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Konane  –  history and rules


History – compiled from coffeetimes.com and Prof. Michael Ernst of MIT


The old Hawaiians loved their leisure time. They harbored a treasure of games. Many of these demanded acute sharpness of verbal and mental skills. Gambling added spice and excitement to them. Ali'i have been known to gamble away their land, while common men have bet their own lives, or the life of a mate. Missionaries frowned deeply on this behavior and discouraged the games. Gradually the Hawaiian games disappeared from the islands.


Konane was popular among all classes, and men and women often played together, unlike some other Hawaiian games that were tapu (taboo) among the common people or were played by only one sex. Konane, a sort of checkers, played on a board, or on a slab of lava and rock. The board is called papamu Konane (papa means flat surface).


The game appears to be authentically Hawaiian. It consists of capturing "men" for justice and for sacrifice. To this purpose black and white pebbles (or coral) were moved around from hole to hole. The holes were often inset with human teeth.


Konane boards across the island don't follow any established pattern in size or play. The amount of holes, set in even lines, varies between 64 on the low end to well over 250 on the high end, seemingly only changing the amount of game time involved. Along the Kohala coast, at Kapaloa, a series of identical petroglyph boards are carved at regular intervals. They must have served for the first elimination matches in an important gambling event for the Ali’i: A little further inland, an arena still stands, with one enormous, single checkerboard on its dome. Around this stage there is plenty of room for betting spectators. This was no doubt the final game between champions.


Few writers have dared to describe the rules of Konane. It's said that in 1924 a 90-year old woman was the only living person who still knew the game.


A game sometimes lasted an entire day; in a match, often a large number of games were played before determining the winner. Captain James Cook, who in 1778 during his third voyage was the first European to visit Hawaii, described a native game that is clearly Konane:

“One of their games resembles our game of draughts [checkers]; but, from the number of squares, it seems to be much more intricate. The board is of the length of about two feet, and is divided into two hundred and thirty-eight squares, fourteen in a row [hence a 14­by­17 board]. In this game they use black and white pebbles, which they move from one square to another.”


Words of Konane


ali`I                               - royalty. All Hawaiians played the game.

papamu                       - playing board carved into stone or lava

mu                               - alternative name for Konane

puka                            - small impressions or puka in the papamu or playing board

kanaka `ele                  - black playing pieces

kanaka kea                  - white playing pieces

piko                              - center of board (naval)

kaka’i                           - row along the borders

lima                             - hand

lele                               - jumping

‘ai                                 - eating (you “eat” a piece when you jump it)

aue                              -too bad (as in, you can’t make a move anymore, too bad)

lanakila                        - winner



“Hawaiian Checkers”



Goal:   the first player unable to capture an enemy piece is the loser, and the other player is the winner (lanakila). There are no draws in this game. Konane is a game of position – not attrition.


Rules and Game Play

  1. The game begins with all the pieces on the board (or table, ground, etc.) arranged in an alternating pattern.

  2. Players decide which colors to play - one player picks up a piece of each color and with his hands behind his back, conceals one in each hand. He then presents both hands to his opponent, who selects a hand, thereby selecting the color of men he will be playing with. The two pieces are replaced on the board.

  3. Black starts first.

  4. There are 4 pieces (2 black and 2 white diagonally opposite each other) that form a 2 x 2 square array in the "middle of the board". Black can either remove one of those two black pieces, or remove a black piece from one of the four corners of the board. The four corners of the board will also consist of two black pieces and two white pieces that are diagonally opposite from each other.

  5. White then removes one of its pieces adjacent to the empty space created by Black. There are now two adjacent empty spaces on the board. The piece removed must be next to the other and not at a diagonal.

  6. A move consists of jumping one's own piece over an adjacent enemy piece into an empty location just beyond; the enemy piece is removed. Jumping occurs along a row or file, never diagonally and never in two directions on a single move. Multiple enemy pieces may be removed providing they are all on the same row or file, they are separated by one empty location, and there is a vacant position at the end of the line. The player can stop hopping enemy pieces at any time, but must capture at least one enemy piece in a turn. After the piece has stopped hopping, the player's turn ends. Only one piece may be used in a turn to capture enemy pieces.

  7. The player that can no longer make a capture is the loser, and the other player is the winner.



  1. When laying out the board at the start it is easiest to place the colors diagonally.

  2. If Black chooses to remove one of the four middle pieces to start White must then pick to remove a piece adjacent but it does not have to be one of the middle 4 pieces.

  3. In any move, a player moves only one piece.

  4. You cannot make a diagonal jump and you can only jump in one direction per turn.

  5. You may jump as many pieces as you want with a single piece as long as there is an empty space between each. You are not required to jump more than one piece.

  6. Captured pieces should be kept by each opponent. This helps prevents making incorrect jumps and capturing the wrong color.

  7. If Black chooses to remove one of the four middle pieces to start White must then pick to remove a piece adjacent but it does not have to be one of the middle 4 pieces.

  8. If a second game is played, the player who had black in the first game has white in the second.


Alternative version


The object of this simplified form of Konane is to jump as many of your opponent's men as possible before the game is ended.  Play begins in the same manner as with regular Konane and the rules are the same with these exceptions:

   1.  If a player is unable to jump, his opponent continues playing until he can no longer jump or until the first player is again able to jump.

·        2.  The player with the most men left on the board when the game is ended is the winner. 


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