Summer holidays are coming! This means a lot of spare time for parties, beer, family barbecues and other pleasures like… games! But you need a right game, well suited for playing with friends. Kimbo is just perfect. It’s a contemporary game, though a bit forgotten and worth the reminder.
Kimbo is an interesting game which – in my opinion – is a variant of Malefiz. It was published by Parker Brothers in the 1960s (the company founded by the creator of the Camelot). Kimbo was also published by John Waddington Ltd. under the name “Game of fences”.
I don’t know who exactly designed this game and I have no idea if anyone publishes it today. Probably is not published and that’s a pity. Although it’s a contemporary game, it has the best features of traditional games. The rules and equipment are relatively simple, but players can use different strategies and a lot depends on their decisions. This is a game of skill and luck but skill really matters!
Kimbo – rules of the game
Kimbo is a race-type board game with dice. It’s designed for 4 players, but you can also play with 1 or 2 opponents. Players race from the corners to the center of the board. They may use special pieces (fences) to block opponents or change the direction of their own moves.
Board and pieces
Kimbo is played on board with 216 squares. Squares are arranged in 15×15 grid, but nine middle squares are merged into one large central field with four “entrances”. The board is presented in the drawing below.
In addition, you need pawns, here marked as:
and so-called fences, here marked as:
Each player has 4 pawns of one color and 6 fences of the same color. With four players in the game, there are a total of 16 pawns and 24 fences on a board.
At the beginning of the game, the players’ pawns stand on the appropriate starting squares (marked with respective colors).
Fences are placed between the squares, on lines. The diagram below shows the initial position of pawns (on starting squares) and fences (set in triangular formations).
One of the players must start (there’s no rule – you can draw lots). After the first move, player take their turns clockwise. There’s no possibility to pass a move.
In each move, a player rolls the dice and moves one or two of his pawns. Pawns can move vertically or horizontally for as many squares as dice shown.
If a player decides to move one pawn, he moves it according to the number of squares shown on two dice. If a player wants to move two pawns, he is obliged to move one pawn according to the number on one die and the second pawn according to the number on the second die. For example, after rolling 6 and 3, a player may move one pawn 6 squares, and the second pawns for 3 squares or he can move just one pawn for 9 squares.
The image below shows an example of a green player move after throwing 6 and 3.
A player decides which way the pawn should go. However, he/she may not change the direction while moving. Pawns are essentially moving along straight lines, and the only exception to this rule is a situation when pawn “hits” the fence or wall.
A pawn that “hits” the fence “bounces” from it – it changes the direction of the move by 90 degrees. The player decides the direction of the bounce. An example move with “bouncing” is shown in the image below.
In each move, a pawn must go for as many squares as shown on a die. Sometimes it means hitting many fences in one move. If a pawn reaches a square surrounded by three fences, it may bounce backward (and this is the only situation in which a pawn can go back).
Pawns bounce off not only when hitting a fence, but also after hitting a wall surrounding the center or a wall on a board edge. Example move with bouncing off the wall is shown in the image below.
Note: Pawn bounce off the fence (wall) only when this fence is transverse to the direction of the move. Fences and walls set along the direction of the move are simply passed.
Moving the fences
Each player has the right to move one of his fences before rolling a dice. The fence can be moved anywhere with two limitations.
- The entrance to the central field may not be closed by a fence.
- It’s not allowed to surround enemy piece’s with fences so they could not make a move.
Note that the fence can serve as an obstacle for the opponent as well as help for your own pawns. Players must decide how they want to use their fences.
Jumping over the fences
If a player rolls a double (two dice show the same number) he may jump over a fence. However, this must be done with the pawn standing next to the fence. If players have no such pawns, there is no possibility to jump.
In the situation shown below, the red pawn would have the right to jump over the green fence (if the green player threw a double).
A pawn may end his move on a square occupied by opponent’s pawn. In such situation, the enemy pawn is captured. Player, who made a capture, places a captured piece on one of the starting squares.
Example capture is shown in the image below. Green pawn hits yellow pawn.
The aim of the game
The game is won by the player who first enters all his stones into the center. Remember that pawns may enter the central field only through 4 gates.
The image below shows one possible end of the game. The game is won by green.
Variant for 2 and 4 players
Kimbo is a game designed for 4 players, however, it’s possible to play with just 2 or 3 players. When 2 people are playing, fences of two colors are removed from the board and two entrances to the center are closed. Similarly, when there are 3 players, one set of fences is removed from the board and one entry is closed.
What’s good in Kimbo?
Kimbo is as funny as Malefiz, Backgammon or Spiders. It has enough luck element to make it fun and enough skill element to keep the game interesting. There are many pieces and funny situations on a board. And it’s perfect to play with friends.
I want to try it!
Unfortunately, Kimbo sets are no longer manufactured (as far as I know). On eBay, you can buy older sets issued once by Parker or Waddington. If you have a huge appetite for this game, maybe you should make your own set yourself?
Articles on similar games
- Spider and Flies – Russian national game
- Malefiz or Barricade
- Malefiz for 6 players
- Pachisi. Ancestor of Ludo
3 thoughts on “Kimbo – put up your fences and go around others”
I found your site when searching for alternate versions of a fortress Halatafl game I own (Dalmation Pirates and Vulga Bulgers) and…Wow! Thank you for publishing so much information on these classic games! I have a couple bookmarked that I plan to make boards for and try out.
Thanks. Such comments motivate me to write more 🙂
When I saw the two styles of pieces required I immediately thought of my vintage “Risk” game which uses cubes and lozenges. Now, all I have to do is draw out the game board. Thanks Marcin