Here’s a simple game that can be very tricky to play well. Give it a go, then find out why it’s such a challenge.
You will need
- 1 large and 6 small board game pieces in one colour
- 1 large and 6 small board game pieces in a different colour
- An A3 printout of the board – download the board here
- Someone to play against
- Put the board on a table.
- Decide which colour will be yours and which will be your opponent’s.
- Take your pieces. The small pieces are called guards and the big one is the queen.
- Put your six guards on the black circles, and your queen on the black double circle.
- Get your opponent to put their six guards on the white circles, and their queen on the white double circle.
- Pick one player to go first.
Play a turn
- On your turn, take one of your pieces (a guard or the queen), and move them from one hexagon to an adjacent hexagon.
- You can’t move away from the centre. The board is divided up into rings in alternating colours. You can move within the same ring, or from one ring to a smaller ring, but not to a larger ring.
- You can’t jump over other pieces, or go in the same hexagon as them.
- You can’t put a guard in the centre – only the queen can go there.
- You can’t move a piece directly in between two of your opponent’s pieces. That is, you can’t force your own piece to be captured. (See below)
- Your piece is captured if two enemy pieces are adjacent to your piece, and the three make a straight line with yours in the middle.
- If any of your pieces are captured, you can’t make a normal move on your turn, and you need to rescue a captured piece instead. If it’s a guard, take the piece and put it anywhere in the outer ring of hexagons. If it’s your queen, put it anywhere on the board except the centre.
- You have to rescue your queen first, if it’s captured.
- You can only rescue one piece per turn, so if your opponent captures multiple pieces, you might have to spend multiple turns rescuing them!
- The goal is to get your queen in the centre of the board and your six guards surrounding it, filling the inner ring. Whoever does this, wins!
- If you fill the inner ring with your guards, but your queen isn’t in the centre, you lose!
Queen’s Guard is a very old game. It appears in game books from the 1870s, but it might be much older. Some French tables from the 1780s have the board pattern on them. This game is also sometimes called Agon.
It’s surprisingly tricky to play, and even more difficult to work out who’s winning. A sequence of two or three captures in a row can change a game very quickly.
There are no random elements like dice or cards, and no secrets in this game. Mathematicians call this a ‘perfect information game’. Theoretically, with a fast enough computer, you could work out every single game that could ever be played, and which moves were the best to play.
You can use this knowledge to help your thinking when you play. Before you make a move, try to imagine what the board would look like after your move, and then try to imagine what your opponent would do. Just remember, they are trying to win, not to fall into your traps!
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