Miles Kington: Zudokwu, favourite game of the Mongol hordes

The Mongolians were not short of skulls, and used them as a primitive form of ball to play with
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The Independent Online

Readers who have kept faith with this column over the years, thinking that if they persisted long enough something exciting was bound to happen in it, are about to have their faith rewarded.

Readers who have kept faith with this column over the years, thinking that if they persisted long enough something exciting was bound to happen in it, are about to have their faith rewarded.

No, I have not bought Manchester United. It is a great deal more exciting than that.

Today I am introducing into the column the great new game that everyone is talking about - Zudokwu!

Go into any bar or pub in the country and the odds are that everyone will be saying to each other: "What's this great new game that everyone's talking about?"

And the odds are that the other person will say back: "I don't know what it is, but I had heard it was really great, and so I went into the shop this morning to ask for a newspaper that had got it in, and do you know, they hadn't got one!"

And do you know why? Because they didn't buy The Independent, and didn't turn to my column, that's why!

That's right - this is the only place in the British press where you can play the great new game that everyone's talking about.

That's Zudokwu.

But what is Zudokwu?

Zudokwu is an ancient Mongolian game, played by the Mongolian hordes as they swept in from the East to conquer Asia and as much of Europe as they could manage to overthrow before they became decadent and opted for the quiet life.

The Mongolians travelled fast, and travelled light, on their well-trained, strong, hardy horses.

They were in the saddle all day long, and half the night. So of course any game they played had to be something you could play swiftly, play easily and play on horseback as you travelled, or even as you fought against the fearful tribes along the route.

Not chess, then.

Not bridge.

Not any board or card game at all.

On horseback?

Be serious!

Did they play I Spy, then?

Theoretically possible, of course, except that the Mongolians were mostly illiterate, and wouldn't have known what letter anything started with.

Quite apart from that, there was very little to see in the featureless plains across which the Mongolians swept on their fast little horses, so there wasn't much to spy. I spy with my little eye, something beginning with H. Horse? Well done, right again. After all, what else was there to spy? Except perhaps Moustache, Horde, Yurt and Skull?

Yes, one thing they were not short of was skulls! In fact, the Mongolians used them as a primitive form of ball to play with, and would often throw one from horse to horse, catching it and throwing it back.

And that was how Zudokwu was born.

To make skull-throwing more difficult, riders would point to a certain part of a pattern on their cloak and say, "See if you can drop the skull on this little square here!" and if you threw the skull on the right place, you won the game, got to kill the other rider and to take his horse.

People very often kept the heads of people they had beaten at Zudokwu and, when they were dry and sun-cleaned, used their skulls to play Zudokwu with, as they were reckoned to bring luck.

And now it's your turn to play! Using the square printed in today's column, take your skull back eight feet away, or the width of two Mongolian ponies, and try and land it plumb on the square. Take it in turns till one player wins.

Remember, loser sacrifices his life.

Winner should buy tomorrow's Independent, in which I'll be bringing you a differently sized square to play Zudokwu with.

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