The Nepalese Game of Bagh Chal

Bagh Chal is a traditional game originated in Indian sub-continent; nowadays is still a popular game, at least in Nepal. It´s one of the more interesting hunting games (those games played between unequal forces with different goals, where pieces use to symbolize animals). Bagh in Nepali means tiger, and chal means move, hence you could translate it as the Tiger Moving Game or Move the Tigers.

The board-game is traditionally handcrafted by a craftsman who expertly etches the intricate designs into a round slate board. The animal pieces representing the Tigers and the Goats are often made of wooden or metal.

Description

Two sides take part in the game: 4 tigers trying to capture the 20 goats who defend themselves by blocking the tigers. When the animal shapes are not used to represent them, dark pieces are used for tigers and clear pieces for goats.

The gameboard consists of a grid of 25 points with lines of valid movement connecting them (see graphic above).

Moves are made along the lines drawn on the board. Notice that there is not any line between some of the points that could be diagonally connected, so there are some restrictions.

Objective

Since forces are unequal, the objective is also different for both sides:

  • Goats must surround the four tigers so that any of them can´t make any valid move according to the following rules.
  • Tigers win if they capture five goats.
    Sometimes it is said that tigers must capture all the goats to get the victory, but in practice when several goats are captured their possibilities of blocking the tigers are very few, so it is not worth to extend the game when five goats have been already captured.

How the game goes on

Before the start of the game, pieces are placed as follows:

  • The twenty goats are placed out of the board.
  • The four tigers are placed in the four courners of the board.

Players move alternatively, starting the goats. The actions made by goats divide the game in two phases:

  • While all the 20 goats have not been placed on the board, the only possible move is to place one of them at one of the free junctions of the board.
  • After all the goats have been placed on the board they may be moved from their position to any adjacent junction following any straight line.

The tigers, during all the game, may perform two kinds of movements:

  • Same as goats, they may me moved along any of the lines to an adjacent junction.
  • They also may capture one goat placed on an adjacent juntion by jumping over following an straight line and landing on the next juntion adjacent to the position occupied by the goat.

Sometimes the game could fall in a repetitive cycle of positions; especially goats may use this resort to defend themselves from being captured. In order to avoid this kind of situation, and additional rule has been established:

  • When all the goats have been placed, it is not allowed to perform any move that causes any situation of the pieces that has been already repeated during the same game.

We travelled to remote parts of Nepal and sourced these beautiful hand made games from a local stone worker. You can see our boards here.

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