Dare to jump the tiger or defend against it in Bagh Chal, the exciting strategy game from Nepal! In Bagh Chal, a family of four tigers hunts 20 goats. Find here all Bagh Chal game rules at a glance and how to play it. Who will win?
Bagh Chal (Nepali for ”tiger movement” or tiger leap) is the national game of Nepal and was probably invented by goat herders in the Himalayas, as the theme of the game is about a fight they know from everyday life. Tigers try to snatch a herd of goats and the herders had to protect them from it as best they could.
Bagh Chal is accordingly a so-called asymmetrical game for two players, each representing a tiger family and a herd of goats. Therefore, the game is sometimes referred to as ”tigers and goats” in the Western context. In an asymmetric strategy game, the starting conditions for the players are not equal, as in checkers or chess, for example, but different. In Bagh Chal, this concerns both the type and number of pieces and their rules of movement, as well as the goal of the game and, consequently, the winning strategy.
Player A has 4 tigers as pieces and his goal is to snatch at least 5 goats (or another previously agreed number. Player B is the goat herder, so to speak, and calls a herd of 20 goats his own. He wins at the Bagh Chal if he manages to block all 4 tigers before they have eaten 5 goats.
Bagh Chal was probably originally played with small stones and on a game pan painted or scribed on the floor. It is easy to make this playing board and the pieces yourself!
The game board consists of a square grid of 5 by 5 dots. These are connected by vertical and horizontal lines, and the outer corner points and the midpoints of the outer lines are also connected by diagonals.
For the figures for Bagh Chal, the Nepalese shepherds simply used two different kinds of stones and accordingly you can also use coins, dice, dominoes or marbles or make the figures yourself according to your mood. Those who enjoy beautifully designed game boards, however, will of course also find such boards.
Tip: A self-designed Bagh Chal game for a friend who likes to play board games is a very special personal gift!
In the beginning, the 4 tigers are in the 4 outer corners of the game board, while the goats are not on the board at all. If you have pieces shaped like the animals, the tigers are placed so that they face the centre of the board.
The player with the goats (player B) always starts at the Bagh Chal. And he does so by placing a goat on one of the free points. Now player A may move one of his tigers, always one step along the connecting lines of the game board. If a tiger is standing on a square directly next to a goat, he may jump over it in his next move (similar to checkers) and has thus eaten it. Consequently, he takes it off the game board.
Player B, the goat herder, may only place his goats on the board in the first 20 moves. Only then may he also move them. However, he can save an endangered goat by placing another goat in the tiger’s jump line, literally backing it up. The tiger cannot defeat two goats standing behind each other!
If a tiger is surrounded by a double row of goats or pushed to the edge of the playing field, it is unable to move and is therefore eliminated. If all the tigers are banished, the goat herder wins. If the tigers kill the agreed number of goats beforehand, classically 5, he has won.
Tigers can only jump over goats in a straight direction and only if the field behind them is empty. Tigers cannot jump over other tigers. Chain jumps (i.e. over several goats) as with checkers are not allowed. Goats cannot jump. Goats may only be moved on the playing field by the goat herder when all are set. If a goat is jumped over / eaten, it is taken from the playing field by the tiger player and placed to one side. As soon as all 20 goats have been set, moves that lead to the repetition of a figure constellation that has already happened are inadmissible for both players. Before the game begins, the goat herder and the tiger player agree on the number of goats that the predatory cats must eat to win. Usually it is 5.
For this variation, the tiger tokens must have a distinct front, a face, so to speak. They may now only jump forwards or sideways. If they jump to the left or right, the face is turned in the direction of the jump. With players of different strengths, this rule provides a balance of playing strengths in favour of the goat player. Depending on the position on the game board, there are also the options of jumping diagonally forwards or diagonally backwards. Therefore, it should be agreed beforehand whether tiger jumps diagonally backwards are allowed or not.
In the classic form of Bagh Chal, there is no jumping compulsion. Instead, if you want to play with the rule that the tiger must jump if it can, you should agree on this before the game starts. In addition, you must determine what the consequences are for not following this rule. A possible consequence of the rule violation would be, for example, that another move of the tiger player has to be taken back and he has to execute the jump. Or he may even lose the tiger in question, similar to ”blowing” in checkers.
The following applies to both players: a piece may never move back to the point it was on in the player’s previous move. In other words, a move cannot be undone in the following move. We advise that this agreement only applies when all goats have been set. Likewise, it can be stipulated that this rule will be overridden if a backward move results in a goat being eaten.
Tip: The goat herder has a slight strategic advantage over the tiger. Therefore, if there are two unequal players, the more inexperienced one should play the goatherd!
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Image source Cover image: by Luiyo at CC BY-SA 2.0
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