Ancient Games: Konane

A 6×8 Rectangular Konane board, found in the Kaloko-Honokohau National Park.

Konane is a Hawaiian strategy game that has been played for centuries. It is most comparable to the game of checkers, but differs widely.

The board is called a papamu and is typically made of stone or wood. The board can range in size and has small indents carved into the surface. The board starts with an equal number of small black and white rocks that the players will use as their pieces. The black and white rocks are traditionally made from small lava rock (black) and coral (white) pieces. The rocks are arranged in an alternating pattern, similar to checkers.

To start the game one player holds one rock of each color behind their back and lets the other player pick a hand, thereby selecting the color they will be playing with. Then each player removes one stone of their color from the board. From that point players take turns jumping the opponents colored stones and removing them from the board(capturing). As play continues there will be less stones on the board, thus making fewer chances to jump. The player that is able to make the last jump wins.

In Konane, play begins with the player with the black stones. When jumping an opponents stone, players are able to move in any direction, except diagonally. Players are also able to jump multiple of the opponents stones, as long as they are inline with each other, without making any turns.

I found the game to be a great strategy game, instantly falling in love with its simple, but challenging game play. Konane boards are able to come in many sizes, and can even be in a rectangle grid. Which is very different from other more classic games like chess and checkers, that have a set official dimension for their boards.

This game of skill and strategy can be learned in just a few minutes, but can take a lifetime to master. It is also believed that King Kamehameha was an excellent player of Konane, being so skilled that he could win in a single move. I hope that I am able to help introduce more players to this traditional Hawaiian game.


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