hist-games: Fighting Serpents

Adrian Seville A.H.Seville at city.ac.uk
Tue Mar 28 01:32:16 PST 2000

'Fighting Serpents' is the somewhat fanciful name given by R.C.Bell (The 
Boardgame Book, Knapp Press 1979 - at page 38) to the game of Kolowis 
Awithlaknannai.  He gives it as a game of the Zuni Indians of New Mexico.

Bell gives a board consisting of three parallel rows of points joined by lines 
along the rows.  Row A has 16 points, B has 17 and C has 16.  Further short 
lines join the points as follows: A1 to B1 and B2, A2 to B2 and B3 etc, with 
similar joins from the C row to the central B row, so the board looks like a lot 
of triangles.

The game is evidently a derivative of Alquerque, with captures by the short 
leap.  Initial positions given by Bell are 23 pieces each, with (say) the red 
occupying all of row A and the left half of row B except for the leftmost point.  
This (if I have counted correctly) leaves the centre point vacant. Pieces of the 
other colour are then arranged on all of row C and the remaining half of row 
B, again excepting the end hole.  Multiple captures are allowed. Captures 
where possible are forced. 

All of this seems to derive from one source: Stewart Culin, Games of the 
North American Indians (reprint of the 1907 edition, University of Nebraska 
Press 1992 - Vol 2 at page 800-801) where a diagram like Bell's is given, 
except that Bell seems to have tidied up one end to make a symmetrical board.
Culin's diagram is said to derive from a stone found by him on the flat roof of a 
Zuni house.

Murray (History of Board Games Other than Chess, Oxford, 1952 - at page 
71) is not much help.  The index reference is wrong, for a start.  Then, his 
figure 32, labelled Awithlaknannai,. does not have connecting lines along the 
outer two rows.

I refrain from commenting on the historical accuracy of all this, preferring to 
keep to the Game of Goose, so well-known for the reliability of its sources :-)

Adrian Seville

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