Fanorona

Fanorona (pronounced fa-NOORN), also called Fanorama is a game played in Madagascar. It evolved from game Quirkat from the Middle East. There is a famous legend which relates to a Fanorona maneuver called telo noho dimy which you can sometimes use to win when you only have three pieces and your opponent has five. The legend of King Ralambo (1575-1610) of Malagasy tells that the King summoned his sons to his castle. He wanted to give his lands to the son who first arrived at his castle. However, the oldest son was busy trying to win a telo noho dimy situation and arrived too late to inherit his father’s kingdom. This game is also known as Fandango.

Fanorona board
Figure 1: Fanorona board

Rules

Fanorona is played by two players using a board shown in Figure 1. The board consists of a grid of five rows and nine columns with 45 line intersections. One player has twenty-two black stones and the other twenty-two white stones. A line represents the path along which a stone can move during the game. There are weak and strong intersections. At a weak intersection it is only possible to move a stone orthogonally, while at a strong intersection it is also possible to move a stone diagonally. A stone can only move from one intersection to an adjacent intersection along a line between the two intersections. The goal of the game is to remove all the opponent’s stones.

The game starts with each player’s stones placed on the intersections of the board. The game starts with white moving first. There are two kinds of moves, non-capturing and capturing moves. A non-capturing move is called a paika move and is just a move of a stone to an adjacent intersection.

Fanorona capture
Figure 2: Fanorona capture

Capture

There are two kinds of capturing move: approach and withdrawal shown in Figure 2. The approach capture is done when the capturing stone is moved adjacent to the opponent’s stone in the direction of the capturing stone’s line of movement. The withdrawal capture is done when the stone adjacent to an opponent’s stone is moved away from the opponent’s stone. All stones behind the captured stone are also captured unless they separated from the captured stone by a space or the one of the capturing player’s stones. If a player is able do an approach and a withdrawal capture in the same move, the player must select which of the two sets of stones that are actually captured.

The capturing stone is allowed to continue making captures (not necessarily in the same direction), but the stone is not allowed to arrive at the same position twice, and it is not allowed to move a stone immediately back to the intersection it occupied before in the capturing sequence. If any capturing moves are possible anywhere on the board, then a capturing move must be made. If multiple captures are possible, the player can choose which to perform. Subsequent captures on the same turn are optional.

The game ends when one player has captured all stones of the opponent. If neither player can do this, the game is a draw.