Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Rules to Play Cows and Leopards

Cows & Leopards, called as Hasu Chirate Ata in Kannada, is a hunt game played by 2 players. One player gets 2 leopards while the other controls the herd of 24 cows.

* Leopards win if they take out a minimum of 12 cows.
* Cows win if they immobilise both leopards.

How to play:
1. Both leopards and cows should be placed only on intersections of lines (shown by dots in Fig. 1)
2. During a turn only one coin has to be played.
3. At the beginning cows are placed at eight points as depicted by ‘C’ in Fig. 2.

4. One leopard is placed on any open point on the board such that it can attack a cow.
5. Next one cow is placed on any open point.
6. All cows are introduced one by one on the board one each during its turn. (i.e., one cow is placed on a point, next one leopard moves, next one more cow is placed on a point, next a leopard moves, next one more cow is placed on a point and so on).
7. All cows have to be introduced on the board before any cow starts moving.
8. If a leopard ‘L’ encounters a lone cow ‘C’ with a open point just behind it, then the leopard jumps over the cow to the open point and takes out the cow from the board as shown in Fig. 3 below.

9. Leopard can jump over multiple cows during its turn provided it should always land on an empty junction before jumping over the next cow (this is similar to multiple-cutting option as in Checkers). See Fig. 4.
10. Leopard cannot jump over a cow if there is no open point behind the cow as shown below in Fig. 5 and Fig. 6.

11. A cow that has been taken out of the board by a leopard is permanently out of the game and cannot be reintroduced on the board during that game.
12. After all cows are introduced on the board, cows start moving.

13. Only one cow can be moved to its adjacent open point during its turn.
14. Cows cannot jump over anything.
15. Leopards cannot jump over another leopard.
16. Cows should avoid getting jumped over by leopards and try to surround leopards such that leopards cannot move as shown below in Fig. 7 and Fig. 8.

17. Leopards try to take out as many cows as possible and avoid getting tied down by cows.
18. Cows try to tie down all leopards rendering them immobile.
19. Lines denote the path of movement. Cows and leopards should always move along the lines. Movement of a pawn between adjacent points is possible only when the points are connected by a line. See Fig.9 and Fig. 10 given below for wrong and correct movements.

20. Game ends when either leopard takes out more than 12 cows or cows manage to immobilise both leopards.

Benefits: This helps develop strategy and concept of team work by teaching that even though weak, if united, one can vanquish the stronger enemy, working as a team.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Mission Statement

Kreedaa Kaushalya is a passion project of our art foundation 'Ramsons Kala Pratishtana'. The main objective of this foundation is to promote craft forms. So, while working on this passion project, we have brought together two diverse traditions - Board Game Tradition and Craft Tradition.

We have identified about 35 craft clusters across India like Mysore, Bangalore, Channapatna, Sri Kalahasti, Solapur, Navalgund, Shantiniketan, Varanasi, Gurgaon, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Etikoppaka, etc. We have hand picked best-suited craftspersons for our work and extensively worked with them, first to understand their craft form completely so that we can speak with them in their own craft language (each craft form can be seen as a language and as languages differ from each other, so do craft forms) and later we provide them with our designs which were developed by designers of our art foundation.

Developing any product anew is a long drawn and time consuming process. Time consumed is directly proportional to remoteness of the craft cluster. After a considerable time a product is developed successfully. For every successful product created, there is one failure.

In spite of all these we do not want to go in for mass produced board games like those that are printed on paper or screen printing on cloth or canvas and plastic counters. Whatever product we develop, we ensure that it is a hand crafted one. 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Pagade - Old Lithograph Board

This is an old board of Pagade (Chaupar, Pachisi) in the collection of Ramsons Kala Pratishtana. It is a lithograph on paper, probably printed at the Jagadamba Vilasa (lithograph press) of Mysore Palace which was established by Krishnaraja Wodeyar III (1794 - 1868) (he was popularly known as Mummadi) within the fort premises. Several plain (non-coloured) prints were available earlier. This copy, though, has been painted and illuminated with gold foil, as recent as ten years back.

Usually, a board of Pagade or Pachisi has four arms in the form of a + symbol; each arm has eight rows with each row having three squares placed side by side. Generally, out of 24 squares on each arm, either 3 or 8 squares sported a cross (depending of the kind of game being played). But in this board of Pagade many squares have figures like a bird, elephant, deer, owl, cow, humans, etc., and few other squares sport legends (instructions) in Kannada script. All figures, iconography and design elements conform to Mysore school of painting. The big square in the centre of the board has a figure of prancing horse within a double whorled lotus. Each petal of the lotus is numbered starting from 1 to 50 and the interesting part is that these numbers are placed according to the Chess Knight's move. This gives a clue that this board has been designed by Mummadi who was obsessed with solving (and finally solved) the Knight's Magic Tour.

