Zar Edit

Zar Board

Zar, (noun): a boardgame of the Tahari; the board is marked like a Kaissa board, but the pieces - 9 per player, and called "pebbles" and "sticks" - are placed at the intersections of the lines; movement is somewhat like that of checkers, but without capturing of pieces the object of the game is to effect a complete exchange of the original placement of the pieces.

"Between them they had, in the crusts, scratched a board for Zar. This resembles the Kaissa board. Pieces, however, may he placed only on the intersections of lines either within or at the edges of the board. Each player has nine pieces of equal value which are originally placed on the intersections of the nine interior vertical lines with what would be the rear horizontal line, constituted by the back edge of the board, from each player's point of view. The corners are not used in the original placement, though they constitute legitimate move points after play begins. The pieces are commonly pebbles, or bits of verr dung, and sticks. The "pebbles" move first. Pieces move one intersection at a time, unless jumping. One may jump either the opponent's pieces or one's own. A jump must be made to an unoccupied point. Multiple jumps are permissible. The object is to effect a complete exchange of original placements. The first player to fully occupy the opponent's initial position wins. Capturing, of course, does not occur. The game is one of strategy and maneuverability."
Book 10: Tribesman of Gor, page 265

Zar: Basic-Rules Edit

with permission of the author (Laura Tarnsman)

Basic rules to play the game of Zar:

  1. There are nine pebbles for one player and nine sticks or dung pieces for the other.
  2. The pieces play on the comers of the squares, not the middles. Since the board is 10 x 10 squares, there are 11 points of play in each direction.
  3. The pebbles and sticks begin on the nine Inside corners of the ten squares along the front edge of the board for each player ("The Start Line").
  4. The player with pebbles always moves first, getting a 1-move advantage. In a match, dice may be thrown to determine choice of the pieces.
  5. A piece may move one square forward, diagonally, or sideways to any unoccupied point, but it cannot move backward.
  6. A piece may jump another piece, either your own or your opponent's, if the landing point is unoccupied.
  7. If you Jump one piece, you may continue jumping other pieces as long as more jumps are available for that piece. You may stop the jump as soon as you wish. Jumping enables you to move your pieces across the board faster, with each jump saving your turns.
  8. The first player to move the nine pieces across the board to the home locations of the opponent's nine pieces ("the Finish Line") is the winner.

The three phases of a Zar-Game Edit

Every game goes through three phases, and i'll give you my names for them. I call them the Encounter, the Battle, and the Race.

Phase One: Edit

The Opening or "Encounter". This is the period where each player is moving their pieces out, but before the pieces meet and interact. This is the time to begin to build your line (or lines) to move your pieces across the board. However, it is also your time to prepare for the opponent, who will try to use your line to advantage or try to block it so you can't use it.


Some strategies to use during the Encounter are (1) try to outflank and avoid the opponent by going to the side and around, (2) move as many of your pieces as possible as far forward as you can without making an opening for your opponent, so that when the battle starts, none of your pieces will be stranded on the start line, and (3) bunch up your pieces so there are no gaps for your opponent to use if he crosses into your territory.

The players in the game above have chosen a head-on opening that will offer many chances for blocking and using each other’s pieces to get through to the other side.

Phase Two: Edit

The Middle Game, or "Battle". This is the middle game where the pieces of the two player: meet. The players may try to outflank each other, avoiding conflict, or they may meet in ar intense battle of blocking. The battle is not over until all the pieces have passed each othei and there can be no more interaction between the opposing pieces.

The battle

In the simplest kind of battle, both players just avoid each other and use their own lines. Thi: just becomes a test of who has the most efficient line. Usually, however, each player will try tc set up a line and then use both lines to move pieces, while trying to block the opponent's line.

In the game above, two expert players have set up "walls" to limit crossings, but man^ incursions have been made. This is an exciting type of "head-on” play that gives the opportunity for many clever moves.

A very important rule in the battle is to never let one ol your pieces become stranded. A pie« that has to move in single steps all the way across the board will almost certainly cause you tc lose the game.

In the bartle, you must think inside your opponent's head and guess what the opponent i: planning to do on the next move. Then you can make your best plans without being upset by < sudden block or breakthrough.

When you decide to use your opponent's pieces as a part of your line, you always need tc remember that (1) your opponent can move his pieces if it is apparent that you are relying on them, and (2) while you have control of where your own pieces are, your opponent may have control of the gaps between your pieces. This seems obvious, but you often set someone set up a long and complicated jump only to have it “trashed” by an opponent': move. One slave expressed her battle strategy well, "I look at what a beautiful thing are the planning....and how can I make it turn to dung."

Phase Three: Edit

The End Game or "Race". After the pieces have passed one another, they may be in shambles and totally disorganized from the battle. Now; it is time to reorganize, get your pieces into an efficient line, and move them to the finish line as fast as you can. Moves wasted in this phase can cost the game and it is entirely your fault, because the opponent can't affect you anymore.

