May 10, 2021

Maori News & Indigenous Views

Who needs chess when we have Mu Torere! (Maori board game)

2 min read came across a tweet that pointed to the game Mu Torere which we found fascinating, we did a bit of digging and wanted to share this with you.

For thoseof you who don’t know Mu Torereis played on a games board (“papa takaro”), or scribbed into clay or sand. It is thought that the game originated in the Far North.

Two players play the game. There are usually eight points (“kewai”)on a board, although some hapu played with over forty points. There is always one centre point(“putahi”).

On the eight point boards, each player has four pieces – usually distinctly coloured stones.

Each player starts with all their pieces on one half of the board – placed on the four adjacent “kewai“.

[sws_pullquote_right]Expert players were known to be able to “see” over forty moves ahead on the eight “kewai” boards. [/sws_pullquote_right] Each player then moves one piece at a time, alternately, either into the central “putahi” or onto one of the two flanking “kewai”.

Neither player must jump over another piece, nor have more than one piece on a “kewai” or in the “putahi” at the same time.

The object of the game is for each player to move his pieces into such positions as to prevent the opponent from being able to move.

According to the book Read and Mikaere (2oo2) in the book, Taonga Tuku Iho: Illustrated Encyclopedia of Maori Life, Ngati Haua chief Tamihana Te Waharoa reputedly offered a game to Governor George Grey with the whole country going to the winner, sadly Grey declined.

[sws_pullquote_left]Upon first glance the game seems very simple to play – and this was a common misconception amongst early settlers. [/sws_pullquote_left] Many settlers have recorded in their journals of being repeatedly beaten when gambling against Maori players.

Sometimes up to ten settlers would simultaneously play a single Maori player, and still lose the game.

The first win by a settler against a Maori player was recorded in the 1850s, when the average Maori playing ability had decreased significantly and there was little interest in the game.

There are several websites that detail the game and provide strategies and solutions:

In 2009 Windows Mobile came out with their version of the game (see below)

Any whanau out there play this game? Drop us some links below if you find them. Kia ora!

3 thoughts on “Who needs chess when we have Mu Torere! (Maori board game)

  1. Kia ora

    Can you please take the “condescending” link off
    Not only are they claiming it was introduced by europeans but they cant even be bothered to learn how to say it properly.
    Not too mention they are promoting a board with nine kiwai, never seen a wheke like that before!

    and if you know anyone in ozzy keen to learn ki o rahi hit me back

    nga mihi

  2. Kids played mu torere at Belmont Primary School in early 1960s, ‘gameboards’ drawn up on paper. The pieces were bits of cardboard with stars – two long crossed lines like a big ‘plus’ sign, with two shorter lines making an ‘x’ on top of those, with all points joined to make a star (very important for some reason that they were drawn like this!?). One lot red,the other left plain. Good reminder to start playing with the mokopuna!

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