How to Play Kōnane - Maui Ocean Center

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how to play Kōnane


Kōnane is a traditional strategy board game with roots in ancient Hawaiian culture. This game is a testament to the intellectual gamesmanship that was practiced in Hawaiian society prior to the arrival of Western explorers. It bears similarities to checkers, or draughts, but with unique rules and an unusual starting position.


History of Kōnane:

The origins of Kōnane are tied to early Polynesian settlers of Hawaii, making the game at least several hundred years old. It’s believed that it was initially played on a latticed board with pebbles or pieces of coral and basalt, though the materials could vary based on what was available in different parts of the islands. In pre-western-contact Hawaiian society, the game was often played during Makahiki, a Hawaiian season dedicated to the god Lono, which traditionally celebrated peace and harvest.

It is said that Kōnane was also used for more than recreation – it was utilized as a method of conflict resolution. Chiefs and priests reportedly played the game to make critical decisions and predict outcomes of important events.


Rules of Play:

Kōnane is typically played on a rectangular board, ranging in size from 6×6 to up to 14×14 or more, with the most common size being 8×8. The board begins filled with alternating black and white pieces, creating a checker pattern.

Starting Position: The game begins with a full board. The first player then removes a piece from the middle of the board (or one of two middle spots for an even-sided board). The second player removes a piece of the opposite color adjacent to the empty space created by the first player.


Turns: After the initial moves, players alternate turns. A move consists of a player jumping one of their pieces over an adjacent opponent’s piece and into an empty space, similar to capturing in checkers. However, the capture must be in a straight line (horizontally or vertically) and can’t be diagonal.


Capture Rule: The capturing piece must land on a vacant spot immediately beyond the opponent’s piece in the same line of direction. Multiple captures in a single turn are not allowed.


Goal: The game continues until one player cannot make a legal move. That player loses and the other player is declared the winner.


No Passing: Unlike some games, players may not pass their turn in Kōnane. If a player cannot make a legal move, they lose the game.


Kōnane involves strategic positioning and decision-making, much like chess or checkers. The game’s intricacy and rich cultural history make it an intriguing pastime and a significant part of Hawaiian heritage.