If you are wondering what are the figures and instructions, in each square, for...? read on.

Mummadi combined two games into one. He took the concept of Paramapada or Snakes and Ladder and superimposed it on the game of Pagade. He kept the board layout from Pagade and also its safe houses  intact. In remaining squares, he inscribed each with causes and effects. Example: When a player's counter lands on a square which says 'If you kill a frog, you're born as a housefly', then the player should remove that counter and place it on the square which has a figure of flies.

It seems like Mummadi started by modifying the board of Pagade and went on to design newer game boards based on the principles of cause-and-effects. His Shiva Sayujya Mukti Ata and Devi Sayujya Mukti Ata are drawn on the principles expounded in this game.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Kailasa Pata - A Version of Snakes and Ladders

This version of Snakes and Ladders is a contemporary commercial multicolour print on paper of size 35 cm x 48 cm. This is called 'Kailasa Pata' and hence probably targets the players of Veerashaiva community. This sells for about Rs. 5/- in the stationery stores that are found near the entrance of Devaraja Market (Dodda Market), Mysore. This is published and printed by P.C. Shabadimath Book Depot, Gadag 582101.

(Please Note: We do not sell this particular gameboard) 

Friday, February 24, 2012

Contribution of Irving Finkel to Board Games

IRVING FINKEL is a man of many and varied interests. His special subjects are Ancient Mesopotamian Studies, Cuneiform writing, Lexicography, Medicine, Esoterica and the study of Ancient Magic, he is also a leading authority on the games of Asia, specially Indian Pachisi, and co-organized the New York Asia Society exhibition Asian Games: The Art of Contest(2004). He has recently coordinated a major survey of traditional games played in India today. He has been conducting a survey of traditional board games with the Anthropological Survey in India in Kolkatta, and the results of the first investigations are soon to be published together with a complete typology of known Indian sedentary games and outline rules.

Irving Finkel's unruly beard* is a living relic from another era, a gleefully eccentric declaration that he cares little for the conventions of modernity. Indeed, few people live in the past with such delight as the 61-years-old Englishman, who has worked for the past three decades in London's British Museum, where he is the assistant keeper in the Department of the Middle East. At university, Finkel learned to read cuneiform, the oldest known type of writing, in which wedge-shaped symbols were pressed into clay with a reed. His Ph.D. thesis was on ancient Mesopotamian exorcistic magic - the art of getting rid of demons. If you want to know how men were cured of impotence in Babylon thousands of years ago, Finkel can tell you the spell.

But no subject, however esoteric, has consumed him more than the history of board games. At 11, Finkel became so captivated by a book about it that he wrote to the author and went to stay with him. "He showed me his huge game collection," says Finkel, "and it transformed my life." Finkel was especially fascinated by what he learned of the Royal Game of Ur, which was popular in Mesopotamia 4,600 years ago. As a boy, he made a wooden replica of the game, but the rules had long been forgotten.Today, he is the world's foremost expert on the game, and has solved the mystery of how it was played.

Age-Old Obsession
In our era of endless distractions, it's easy to forget how important board games were to our ancestors. "There were no entertainments for such a huge period of human existence," says Finkel."In that environment, games had a fantastically strong hold.They reigned supreme." For centuries, even millenniums, the Royal Game of Ur served as the PlayStation of its day.

Ur was a great Sumerian city in what is now southern Iraq. In the 1920s, an Englishman named Sir Leonard Woolley excavated its royal tombs and dug out five playing boards. The British Museum displays the finest of them - a board that dates from 2,600 B.C. and that is beautifully crafted in shell, red limestone and lapis lazuli, a prized stone imported at great cost from Afghanistan. This "was a state-of-the-art piece of luxury," says Finkel, and it was buried with a princess to entertain her in the after world.

Royal Game of Ur
Finkel insists that he knew from the age of 7 that he wanted to work at the British Museum. In 1979, he was hired there as an expert on cuneiform inscriptions, "fulfilling in one moment my life's ambition." One of the joys of the job was that he gained access to the museum's undisplayed stash of obscure treasures, including 130,000 cuneiform tablets mostly acquired in the 19th century. Finkel says he has looked at each of them twice. In the early 1980s, he found one with a unique pattern on the back that resembled the squares of a game board.

