Sixteen Soldiers

OBJECTIVE OF SIXTEEN SOLDIERS: The goal of the game is to capture all the pieces/soldiers of the opponent player.


MATERIALS: A game board, 32 beads (16 per player)

TYPE OF GAME: Strategy Board Game



Sixteen Soldiers is a famous strategy board game originated from Sri Lanka. It is the expansion of the 12 Beads board game with two extra triangles on the upper and lower sides of the board. It is also known as “Cows and Leopards” and “Sholo Guti.” In most of the areas in South Asia, the board’s pattern is drawn on the ground, and stones are used as beads/pawns.


A Sixteen Soldiers game board consists of an Alquerque board with two extra triangular sides. It forms 37 positions on the board where the beads/soldiers can be placed. As it’s a multiplayer game, each player has 16 pawns. 


Each player chooses either the upper side of the lower one of the board to put their pawns on. An ideal starting placement is shown in the picture below.


The game can be started by randomly choosing a player to be the first to take the turn. In a single turn, a player can either make a move or do a capture, but not both. A player can only move one of its pawns to the one-step-ahead position while considering the lines as paths towards an empty spot. 

If a player wants to capture/eliminate the opponent’s pawn, he/she can do it if there is a vacant point/position just beyond the opponent’s pawn in the line. For this purpose, the player’s pawn must be adjacent to the opponent’s pawn. The leap should be in a straight line while following the lines on the board.

The eliminated/captured pawn is removed from the board. Let’s see how the game works through an example. Suppose there is a player with red pawns and the other with green pawns. Player two is going to take the first turn, and he/she moves one of its pawns to the nearest point while following the line. 

Now, it’s the turn of player one (red), and he/she ideally will want to eliminate/capture the opponent’s pawn, which has come closer. There is also a vacant position if the player one moves one of its pawns over the green one.

Player one (red) decides to eliminate the opponent’s pawn by moving its pawn over the green one and landing to the empty position just after the opponent’s pawn. 

As you can see in the picture, the player one (red) has successfully captured one of the opponent’s pawns. Now it’s the turn of payer two (green), which could also eliminate the red pawn which has come closer. 


The game is played by both players until one player captures/eliminates all the pawns/soldiers of the opponent. The one who does that wins.


Some regions of South Asia play Sixteen Soldiers with a slightly different game board. They use to have four triangles along each side of the 12 Beads board. Despite starting out the game randomly, some people like to start it with a coin toss and give the first turn to the winning player.

Nakoa Davis