Arimaa, pronounced “a-ree-muh,” is a game where stronger animals like elephants and camels freeze, push, and pull the weaker ones from the opposing team around and into traps, while one of the rabbits tries to sneak across the board and harmlessly reach the other side. The first player to get one of their rabbits to the other side wins.
This may sound like a simple kids’ game, and while it is easy enough for your kids to learn and enjoy, you will find that it is also a very deep game that can take a lifetime to master. Arimaa is one of the deepest strategy games ever invented in the history of mankind, but designed to look intuitively simple. No two games of Arimaa are ever the same. There is much to learn and discover about this intuitively simple, yet intellectually challenging, game.
Played on an 8×8 grid with four trap squares and 32 animal pieces (16 gold and 16 silver). Each player has an elephant, a camel, 2 horses, 2 dogs, 2 cats, and 8 rabbits.
Strength hierarchy: Elephant > Camel > Horse > Dog > Cat > Rabbit.
The game begins with an empty board. Gold places the sixteen gold pieces first in any configuration on the first and second ranks. Silver then places the sixteen silver pieces in any configuration on seventh and eighth ranks. Then gold moves its pieces first. A player can move up to four “steps” each turn. All pieces move orthogonally.
Arimaa was invented by Omar Syed, an Indian-American computer engineer trained in artificial intelligence. Syed was inspired by Garry Kasparov’s defeat at the hands of the chess computer Deep Blue to design a new game that could be played with a standard chess set, would be difficult for computers to play well, but would have rules simple enough for his then four-year-old son Aamir to understand. (“Arimaa” is “Aamir” spelled backwards plus an initial “a”).
In 2002, Syed published the rules to Arimaa and announced a $10,000 prize, available annually until 2020, for the first computer program (running on standard, off-the-shelf hardware) able to defeat each of three top-ranked human players in a three-game series.