This simple, yet engaging game of the Antislar, is named Tri-bones because of the simple playing pieces used to play it. Small bone chips, about the size of a human palm, flat and carved into a triangle, are used. It is a game that can be played by children and adults alike and provides entertainment while developing strategic thinking.
Picture description. An Antislar boy playing the tri-bones game. Image drawn by Seeker.
History. Tri-bones has been an Antislar distraction for hundreds of years. It is unknown who invented the game, though it is thought sailors first popularized the game in the holds of ships between their hours on duty. From there, the Antislar adopted the game as a national pastime. Eventually, the game spread to the south, becoming popular in the ports of Naurooth and Milkengrad, where sailors brought the game. From there, it continues to spread.
The only pieces required to play Tri-bones are a set of bones carved into triangle shaped flat chips of bone, though wooden sets are found as well as even a few stone sets and even more exotic material. Most of these sets are carved by the person who owns the set itself, as there is no Tri-bones industry. It is said that King Veddin has a set of
tri-bones made from solid gold pieces. There are no standard sets, and some sets have as few as twenty pieces, while others may have a hundred or more. In Santharia, especially in Voldar, clay
tri-bones are used. These are specialized sets, that are made with brightly covered backs. They can either be traditional, with the three symbol face, or be faceless pieces (see
Each of the tri-bone pieces is a flat, triangular piece. One side is plain, while the other side, called the Face has three symbols carved into it. On each of the face's three straight edges, there is carved a small symbol. There are animal symbols, from Tar’andus deer, Eanian wargs, packox, wison, caracal and more. There are plant symbols, azigoor tree, alicott bushes, azigoor fruit, alth'ho grass, hrugchuk flowers and many more. There are also a fewer number of soldier figures, Antislar, orc, elf and Remusian. The Remusian piece is also called by an assortment of derogatory terms; among them, The Demon, The Ass, and far worse. There must be at least one Remusian piece in each set, though there can be more. Lastly, there is the Koraya piece, which has a two faced profile on one of its sides. There can only be one Koraya piece. Larger sets usually have a greater variety of symbols, while smaller sets have only a few different symbols.
Optional pieces that are sometimes used, especially in the case of larger sets, are scoring beads. These are simply small stones used for keeping score. They can range from simple small stones to highly polished fancy gems. There must be at least one scoring bead for each tri-bone, and either ten extra for the Koraya piece, or a stone that differs in size or colour to be associated with the Koraya piece.
Game Set-Up. Game setup is very simple. The tri-bones are placed in a leather bag and mixed up. One also needs a flat surface to play. The larger the number of tri-bones in the set, the larger the flat surface needed. Most sets need at least a ped by ped square surface.
Rules. Tri-bones is a simple game. It is usually played by two or three people, though more may play. The more people playing means that a larger set of tri-bones is needed and the larger the playing area.
Beginning the Game
First, each person in turn takes one piece at randon out of the bag until someone finds either the Koraya piece or a Remusian piece. This person is now known as the "King". He plays first and chooses his pieces first. The person to his right, in cases where three or more players are participating, is the next to play, and so on.
All pieces are returned to the bag, which is shaken again to mix up the pieces. The "King" then reaches in the bag and pulls out one piece, keeping the face side hidden from the others and placing it face side down before him. He may see what it is. The player to his right picks a tri-bone next, and so forth until each player has five pieces in front of him, all face down so no one knows what the other has.
Rules of Play
The "King" then reaches into the bag pulling forth one piece and putting it in the center of the flat surface, face side up. He then may place any of his five pieces next to the center tri-bone as long as he has a side that matches one of the sides of the center piece. He can then play again, and lay as many pieces down as he can match until he is either out of his five pieces, or has no more matching sides. Then he reaches into the bag and pulls forth as many pieces as needed to once more have five pieces in front of him. The person to his right may now play, matching his pieces to any of the pieces in play, and so on. For every tri-bone played, the player gets one scoring bead, or it is remembered if scoring beads are not used. Thus, larger sets almost always have scoring beads accompanying them.
The two special pieces in the set, the Koraya piece and the one or more Remusian pieces have special abilities. The Koraya piece has the one two-sided profile symbol which is a "wild" symbol, meaning that any other piece can be played to that particular side, so most players play the wild side, leaving the two other symbols for others to play, or else play on the Koraya symbol with their next piece in order to not give the next player a free turn. With the Remusian pieces, the side with the Remusian symbol is a "dead" symbol, meaning that no other piece, including other Remusian pieces can be played on it. This blocks the following players from using their pieces on that Remusian piece. So, strategic usage of both the Koraya and Remusian pieces can greatly affect the outcome of the games.
Ending the Game
The game ends when someone has used all five of his pieces, and there are no more pieces left in the bag to replace them. At this point, the scoring beads are counted and the one with the most beads wins. As well, if the King pulls out the Koraya piece as the center first tri-bone, he immediately wins the game.
Special Rules and Cheating
Many people either inspect the Koraya piece to insure it has no obvious flaws on it that would give the "King" a way to tell if it was that piece, as cases of cheating have been known to happen, especially if money is put on the game, as either a wager on the winner, or a wager per point. To get around this, the "King", and in fact every player, is usually just expected to reach in and pull forth a piece quickly. Keeping one's hand in the bag more than a couple of blinks can lead to accusations of "Fingering Koraya". There have been instances of people being killed over cases of cheating, but more prevalent is the removal of the cheaters offending digits so that "he may finger Koraya no more." Those with missing digits, even if unrelated to the game, might have a certain number of the population continually look upon them with distrust, assuming he had "fingered Koraya".
When it comes to counting, there are a few special rules. The person who is able to play the Koraya piece during the course of the game gets the special counting bead, and this bead is worth ten regular beads, thus the Koraya piece scores ten points. The Remusian piece, or pieces, count two different ways. If one is played, instead of receiving a scoring bead, the player loses five scoring beads. He is prohibited from playing a Remusian piece until he has enough scoring beads to cover the loss. What is worse, if the game comes to an end, and he has a Remusian piece unplayed before him, he loses ten scoring beads, which he must pay to the person who ended the game. The person who ends the game gets to take five scoring beads from every other person playing.
A hobby sometimes played by children, but sometimes adults too, is to set up their tri-bones on edge, one next to each other, then to push the first one over and to watch the rest fall in sequence. It can be as simple as a straight line of tri-bones, or can be elaborate design.
It is from this that the expression "fall like tri-bones" came from. During the Fifth Orcish War, General Lugallu once exclaimed, during a battle where Remusian archers had devastated his front lines, "Can we not stop those damnedable archers? They are felling my men like tri-bones." Since then, the expression has come to describe any circumstance where multiple items or men are felled.
In the city of Voldar in Vardưnn province, there is a contest held each spring where contestants each set up elaborate layouts of tri-bones. Then, as judges watch and score, the lead tri-bone is knocked over, and the design is revealed as the tri-bones fall in order. The most elaborate design wins. The most recent winner was a 12 ped long recreation of the Voldar coat of arms, with the tri-bones painted on their back so that when they fell, the coat of arms was revealed in full and proper colour. Many of these competitors use non traditional clay tri-bones that are brightly painted and fired to produce a ceramic tri-bone. These stylized tri-bones do not have the symbols on them, thus are not true playing pieces, but only share the shape. These can run a lot of money to purchase.