Game History - Abalone
Abalone Online is an award-winning two-player abstract strategy board game designed
by Michel Lalet and Laurent Lévi in 1987. Players are represented by opposing black
and white marbles on a hexagonal board with the objective of pushing six of the
opponent's marbles off the edge of the board.
The game is arranged similar to Chinese checkers but without starting spaces and
with a "moat" around the edge of the board. Players start with 14 marbles instead of
10, there are only two "colors", and the starting arrangement is different. But the
game also uses a hexagon with marbles and 5 pits on each edge.
Abalone was published in 1990 and has sold more than 4.5 million units. The year
it was published it received one of the first Mensa Select awards in New York, New York.
It is currently sold in more than thirty countries.
Abalone Game Tactics
Advance quickly toward the center.
In a 1991 article for an Abalone players' newsletter, Wayne Schmittberger, the
former editor of Games Magazine, explains that marbles in the center are much safer,
and can move around more easily than ones near the edge. He recommends trying to occupy
the center to pressure your opponent to keep his or her marbles near the edge.
Divide and conquer.
Try to separate the opponent's marbles into two or more groups. Smaller groups, he
reasoned, are easier to push back and trap against the edge of the board, and
ultimately to push off of it.
The Blob technique.
Tyler Capp, a Los Angeles-based Abalone virtuoso, suggests massing all of your
marbles together in a ball-like shape, sort of like the formation that Maximus had
the gladiators form to fight the charioteers in the movie "Gladiator." While you
lose some mobility this way, it's harder for your opponent to push your pieces
around. The goal is to cause your opponent to break up his or her pieces and
scatter them around the board, which will enable you to cordon off one or two
pieces at a time and push them over the edge.
Attack from the side.
If you're being overpowered from one angle, or you'd like to do that to your
opponent, Capp suggests attacking on the flank rather than straight on. "For
example, you have two pieces against his three, and he's about to push you over
the edge, then knock out his piece that's directly adjacent to your two. " If
done from the side, you'll now have three pieces against his two, and can
perform a sumito.
Aim to be the first player to eject five marbles.
Early on in the game, you should play conservatively, and concentrate on
keeping your marbles in the center rather than moving toward the edge in order
to knock off a marble or two. But as the game progresses and you establish
strategic control over the center, you need to become more aggressive. If you
can get five of the opponent's marbles first, the game becomes much more
difficult for him or her, because any wrong move can lead to a potentially fatal
Wherever your marbles are next to your opponent's, carefully consider the
effect of each possible push. Pushes tend to create many new possibilities for
each side, since as many as five marbles can change position at once (when three
marbles push two).
Think twice before pushing an opponent's marble off the board.
Early in the game, it is usually more important to keep your marbles in the
center than to move them toward the edge in order to eject a marble or two. (If
you fall behind 2-0 or 3-1 in pushing off marbles, you can easily catch up if you
have the move central position.) And if an opponent's marble has no way to escape,
don't hurry to push it off, as you will usually have a more important move to make
Don't waste time trying to link up isolated marbles with your main group, unless
you can do it in just a move or two.
When you're not sure what to do, look for your least useful marble(s), and try
to improve their positions.
The more marbles that have been pushed off the board, the more
important it is to gain the lead in marbles.
Although a strong central position is more important that ejecting marbles early
in the game, the opposite is trow after each side has lost three or four marbles. If
your marbles are badly scattered around the edges after you have pushed off six of
your opponent's marbles, it won't matter!