The 24 Puzzle and Game of Seven Sleepers

24 puzzle and game of seven sleepersPublished in 1891, along with the game of Seven Sleepers, the 24 Puzzle challenges a player to find a way to move 8 pawns from one side of an 8×8 checkered board to the other side.  This must be done in 24 single or multiple moves.

My favorite sentence within the instructions for the 24 Puzzle informs a player that an answer for the challenge isn’t provided.  The instructions state, “We do not furnish the ‘KEY’ because the fun consists in finding it.” 

Although I wonder what someone, who was frustrated with the puzzle and wanted to know the answer, thought when they read that, the line reminds me of Mark Twain’s quote found on this site’s home page.  This quote is also written in The Whistle Pig’s armchair treasure hunt book’s preface. It is:

“If there wasn’t anything to find out, it would be dull.  Even trying to find out and not finding out is just as interesting as trying to find out and finding out; and I don’t know but more so.” ~ Mark Twain

No matter how challenging achieving a goal may become, it certainly seems there is a philosophy of knowing there is fun, and a huge value to a person, in trying to obtaining it!  This should never be forgotten.

I love adding games and puzzles of this nature to my collection.  Like the Knight’s Tour, I enjoy bringing them down off the shelf once in a while to remind me of the prize in finding a solution.  It also helps me remember that even if a solution isn’t immediately found, it remains there to be discovered!  Which is just as wonderful!!

The 24 Puzzle can be played by using any 8 pawns on any 8×8 board.  To begin, position all 8 pawns on the front line.  These pawns are then transferred to the other side’s front line by exercising the following two methods of movement:

Single move:  A pawn is moved from one square to another, diagonally.

Multiple move:  A pawn is moved by jumping over another pawn, one at a time, in any direction, over any number of pawns (diagonal or straight).

To win, a player must transfer all 8 pawns from the front line of one side to the other side, in only 24 moves.  Can you do it?

The puzzle was copyrighted by E.I. Horsman (Edward Isemon Horsman) in 1891.  Horsman began a toy company in 1865 and later expanded into producing games.  His company is most famous for introducing the game Halma.  This game employed movements of pawns like the movements used in the popular game of Chinese Checkers.  Chinese Checkers was invented in Germany (not China as the name seems to suggest) in 1892 under the name ‘Stern-Halma’ (Stern is German for Star and Halma is Greek for Jump).

A person taking up the challenge of the 24 Puzzle will soon realize he needs to engage the strategy of jumping over pawns like the games of Halma and Chinese Checkers utilizes.

Sure it is tempting to look at the answer to a challenging problem when struggling. I suppose Horsman knew a player would be cheated of the sense of accomplishment if an answer was seen, and so guarded against any weak moment of a player’s frustration to just look at the answer.  And as the instructions relate and what is often most important; ‘it is the journey, not the destination.


Best of luck with whatever you seek!


1891-Seven-Sleepers-game-board-and-pieces-300x225Directions on how to play Seven Sleepers:

A specially marked 8×8 (64 squared) checkered board, which indicates starting positions for two players, and spaces for the seven sleepers, is provided (shown right).

Game pieces include 8 red colored pawns, 8 blue colored pawns, and 7 yellow colored pawns.  The pieces of 8 belong to the two ‘active’ players and are placed on the nearest row (first row) to each player.  The seven yellow are the ‘sleepers’ and are placed on middle points of the gridded board at the start of the game.

The sleepers are to be captured by the players, during play, and taken from the board.

The object is for players to capture the majority of the sleepers, AND, then place all his men (in correct order) on the starting positions of his opponent.

Movement of pawns is the same as for the 24 Puzzle.  Additional rules are as follows:

Once a player has crossed the central line, he cannot go back across it.

Sleepers are captured when either player jumps a yellow pawn during a single or multiple move.  Since the sleepers are at junctions of the squares, they can only be captured by a diagonal movement, and not rectangular/straight.

The game will be considered a tie if the player without the majority of captured sleepers places his men in his opponent’s starting positions before his opponent.

So, the only way a player can win is if he captures the majority and is the first to occupy his opponent’s position.

It is a great old game to play today!


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6 Responses

  1. astree says:


    It is fascinating, thanks for showing us another of your collection. How many of these types of games do you have in your collection? I’m getting an image of a shoe rack in your closet, filled with games instead of shoes, lol. For myself, a pair of sneakers and a pair of dress shoes is plenty, I’d much rather have the games. Also, do you ever browse antique stores or flea markets, looking for old games?

    Is this a single player game? Why the term “seven sleepers”? Are seven ‘sleeping’ while one moves?


    • astree says:

      I am just now seeing the “Directions on how to play…”. Somehow missed that entire section when I first read this article. That section answers my last three questions.

      Thanks, Jenny.


      • Jenny Kile says:

        So sorry astree…, no, no 🙂 you didn’t miss it…….I just added it to answer your question. Because I wanted to provide a picture, I thought that was the best way to do it. I was going to then reply, but you beat me to it.

        So the box includes the two games. When playing 24 puzzle you just ignore the yellow spaces, which are where the seven sleepers go and are part of the two player game.

        To answer your other questions.

        I wouldn’t say I have ‘thousands’ because I don’t think I have over 2000, YET. However, I know I can easily say ‘hundreds’….I’m glad you enjoy them. I so love them and collect them wherever I can- all places that you mention and more (estate auctions, clubs, etc.).

        It is not just the closet filled with games… is the house….lol…. let’s say we feast on games! Which since we have renovated the dining room into a ‘library’ to display some of the numerous games (with the books that inspired them)…is actually quite accurate…lol.. but we feast everywhere.

        I have a game site I had been sharing my game collection on. However, I am combining the sites and moving the collection here. Collections are treasures….any one who collects understands this and so I’m going to begin sharing them here.

        Thanks astree….

  2. Raul says:

    Choose what your unique classes are, place the binder collectively causing loads of pages in every category and fall the deals to the

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