The Star Game

Nakshatra Vilayatu

This game is played by only one player. The playing board is shaped in the form of a star, hence known as star game. There are ten meeting points in the star board where the coins could be placed. Though there are ten meeting points, only nine game pieces will be used to play the game, leaving one meeting point empty to proceed playing. The empty point is first occupied by the player as the game begins. The player stationed at any point could move along any marked line, through that point to the next point on that line, which must be vacant. If there is a game piece at the adjacent point, and the point beyond it is vacant, then the player could move his piece to the empty point, crossing the piece at the adjacent point.  

The player is expected to make swift movements by crossing the coins quickly, as the game is to be played with certain time limits. Although there would be only one vacant point when the game begins, the player keeps moving and crosses other coins, making more vacant points available. When the player advances in the game, he/she should make moves remembering the previous movements made, which will help the player make right decisions. It might take more time and more thoughtful moves to cut coins. If the player is unable to cut all coins within the stipulated time, he is declared a loser. But if he does, leaving only one piece on the board, he becomes the winner.  

Even though only one player plays the game, the audience bet among themselves on whether the player would be able to finish the game within the allotted time. This sort of betting is known as masikkattuthal in Tamil. The winners of the bet would share the amount among themselves at the end of the game. If they wished, a portion of the amount won was also shared with the other person. Despite being a rural game, it is played by several youngsters on well-made boards in modern times.  

This game is also extended further to be played by more than one person, for a longer time, with blockings and crossings. It is commonly played in rural areas where there is sand. The player makes a diagram on the sand and uses stones or sticks as game pieces and plays. After the game is over, the player just leaves the board and coins there. Playing the star game enhances the strategic skills, planning, and decision-making capacity of the player. Regularly playing this game makes one understand the nuances of the game better and finish the process faster. This single-player game is an interesting pastime and good to be played during the leisure hours.  

- T. R. Surya, Special Correspondent, The Verandah Club