Written in 177 B.C., the tablet was the work of a Babylonian scribe copying from an earlier document. As Finkel translated the bewildering blend of Babylonian and Sumerian words, he began to realize it was a treatise on the Royal Game of Ur. The author speculated on the astronomical significance of the 12 squares at the center of the 20-square board and explained how certain squares portended good fortune: one square would bring "fine beer"; another would make a player "powerful like a lion."

To Finkel's delight, the tablet also revealed a slew of long-lost details about how the game was played - for example, how the two opposing players used dice made from sheep and ox knucklebones, and what numbers they had to roll before their pieces could be launched onto the board and begin racing around it. According to the tablet, each player had five pieces (though in Ur, they each had seven) and the winner was the person who moved all of them off the board first.

Armed with this new insight, Finkel persuaded the museum to create and sell a replica of the game. Not long afterward, chess legend Garry Kasparov, along with his wife and bodyguard, visited the museum for a private tour, and Finkel gave him a copy of the game. Kasparov's agent later phoned to say the Russian master had spent an entire weekend in Moscow playing it with the French chess champion. The Frenchman "had won by something like 36 games to 29," recalls Finkel, "and was the new world champion of the Royal Game of Ur."

Spread by traders, soldiers, missionaries and other pioneers of globalization, Ur caught on as far afield as Iran, Syria, Egypt, Lebanon, Sri Lanka, Cyprus and Crete. While religion has often been "transmitted by violence," says Finkel, games transcend borders because we share a craving for entertainment and competition. The Royal Game of Ur jumped classes, too. In the British Museum, there is a 2,700-year-old graffito version scratched onto a limestone gateway to a palace in Khorsabad, once the capital of Assyria. Carved with a sharp object like a dagger, this makeshift board would have been used by soldiers to distract themselves from the tedium of guard duty.

But all games are vulnerable to the forces of creative destruction, and this one was killed primarily by the arrival of backgammon - a more sophisticated race game in which better players routinely win because the balance between luck and skill has improved. And so it was that the Royal Game of Ur died out nearly 2,000 years ago.

Or so Finkel thought until, to his astonishment, he stumbled upon a remarkable photograph. Tucked away in an obscure journal published by a museum in Israel, it showed a scratched-up wooden board game that had belonged to a Jewish family in the Indian city of Cochin. Finkel collects Indian games, but he had never seen anything like this in India: the board had 20 squares - just like the Royal Game of Ur. He knew that Cochin had, until recent decades, a vibrant community of Jewish traders who came from Babylon more than 1,000 years ago. Was it possible that the game had stayed alive in this insular community, while elsewhere it had become extinct?

Staying Alive
Most of Cochin's Jews had long since emigrated to Israel. Finkel has a sister who lives in Jerusalem, so he dispatched her to a kibbutz in the north where many of the Cochin Jews had settled. Finkel's sister went door to door with a drawing he'd done of the board until she found a retired schoolteacher in her 70s named Ruby Daniel, who remembered playing the game as a child in Cochin. Finkel flew to Israel, interviewed Daniel and played the game with her.She told him it was a popular pastime for women and girls when she was growing up, and that she had played it with her aunts on wooden boards, using cowrie shells for dice. By then, each player had 12 pieces, and the placement of the 20 squares had shifted slightly. But it was clearly the descendant of the game played in their ancestral homeland of Babylon 4,600 years ago.

This pattern of what Finkel calls "spread and evolution and decline and rescue and unstoppability" is at the heart of what fascinates him about board games. Intermittently, governments have tried to curb them: China outlawed mahjong during the Cultural Revolution, and the Taliban threatened chess players with execution. But games defy control, mutating and leaping boundaries with an inexorable life of their own. Pachisi, says Finkel, was played in India for centuries, jumped to Britain by 1875 and was repackaged there as ludo, which was exported back to India around the 1960s: "Nowadays, Indian children play ludo completely oblivious to the fact that it is a monstrous decomposition of their own fantastic board game."

Monopoly has proved equally mutable. Invented by a Quaker woman a century ago, it was intended "as propaganda against the wicked practice of speculation in property," says Finkel, but it turned into a blockbuster that "can rouse the most placid aunts to a state of virulent materialism." Finkel is a huge fan, noting that the idea of renting out a square was the last "momentous" innovation in board games. After a lifetime of studying the greatest games, Monopoly is the one he plays most with his five children. But true to the tradition of eternal flux, the family has made some adjustments. "We have a rule in our house," says Finkel. "We all pick on one person and drive them into a fury, which works very nicely. If they kick over the board and say, 'I'll never play again,' that's perfection."

Courtesy: TIME Magazine

* Note by Raghu Dharmendra: Beard and twinkling eyes, very much reminds one of Professor Albus Dumbledore.