Think chess is strategic? Try its Thai cousin, Makruk

Makruk is the most engaging strategy game out there, but not for the reasons you think. You see, games need not to be solely about drama, passion and theatre. There is a place for Creativity, intuition and yes, logic. That’s right, there are games out there that will demand a perfect blend of these two diametrically opposed human nature archetypes. Thus, the notion of strategy games.


Strategy games, have been part of modern man’s evolution, we love to plan ahead. In fact, we have entire tenses developed to describe hypothesis, conditional situations and the future. It’s for this reason why, board games will never go away. They will continue to intrigue us. Undeniably, it is the Godlike need to read other people’s minds or anticipate another person move that drives us to play such games.

For instance, the ancient Chinese noblemen and military leaders were obsessed with such games which were so complex in in their nature that, for some games. They possess probabilities that are uncountable. Indeed, it would be safe to argue that, it’s no more than a projection of man’s need to bifurcate his world to ally or opponent that we have continued this trend into modern video games.

The most captivating board game in the world

Probably you may never have heard of it, but by far the most interesting strategy game is Makruk. Makruk is a chess like, Thai strategy game, whose progenitor is the Indian game Chaturanga. In fact, Chaturanga, is the forerunner to modern chess and other Eastern strategy games like; Janggi, the native Korean chess, xiangqi, Chinese chess and Shogi, Japanese Chess. Other variants include; Mongolian Shatar and Burmese chess.

However, of all these chess variants, Makruk closely resembles Cambodian chess which in In the Khmer Language, it’s known as “OK”.  In fact, if you are familiar with either of the two variants, you can comfortably play the other. Indeed, some would argue the difference lies in name only. It’s not surprising therefore, that Makruk is popular both in Thailand and in Cambodia.

A board game physically strenuous to the human body

Winning is not easy. The reason being that many Makruk games end in draws. Why? Because a disadvantaged player is not really at all hindered in his options. You can still maneuver back in, and potentially make a comeback, thereby making it a great device for developing patience.

Even experienced chess Grand masters do admit that Makruk is in an entirely different category altogether. This is one more reason why, should you wish to exercise cerebral activity, a game of Makruk is perfectly adapted for that.

 A group of Thai men playing a game of Makruk in Suratthani, Thailand

A group of Thai men playing a game of Makruk in Suratthani, Thailand

This complexity, has a very interesting consequence on the human body; physical exhaustion! In fact, the morphological changes observed on a marathon player, who just ran a 20-kilometer race is similar that of player who just had a long drawn out challenge on a Makruk board.

There is no denying that this is by far the most interesting game, Thailand, has given to the world. Even logicians and mathematicians admit; there are so many basic formalized logic systems that can be extracted from Makruk.

This means that, even a computer will probably never be able to solve Makruk. Given that most programming and Artificial intelligence is biased towards winning variations. Even if, the computer can understand and mirror the game using mathematical concepts such as calculations, algorithms, combinations, matrices and patterns. No computer, has come up with an equation to solve Makruk.

Written by Charles Njorge, Lexigo: Hailing from France, Charles is a professional multilingual translator fluent in English, French and Swahili. His eye for detail, love of arts and education in political science is reflected in his writing which highlights and explores different cultures, customs and languages.