Cameron Browne
August 2004

Moloko, a connection game that incorporates elements of Backgammon, is played on a 9 x 9 square grid with two walls that form an S-shaped corridor. Players start with their pieces distributed as shown in Figure 1 (left).

Figure 1. Initial board set-up, and White’s direction of travel.

Figure 1 (right) shows White’s basic direction of forward movement for each of the nine subareas of the board defined by turns in the corridor. A piece in a particular subarea may only move in that subarea’s direction, unless jumping a wall (explained shortly). Rotate this map 180 degrees for Black’s basic direction of movement.

White starts with a single four-sided die roll, thereafter players roll two four-sided dice per move. As in Backgammon, players move one or more of their pieces a number of points according to the pips shown on the dice. A double entitles the player to use twice the number of pips shown, and players must use the maximum number of pips each turn.

Pieces may either step directly forward, or jump over a wall. If a piece steps directly forward, then it must step in a straight line a number of points equal to the number of pips shown on one of the dice. If the piece steps onto a single enemy piece, then that enemy piece is pinned until the player moves off, as in the Backgammon variant Plakoto. Players may stack as many pieces as they like onto any point, but cannot move to any point blocked by an enemy stack of two or more pieces.

Alternatively, a piece may jump over a wall if that jump lands on a single enemy piece an appropriate number of points away. The enemy piece is killed and removed from the game. Players cannot jump backwards and cannot cross both walls with the same jump. The same piece may take further steps or jumps, possibly changing direction.

Figure 2 (left) indicates White’s only possible move after rolling {2, 2} in the board position shown. This move involves one step forward, a jump over a wall to kill a Black piece, then two steps forward to pin another Black piece.

Figure 2. White’s only move after rolling {2, 2}, and a winning connection for Black.

The game is won by the first player to orthogonally connect all of their pieces to the far end of the corridor. For instance, Figure 2 (right) shows a winning connection for Black. Pinned pieces, and pieces that pin others, may be included in the winning connection. A player also wins if their last piece is captured, unless the capturing move completes a winning connection for the opponent. If a move creates a winning connection for both players, then the mover wins.

As in Lines of Action, it is not always wise to kill an enemy piece. Jumping over a wall allows a piece to push forward quickly by taking a shortcut, but also means that the opponent has one less piece to connect for victory.

The goal of connecting to the far end of the corridor rather than bearing off pieces as in Backgammon reduces the importance of the random element in the end game.

Moloko board and rules copyright (c) Cameron Browne, August 2004. Moloko was initially called Malaka.

[This text is from the book Connection Games: Variations on a Theme.]