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 mistake.
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 elsewhere.
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!