Mu Torere


The Maori people of New Zealand Have a rich culture with amazing myths, extraordinary handicraft and striking rituals. And although they haven't produced such a variety of board games as other cultures did, the one we do know to come from them is quite remarkable.

Mu torere was developed by the Ngati Porou 'iwi' (or nation), on the East coast of New Zealand's North Island. Boards were typically drawn on the spot or marked with sticks, but on occasion wooden ones were crafted. Boards with more points aren't unheard of, but the game is most commonly played with 8 points and 4 pieces for each player.

It is said the Maori took great pride in their skill with the game, especially since its apparent simplicity would fool Westerners into thinking little strategy is required. Some say expert native players could think up to 80 positions ahead (which is an unlikely feat, since the game allows only for 46 unique positions). It is even said that Ngat Haua chief Wiremu Tamihana Te Waharoa challenged governor George Grey to a match - the whole country going as spoils to the winner.

As the colonization process continued, Maori culture was constantly challenged and many traditions dwindled. Mastery of the game was gradually lost until the game itself became rare. Mu torere was somewhat revived after its inclusion in the classic Board and Table Games by R. C. Bell (Oxford University Press 1969, volume 2) and today is commonly listed among the best traditional board games of the world.

A wheel with eight positions, four black and four white.

Each player controls four pieces (know as 'perepere'), placed on the outer spaces (the 'kewai'). Blacks move first.

Since there are no captures in Mu torere, there is always one, and only one, empty space on the board. On your turn you must choose and move one of your pieces to the empty space. Sounds simple enough, right? But there's one exception: you can only move a piece to the central space (the 'putahi') if that piece is next to an opponent's piece.

Your goal is to block your opponent so he cannot move any piece. This is done by making a 'V' shape encircling the empty space - which requires thinking ahead and paying close attention.