April 21, 2014

Steven Wang '12

Features Editor

Games you may never have heard of...

Published on March 1, 2012 in Features
by Steven Wang '12 (Features Editor)

Nowadays, the most played games tend to be those played on an LCD screen such as Call of Duty, Words With Friends or Angry Birds. The number of these popular video and social network games is only increasing, as is the number of players. Along with this latest trend in games run on technology, classic board games such as Monopoly and Scrabble, lawn games such as ladder golf and bocce ball, and various card games such as Poker and Blackjack add to the tremendous library of games available to everyone. However, among this vast library, certain gems get buried beneath the mountains of gaming options – great games that you may have never even heard of. Some of these games are popular on the other side of the world, others have developed a cult following, and a few are old games reinvented. Regardless, the 5 games listed below, among many others, are all worth a shot.
Chinese Chess

Many cultures have some variant of chess. To western players, the traditional chess played on a checkers board with a king and queen is the most familiar. However, in China and other Asian countries, the most common form of chess is Xiangqi, otherwise known as Chinese Chess. Similar to Western Chess, the goal of Chinese Chess is to put the opposing player’s king in checkmate. However, the pieces are slightly different; each player starts with a general (equivalent to the king), two advisors (similar to bishops), two elephants, two horses, two chariots (equivalent to rook), two cannons and five soldiers (pawns). Instead of moving from square to square on the board, pieces move along the corners of the squares. Also, the middle of the board is divided by a river that throws in some twists in the strategy of the game.

The general starts in a 2x2 area, known as the palace, and can move orthogonally (horizontally and vertically) around in this space, but can never leave it. Similarly, the advisors can never leave the palace and act as the general’s personal guards, moving diagonally. The elephant can move two spaces diagonally but only on one side of the board; it cannot move across the river and so serves mostly as a defensive piece. The two horse pieces are mostly the same as the horse piece in Western chess moving in an “L” shape except they can’t jump over any pieces. The chariot piece is exactly the same as the rook in Western Chess and moves orthogonally for unlimited spaces per move. The soldier, similar to the pawn, can move only forward and vertically until it crosses the river, at which point it can also move sideways. Finally, the most unique piece in the game, the cannon, moves exactly like the chariot except that it can only capture pieces by a move known as ‘jumping’. Jumping is when either a friendly or hostile piece is in front of the cannon, allowing it to launch over an unlimited number of spaces to capture a far off enemy piece. Many players use the cannon as a long-range weapon to capture pieces all the way across the board.

Similar yet slightly different from Western Chess, Chinese Chess offers a unique style of gameplay as well as creative ways to achieve victory.


Although almost unheard of here, Pachisi is so widely played in India that it is officially the national game of India. For a game with fairly simple rules, it requires a lot of careful planning to win. The game is played on a cross-shaped board with players throwing cowries or dice to move their pieces. The object of the game is to get one’s own pieces in a complete counter-clockwise circle around the board. Each player may introduce one of the pieces onto the board on a leg of the cross of the board when he or she rolls either a six or a ten. Players may have as many of their pieces on one space of the board; conversely, if a player’s piece lands on a square already occupied by hostile pieces, the opposing pieces are sent back to the start. Furthermore, players may opt not to move their pieces if they choose to – thus adding another layer of strategy to the game. Victory is achieved when one’s players move all the way around the board and completely cover all the spaces of one leg of the board. Even though the game is most popular all the way around the world, derivatives of Pachisi can be found here; the popular board games Trouble and Ludo are based on Pachisi.


Another complex game with simple rules, Go, or “wei-qi,” is beginning to gain a large following in Western countries. A traditional game from Asia, Go is a two-player game played on a large board with black and white flat stones. Stones can be placed anywhere on the board at anytime but the object of the game is to capture the most area by completely surrounding a space with one’s own stones. Similar to the game Othello, the players can also claim space by capturing another player’s stones by surrounding those pieces. In Asia, the game has turned into large scale competitions with annual inter-country and tournaments. Professional Go players can play the game for a living, even running camps for amateur players to learn. Go has embedded itself into culture so much that in Japan, comic book series dedicated to Go players and their expeditions have been created. Here in the U.S., Go has gained a strong following with the “American Go Association” offering national Go tournaments. In total, the U.S. has spawned fourteen professional Go players and is an incomer on the global competitive Go stage.

Australian Football

Yes, it is a sport, but Australian Football is a game nonetheless. In a world divided between American football and rugby, Australian Football is the middle ground. Played mostly in Australia, the game is a combination of handball, rugby and American football. Using a ball similar to that used in rugby, players attempt to score points by kicking a ball between tall goal posts. Similar to rugby, the pacing of the game is ongoing. Players may carry the ball in their hands as long as the ball either bounces or touches the ground every 15 meters. The ball may also be kicked or punted at any point during the game. The ball is stolen by either tackling another player and knocking the ball out of the player’s hands or by intercepting a pass. The game is vastly popular in Australia, where like the NFL, the Aussie’s have an AFL (Australian Football League).