The race

In the game we are following, there was a vicious encounter of pieces as they crossed through each other's lines. The race has now begun because, for the rest of the game, no stick can be blocked by a pebble and no pebble can be blocked by a stick. This means that both players now just have to be as efficient as possible with their moves. The outcome of the game will depend on how quickly they can organize their pieces and get them to the finish line.

Both players managed to get across without leaving stragglers, but now they need to get to the finish line. Can you guess how this game will turn out?

Using lines and patterns Edit

Important techniquesfor playing the game: You will soon find out playing Zar is much more than just moving each piece toward the other side. The following skills will make you d competitive player:

1. Learn to set up a line or chain that lets you take advantage of multiple jumps to move your pieces quickly in the fewest turns, learn to change your lines quickly when they become "damaged" by blocking.

2 Learn to use your opponent’s lines to cross mom quickly, and to pinto pieces in Uf opponent's lines to block the opponent's moves. Think in your opponent's bead, to know what s/he will do next.

3.Learn to keep your lines protected l«om the* Opponent, who will by to use or block your line.

4. Think ahead, making each jump in your mind first, so you know where you will end up before starting the move.

Using lines and patterns

A Simple Straight Line: A "line" is a series of pieces, usually separated by gaps, to serve as a jumping ladder. If you set up a line from your side of the board to your opponent's side, you can move pieces, jumping along that line, from your side to the finish line positions.

Here is how a straight line might look, with gaps between each piece so that continuous jumps can be made. You can sec that a pebble can cross all the way to the other side by jumping straight up the line.

Straight line

Of course, most opponents would block a line like this, so you might want to get more creative by putting bends in the line and making multiple paths. But first we can talk about "ideal" lines and how to move our pieces. Then we'll know what we arc trying to accomplish.

I call this a straight line, because the jumping piece moves up the line with straight jumps, without zigzagging.

Notice one more thing. It is just as important to use your line to cross the board sideways along the start line and along the finish line as it is to cross to the other side. You must get your pieces from their start positions and distribute them to their destination spots, and sideways moves can cost as many moves as moving toward the other side. Use a line and jumps for as many of your piece movements as you can.

A Simple Diagonal Line:

The same chain of pieces, set with gaps between them, can be used diagonally or with zigzag steps. See how this player entered the line from the left and zigzagged all the way across the board, to avoid an opponent's piece that had blocked the straight line. Notice that this is exactly the same chain of pieces used for the straight line in the example before.

Diagonal line

Although this player entered with the piece from the left, the same chain can also be used by the other piece, entering from the right, and winding up on the left at the far end. This leads us to a rule that is important to remember:

Every line can be used along three pathways: (1) straight, (2) diagonally, from the left, and (3)diagonally from the right.

If one of the pathways is blocked, you still have two other pathways to use your line to get to the other end, although a bend in a line will sometimes "break” one of the diagonal pathways. Remember this rule when someone blocks your line. You can often make a little adjustment to your starting position so that you can use one of the other two pathways along your line.

Setting Up a Straight Line:

Lines don't just pop up on the board automatically for you to use. You have to build them in your opening, and after the battle, you have to rebuild them again. Here is a short explanation on how to set up a straight line in an opening.

To create a straight line, begin by just moving one piece straight forward.

SL Move1

Your next piece comes from the second piece to either side, with a jump sideways, and then a jump outward. What you are actually doing is building a second straight line across your baseline, to feed pieces into the line that will cross to the other side.

SL Move2

Now at this time, we could make another jump with one of the pieces on the baseline, but it would get jammed up before it could move to the front. That is because there is no gap at the end of our line yet.

Jammed UP

This brings us to the most important principle of building a line, "preparing the end". By this, I mean, adding a gap to the end of your line so that your piece has places to land all the way to the end of your line. We add this gap before we take our next jump by moving our last piece out one square. You can see tl»at moving this piece now provides a gap (blue circle) so that our next jump can extend the line forward.

Creating a gap

Now we choose another piece to feed across the start line and up into the line across the Dard. We can continue this process all the way to the other side of the board. We make a rnp, then prepare the end with another move that makes a gap.


And as you would expect, you can hear me nagging you to "prepare the end", so we now have iree pieces extended in a neat line across the board. This has taken only 5 moves. If we had loved each piece to those locations without jumping, we would have used 9 moves already, > the savings are already piling up.

Extend the line

After another two jumps we have used our 9 moves, and we are all the way across the boar« This position would have cost 25 moves without using any jumps, so you see that the longr our line becomes, the more savings it provides us.

Move 9

When our pieces arrive at the other end, we need to begin to distribute them across the finis line to the left and to the right. We keep on extending our line to do this if possible.

Left and right

We can also use the "diagonal* path to extend our line to the left on the other side. This saves a positioning move on each end.

Feeding right

Our line ran simply creep along like a centipede, with each piece saving huge numbers of moves as they jump seven or eight times to reach their destination.

Feeding back

Yes,of course you are saying, "Well, tha' line would have been blocked, and "It would be feeding the opponent's pieces as much as your own." Yes, all that is true. It was an "ideal" case. Bui now you know the principle of setting up a line and getting your pieces to move. You can mix that knowledge with a little strategy, and you'll have a great game!


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