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Horseshoe» Forums » Reviews

Subject: A logic tool for training young gamers rss

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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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1. Introduction

While due to various things going on in my life, I am behind in those reviews I have agreed to do, sometimes I enjoy returning to reviewing traditional games which pass below other reviewers' proverbial radar. This southeast Asian game is one such case, and the game is called in English Horseshoe. My sources all claim this name is based on the shape of the board but that perception appears markedly distorted to me.

Frankly I would advice against wasting money on a manufactured set for this game unless you are of that incomprehensible sort who prefers a wooden set for Tic-Tac-Toe as well. The games are of a kind except that this game cannot end in a draw. Both games offer little to interest adult gamers beyond the few minutes one might take to figure the game out. To a child, both games can be great fun until of course they too develop to the point at which they figure the games out as well. Therein lies the whole point of the games, their raison d'être. For an adult, the fun is watching the young mind develop as the young person grows and plays.

2. Rules

A pamphlet of the rules of this game and a similar one can be found here.

Yet the rules can be described plainly enough. As pictured below,
the board consists of a square lacking one side but with opposite corners connected by diagonal lines. Pieces are placed on the intersections of lines (as in Go) and thus the board consists of five points. One player's two pieces begin at the two corners of the square along the missing side, while the other player's two pieces begin on the other two corners; only the center point remains open. Players decide arbitrarily who plays first but then play proceeds in alternate turns with each player moving one piece each turn. A player who can move must do so but a player who cannot move on his turn loses. A legal move consists of moving one of one's own pieces along one of the lines of the board to an immediately adjacent point. No captures occur.

3. Gameplay

The key to victory is first to force the opponent's every move and second to bear in mind that the position which leads to victory on the next turn for either player is as pictured below.
Namely, if a player has one piece next to the missing side of the square and the second piece along the same adjacent side, then that player can be made to lose on the next turn. If the board position is as pictured and then either player moves a piece from next to the square's missing side to the center, then that player wins.

So the first player only loses if that player makes a mistake. For this reason, the game does not offer much to adults for more than the few minutes they might need to figure the game out. Little people, i.e., children, need to develop those skills and so this can be a fun way to develop the analysis skills needed in more complicated games.
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