Kensington (game)

Kensington gameboard illustration showing rhombitrihexagonal tiling

Kensington is an abstract strategy board game devised by Brian Taylor and Peter Forbes in 1979, named after London's Kensington Gardens, which contains the mosaic upon which the gameboard is patterned. It is played on a geometrical board based on the rhombitrihexagonal tiling pattern. The objective of the game is to capture a hexagon by occupying the six surrounding vertices. The game maintains an elegant simplicity while still allowing for astonishingly complex strategy. The placing and movement of tokens have been compared to Nine Men's Morris.

Board

The gameboard geometry is based on rhombitrihexagonal tiling and consists of a combination of seven regular hexagons, thirty squares, and twenty-four triangles. Each player can win on the two hexagons of their respective colour. Additionally, there are three neutral hexagons across the centre of the board which either player can win on. The board is composed of 72 total vertices where tokens can be located. Once all the tokens have been placed down, the board reaches about 42% saturation.[citation needed]

Gameplay

The two players, Red and Blue, alternately place tokens on the intersections of the board until each has placed fifteen. Thereafter they alternate turns sliding a single token along a line to an adjacent vertex. Successfully occupying a hexagon of one's own colour or a neutral white hexagon during either the placement phase or movement phase achieves victory.

If a player occupies three adjacent vertices forming a triangle, he is entitled to relocate one enemy token. This is called forming a mill. If a player occupies a square (called a double mill), he may relocate two enemy tokens. Forming a triangle and a square simultaneously only allows two relocations, not three. A player may immediately move a token out a mill and reform the mill the following turn. Indeed, this is a very common and allows a player to consistently form a mill every other turn.

Strategy

Once a player forms a mill, a common strategy is to sequester relocated tokens into a jail where they cannot form mills. Here Red has jailed four of Blue's tokens.

There is debate in the Kensington community as to the relative advantage of placing first or second. The player to place second also gets to place last which is a definite advantage because that placement cannot be directly countered. This advantage is offset by the other player being able to move first in the sliding phase. Most beginning players will find more success placing second.

Red can move a token back and forth creating a new mill every turn. This is a powerful configuration which will quickly give Red control of the game.

Often, the player who makes the first mill is able to scatter the opponent's tokens and win without difficulty. However, a skilled player may be able to recover from an opponent's mill. Relocated tokens can group together to form a mill across the board from their original locations. A popular strategy is to use one's tokens to form "jails" where the opponent’s relocated tokens are sequestered and unable to form mills or hexagons.

Defense is very difficult thus much the game revolves around being first to secure a mill. The game often ends soon after the first mill is formed. A very powerful configuration is to be able to move a single token back and forth between two spaces creating a mill each turn. This results in certain victory.

Marketing

In a business venture parallel to Trivial Pursuit in Canada, the British inventors set up their own company to make and publish the game. This attracted a fair amount of press attention at the time and Kensington picked up a UK Game of the Year award. Attention for the game was short-lived and the game is now out of print, however secondhand copies are readily available online.

1979 edition

A 1979 edition was sold in a package resembling a double-LP album. The front part had a cut-out showing the centre of the one-piece non-folding gameboard which could be slid out of the sleeve like an LP. Rules were printed on the inside and the rear side showed the authors playing the game on the steps of the Albert Memorial. In the rules the authors offered a prize of £10,000 to the first person to find a position in which neither player of a two-player game could move.