What the Draught Game Really Is: A Look at the History & Variations

Playing draughts board game

While most people have heard of checkers and played it a time or two, far fewer people have heard about Draught gameplay. Draughts is a slightly larger version of American checkers which developed prior to the colonies' beloved tabletop pastime. If you've always preferred a game of checkers to chess, maybe it's time to check out Draughts and see if your skills are up to snuff to compete against the best players that the International Draughts community has to offer.

Draughts' Ancient Roots

As with many simple strategic board games, Draughts has roots in antiquity with archaeologists finding evidence of ancient cultures from the Middle East and the Mediterranean playing a similar game to Draughts, now known as Alquerque. Alquerque was played on a board with a smaller grid pattern and involved players moving their pieces only along intersections of lines instead of the squares. It dates as far back as 1400 BCE.

During the Medieval period in central Europe, the 'modern' version of Draughts developed, which modified Alquerque with chess-like elements and resulted in a new game called Fierges. Over time, the game solidified into the professional activity that it is considered today, reaching popularity across the globe in countries like Russia, Brazil, England, and the United States.

International Draughts

Also referred to as Polish Draughts, International Draughts is a globally recognized board game in which competitions and tournaments are held throughout the year. Played on a 10x10 gridded board and including 20 white and 20 black pieces, International Draughts is rather similar to English Draughts aka American Checkers, save for a few important distinctions.

Draughts Gameplay

Setting up and playing a round of International Draughts is super easy to do; in the 21st century, most people are familiar with contemporary checkers, and International Draughts mirrors that gameplay rather closely. So, if you're used to playing checkers, you should be able to transition into playing Draughts really quickly.

Set-Up

Place the board with the black squares in the bottom left corner facing you and your opponent and place all twenty of your color (black or white) tokens on the dark squares of the three nearest rows on the board.

Rules of the Game

The player with the white tokens starts the game, and each successive turn alternates between either player. Single tokens are allowed to move diagonally forwards to whichever dark squares are in front of them. Once a piece is moved to be within reach of a competitor's piece, players are required to move to capturing their opponent's tokens.

Capturing

If a player has the ability to capture a competitor's token, then they have to take that token. Player's capture an opponent's pieces by jumping over a competitor's piece with one of their own, and occupying the immediate diagonal square behind the player's piece. For however many captures a player is capable of making in a single move, they have to make them. If you have the chance for multiple routes of capture, you have to take the one on the board that gives you the greatest number of tokens. Once you've captured the pieces, you can remove them from the board and take them out of play.

Kinging/Queening

Although you can absolutely play an entire game of Draughts without Kinging or Queening (depending on which term you prefer) any of your pieces, you're at a significant advantage if you do. You 'king' your piece by ending its sequence at the row at the back of the board facing farthest from you. These kinged pieces have a special ability where they're allowed to move forwards and backwards diagonally across the board for as many or as few spaces as they'd like.

Winning the Game

There are a few different ways to finish a game of Draughts, not all of them ending in one player collecting all of the opposing player's pieces:

  • Threefold Repetition - When the same move from the same side occurs three times, then the game is a draw.
  • 25 Consecutive Kings - When each player makes 25 consecutive king moves without a capture, the game is a draw.
  • 16 Move Draw - When one player has only a king left, and the opponent has three pieces left, including one king, the two players get 16 moves or it's considered a draw.
  • 5 Move Draw - When one player has only a king left, and the opponent has two pieces left, including a king, the players have 5 moves to finish the game or it's considered a draw.

Variations of Draughts

Across Europe and North America, there are a few different recognized versions of Draughts, each of which slightly vary in the way that they either set up the game or play the game through. Of these variations, people are most familiar with American checkers aka English Draughts, which is performed on an 8x8 board with fewer pieces and no 'flying' kings moving diagonally as far as they'd like to go. Other variations include:

  • Italian Draughts - Played on an 8x8 board with the setup having the white square on the far-left corner facing the players, and doesn't allow for any 'flying' kings.
  • Spanish Draughts - Played in the same way that Italian Draughts is, except this version does have 'flying' kings in play.
  • Ghanaian Draughts - Played similarly to International Draughts with its 10x10 game board and playing on the dark squares but differs in that the game is finished when the losing player has a single piece left.
  • Russian Draughts - Played on an 8x8 board and with mandatory capturing, this game handles kinging a bit differently by not requiring its kings to stop at the back line to reach kinghood.

Where to Play Draughts Online

With American checkers far outstripping Draughts in popularity in the west, if you're interested in playing Draughts your easiest way to develop your talents against seasoned players is to play online. Places you can find to play Draughts with both computers and friends for free, include:

Master the Ancient Art of Draughts

Draughts is a historic game which continues to fascinate people in cultures from around the world. If you're looking for a tabletop activity to pass the time, Draughts might be the perfect game for you. So, set aside your well-used 8x8 checkers board and see if you've got what it takes to accept the challenge of mastering the ancient game of Draughts.

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What the Draught Game Really Is: A Look at the History & Variations