Hunters and Haunts by C. Casey Gardiner is a metafictional work licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Professor C. Casey Gardiner Earth Folklore Studies Apollo University New Bradbury, Mars
Hunters and Haunts is an ancient board game which has enjoyed a stable popularity across many homeworlds for over a millennium. Legends have told the gameâ€™s origins to be either propaganda from an obscure religion, an entry for a contest, or the work of the devil, but scientists believe the game originated in the ruins of fallen Detroit, located in the province-state of Michigan of the former United States of America on Earth, shortly before the decline of the Primitive Social Media Age. Experts think the gameâ€™s relative simplicity, joined with its unusual three-in-one board structure, are what ensured its place in the pantheon of interstellar games.
The gameplay has been described as similar to a number of traditional games, including Chess, Horseshoes, VirusChase and Hyyvwxx. The last one is a controversial claim; Some scholars argue the game entertains rudimentary dimensional movements emulating hypertravel, although this is likely unintentional. The game is played upon two 4x8 square grids (known as the World of the Living and the World of the Dead) and a vessel or similar circular area (known as the Well of Souls, or Pitching Pot). Four Hunters, four Haunts, a Defender and a Treasure make up each player’s 10 game pieces, totaling 20 pieces upon the first board at the beginning of the game. The game’s goal is for players to capture an opponent’s Treasure piece, but other pieces can be captured. Due to its versatility, the game can be played on most surfaces with traditional pieces, chessmen, stones, or found objects, and it’s believed that Detroit’s peasantry played the game in the dirt with scavenged auto parts.
Most game pieces can be in one of three states during the game: ‘living’, ‘dead’ or ‘out’. Movements vary with pieces, and across the boards themselves. Gameplay begins with each player’s pieces assembled upon the ‘living’ board:
Here we see each piece in its original state, as well as both boards, and the four vacant ‘door’ spaces in the four corners of the ‘living’ board. The ‘dead’ board is empty at this time. Players can choose who goes first by different
criteria, including age (youngest), height (shortest), or origin (players with homeworlds closest to their galactic center may move first). Individual piece movement and capture abilities on the living board are as follows:
Hunter-- Hunters move one pace orthogonally or diagonally in any direction. If a playerâ€™s Hunter successfully reaches the opposite end of the living board, that player may reintroduce any dead or out piece of his choice into play.
Haunt-- Haunts move similarly to Hunters, with the exception that they have the additional ability to â€˜hauntâ€™ pieces from the other board.
Defender-- Each player has only one Defender, but one is enough! This powerful piece moves one or two spaces in an orthogonal or diagonal direction, but this can be dangerous, as Defenders are needed to protect their player's Treasure.
Treasure-- Unable to move by itself, the Treasure is less of a playing piece than a moveable object. The Treasure must be defended at all times, and can be â€˜castledâ€™ with a Defender at any point in the game, in any direction, indefinitely.
After a piece has been captured, it is moved to a corresponding space on the ‘dead’ board. Piece movements here are as follows:
Hunter-- A Hunter’s goal is to reach the opposite end of the board. If a Hunter makes it, they may re-enter the battle in the world of the living, through one of four unoccupied ‘door’ spaces. If attacked on the dead board, a Hunter can be sent to the Pitching Pot.
Haunt--A Haunt’s goal is the same, but they may also choose to stand in their space for a length of time to ‘haunt’ the piece which captured them on the living board. Haunted pieces may not move, and may not be captured. If attacked, a Haunt can also be sent to the Pitching Pot.
Defender--If captured, a Defender behaves the same as a Hunter on the dead board, with the marked difference that a Defender cannot be attacked, only delayed.
Treasure-- This piece will never enter the dead board. The act of capturing it completes the game.
The rules for the Pitching Pot are as follows: A circle or vessel must be present, and the players stand or sit at a chosen distance. Players attempt to toss their attacking pieces as close to the center of the circle as possible. The player which comes closest wins the match and keeps their piece on the ‘dead’ board. The losing player’s piece is considered ‘out’, and removed from play. At this point, the player is free to move their piece toward the opposing edge of the dead board again, to return to battle in the ‘living’ world. During the game, players may make only one move per turn, and it is up to them to decide which board to play upon. It is precisely this divergent game structure, played upon two boards at a time, which makes Hunters and Haunts such an engaging (and fiendish) game to play.
Even today, game aficionados from across the stars join together to play this ancient classic, and most, if not all of them have found it to be just as engaging and entertaining as it was to the indigenous peoples of Detroit over a thousand years ago. New Bradbury, Mars Interjanuary 52nd, 3091