Abalone is a 2 player abstract strategy game. Some say it is a classic, some say it is far from this and is in fact flawed. Here's a run through for the uninitiated...
The board is a hexagon split into indentation in which large marbles sit. Each player gets 14 marbles and arranges them opposite their opponent. The rules are extremely simple; each player takes it in turns to move 1,2 or 3 marbles 1 space in any direction, although if a multiple is moved they must all be touching and must all move in the same direction. If 2 or 3 are moved along the line (As opposed to appearing to march sideways) and they come up against any opponents marbles, they can push them so long as they outnumber them; hence 2 of my marbles can push 1 of yours and 3 of mine can push 1 or 2 of yours. In this way, opponents marbles can be pushed off the board. The first to remove 6 opponents marbles wins.
First thing to say is that this is a beautiful game that looks fantastic on a coffee table. Mine is out as an ornament it is so nice (Although my young daughter thinks that parts of it are edible...)
Can the game be varied? Yes, there are a variety of starting positions that can be adopted (Visit www.abalonegames.com for more) and the game can also be adapted to incorporate more players. There is actually a separate 3 player version.
What is good about the game?
Simple, beautiful, clever, free from luck and quick. This is an excellent example of purely abstract strategy game(As opposed to a more themed game such as any of the Lord of the Rings offshoots)
What is bad about the game?
A mismatch in skill levels can leave a bitter taste in the mouth, although that is true for all pure strategy games. There is some discussion as to whether the game tends towards stalemate. (This is built on two premises: lone marbles and lines can be attacked and the edges are risky. Thus, a position of strength is a tight cluster in the centre. If one person achieves this cluster, they are unlikely to break out of it as it leaves them open to attack, yet they are pretty much impregnable.) My arguement on this issue is that this is true only if 1 person achieves this situation. I wouldn't say that this is a flaw big enough to say that the game is broken, just a loophole. You could argue that a primary aim is to attempt to achieve this situation for yourself whilst attempting to stop your opponent from achieving it.
Is the game worth playing?
If you like abstract strategy games, yes. One comment that has arisen here though is the comparison issue. A friend who is an avid chess player commented that it was good, but why play abalone when he could play chess? I disagree with this statement (There are lots of games that are similar, but if they offer something different then they are worth playing) but I have heard it from a number of people. I would say that this is a criticism of abstract strategy games in general held by a large minority of people.
Is it worth buying?
In my opinion yes. I would buy it just for its looks, and I think that it is a clever, simple game that makes you think spatially better than most games.
Is it a classic? I don't see the relevance of the question; classic or not, it's a good game. Don't be put off by it's current sub 1000 position on the ratings list; remember, Risk is down there as well, and check out the raging support that that game gets...
- Last edited Wed Jun 8, 2005 2:09 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Fri Mar 11, 2005 4:21 pm
There is a third premise behind the center-clump strategy: your opponent cannot push you if you have three in a line. And if you are in a bunch in the center, you can keep three along many lines, and can easily reinforce any line which is threatened, so it is very difficult for your opponent to find an opening to push you in any direction in a useful way.
All it takes to show that the game (with the standard setup) is broken (not only flawed, but broken), for anyone who claims otherwise or is unsure, is to play a game against one who adopts this strategy. It is trivially easy for a player playing this strategy to win against one who is not.
Please see my Sumo analogy.
Simple, beautiful, clever, free from luck and quick.
The game is simple, beautiful and free from luck, but it is broken and lasts forever, hence not quick nor clever. For clever players, it is indeed a very dull game.