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Date: 28/06/2016 

Alchiks – Tabas game

Sometimes in our daily life we forget that we are here today because thousands of generations were here before us. Despite thinking that we are now very different from them, actually they were not much different from us. The world, in general, is not different from one place to another as it may also seem.

We all, adults and children, like to play. And this was always like that.

There is a traditional game, widely extended and quite popular, which curiously we both, Kyrgyz and Spanish people, share. In Kyrgyzstan it is called “Alchiks” and the bones are named “Chüko”. In Spain it is called “Tabas” referring to both-the game and the bones themselves. The real technical name of the bone is “astragalus”.

It´s a game which dates back to very old times, when the bones from the knee joints of lambs were used. These bones are small and compact, with 4 different sides which allow their use like marbles or dice with different probability for each side, not like with dice whose probability is the same for each side.

The registry of this game is deeply lost in history. It is indeed much earlier than the dice. Finally, it´s easy to understand that it was something accessible and easy to get for societies based on nomadism and shepherding as traditionally were Spanish and Kyrgyz people.

It is an entertainment for children and adults. It is game of luck, reflexes, skill and strategy with several possibilities and variants.


The Kyrgyz case appears even in the epic Manas, which we referred to in the previous article. Its use is also extended in countries like Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan or Uzbekistan.

In the Spanish case, it seems it was introduced in Spain by the Romans who had learnt this game from the Greeks. The Greeks got this game from the Egyptians who had the most antique registry available. The Spanish on their side took it into Latin-America and today it is also quite popular in countries like Chile or Argentina.

Historically, the astragal of lamb was also used in fortunetelling arts and rituals, throwing several bones to the air and studying the position of the fallen bones. Even it has been used as a weapon, because for example the Romans tied astragals to the extremity of the whip tails to inflict more pain during whipping.

Big personalities in history like the Roman emperor Augustus, the Greek philosopher Socrates, or the famous khan Genghis Khan played this game. A passion that was shared by the kings and the commoners, played both by men and women independently of their sociocultural status.


Only among different variants that we studied in Spain and Kyrgyzstan, we could document more than 20 variants or different games, each one with its own rules and a different number of astragals. Some are almost the same or similar in the both countries.

Sometimes it is required that an astragal be painted in a different color, normally red, or at least, one of the sides. Other games require additionally a little ball or a marble.

Because one has to incorporate skill and luck, it drives to betting. In many places there are matches or championships moving big amounts of money and passion.


Actually in Spain, a business initiative started to distribute colored plastic astragals to make it popular again among the youth, entertained by technological and individual games, with the aim to recover the tradition and socialization which this game implies.

A Kyrgyz business initiative started the production and distribution of packages with traditional borders containing 15 astragals and the rules of the 4 most popular games, which can be purchased as a gift or souvenir. They are even thinking of their production in plastic.

Those initiatives are a wonderful way to keep alive those traditional games in a world dominated by audiovisual entertainment and video games.

We summarize therefore the different positions of the astragals and their most popular names both in Kyrgyzstan and Spain. Even if the names vary significantly depending on the country, the region even the game, those are the most recognized ones:

Cara (Side) Сторона Kirguistán (Kyrgyzstan) Кыргызстан España(Spain) Испания

If you would like to see a video in English of some of these games, you can go to the following link:

We predict a long life for this common game, and we have been thinking of an Alchiks or Tabas championship between the two countries to strengthen the common nexus as well as many others to maintain our brotherhood.


Nexes, Games, Culture, History
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