Playing Pallanguzhi, the traditional game of the great Kings involving strategy and numbers

Traditional board game of the great kings, Pallanguzhi

During a time when digital and playstation dominates the play across age groups, I had a fun time playing ‘Pallanguzhi’ with family. 

Pallanguzhi traditional board game strategy Copyrights Ananth V Pallankuzhi

It was a great way to unwind and yet, a non-digital way to keep the mind calm and alert. 

For those of you who are unaware of this game, it’s one of the most traditional board games played since the times of the great Kings. I was taught this game by my grandmothers more than 2.5 decades ago. 

It focusses  on skills such as numerical ability, strategy, alertness, focus and so on.

Pallanguzhi or Pallankuzhi is played on a rectangular board with 2 rows and 7 columns.

In all there are a total of these 14 kuzhi  (which in Tamil means holes).  

The counters that you see in the image above are tamarind seeds. These tamarind seeds acts as a gameplay source and a total of 146 of them are placed through the game.

12 of each tamarind seed in this case goes in 6 columns in each row except the middle ones on either sides in which only one each is placed. So a total of 14 cups and 146 counters is what the game starts with.

As the game proceeds, each player distributes the counters over all the columns.

As the game play continues, each player one after the other (two player game) picks the counters and disperses each counter one per column clockwise across all the columns including the middle ones. When they exhaust the number of counters available with them in their hand, the pickup the next counter in the immediate column and disperse the same in the same manner and this continues till the player ends his or her counter just one  before the middle ones. Both players are allowed to spread through the counters across Bothe of their rows.

At each stage, when a player ends his or her chance and when the column reaches 6 counters, the player whose row that counter faces is allowed to take the six counters (called Pasu in Tamil language) and place it with them as their reward. This also measures how alert the players are since if they miss out on this opportunity to pick it exactly when the counters reach six after a player ends his or her turn, they can’t remove the same as a reward and its up for grabs during the gameplay to be used as a filler for the game to be continued. 

If a column is completely empty and a player ends the counters in his or her hand just one before the empty column, he or she can then capture all the counters in the immediate following columns on both the sides of the players (this column is the one immediately next to the empty one).  

The game ends when one of the players captures all the shells, and is declared as a winner.

At a certain stage of the game, the players ability to count the counters across the columns plays a key role in strategising which move to play that will end in them winning one or more of the counters. Throughout the game, both the players need to be alert, good with numbers, plan well in advance to ensure their move does not allow the opponent to capture the counters through either of their rows or columns.

If, after having a counter dropped into it, a cup contains 6 counters, those become the property of the player who dropped the counter (called Pasu in Tamil language) . The round is over when no counters remain.

Once the first round is over players take the counters from their stores and fill as many of their holes as possible with counters. The winner will have a surplus of counters which are kept in his store. The loser of the first round will be unable to fill all of his holes. These unfilled holes are marked as “rubbish holes.” In the next round play continues as before, but without the rubbish holes being included and the player who went first in the previous round going second.

During the game if a player has enough counters to fill any of his rubbish holes back up their status is removed and they are again used during play. The game is over when a player is unable to fill any cups with six counters at the end of a round.

How many of you have heard or have played this game before? 

#traditionalgames #boardgames #strategygames #familytime❤️ #Mancala #Pallanguzhi 


Be Well

Ananth V

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