a withdrawal at the same time, he has to choose one or the other.
- The capturing piece is allowed (but is not obliged) to continue making successive captures, removing captured pieces after each single step. It can stop at each step, but making a step implies making the capture. Multiple capture is faced with the following restrictions:
- A capturing piece is not allowed to arrive at the same point twice during the same turn.
- It is not allowed to make two successive capturing steps in the same direction (the possibility can arise if an approach can be made following a withdrawal on the same line).
Draws are possible in Fanorona.
The white man makes a multiple capture in four steps
Leading to this result
- Step 1 captures the man on D5 by approach.
- Step 2 captures the man on E4 by withdrawal. Now the capturing stone may not proceed with CB4 to capture the man on A4, because it would be a capture in the same direction the of the capture by withdrawal on the previous step.
- Step 3 is a simultaneously an approach and withdrawal, so white must choose: he chooses to capture by approach (C1 and C2).
- Step 4 captures A5 by approach. Now no further captures are possible, because C4 has been visited already, and C5 is occupied.
Had white chosen to capture C5 on his third step (and not C1 and C2), then C5 would have been vacant, and a fifth and sixth step, B4-C5-D5, would have been possible, capturing A3 by withdrawal and E5 by approach. This would have captured one man more, but not have prevented the final outcome: white loses.