Let us begin our exploration of the game classic Abalone (recently re-released by Foxmind) by paying particular attention to the rule that: the winner is the first player to push a total of SIX of his opponent’s marbles off the board.

So, already you’re intrigued – marbles, marble-pushing, pushing marbles off the board, a board you can push marbles off of into. And then there’s the number six (6). I stress this number because, after thorough investigation, lasting conceptual days and actally maybe a couple entire hours, with fewer and fewer marbles and the way the game can go on and on and on, it stops being fun. Unless of course you remember that you’re supposed to stop playing the game as soon as soneone has eliminated six of his opponent’s lovely large, shiny, black or white marbles.

Marble-pushing. Pushing one or two or three of your marbles in a line, to the next space. Marbles resting in hexagonal sections of a hexagonal board, with marble-size channels linking the hive-like cells. Making it possible to push even four, or possibly five marbles (three of yours and two of your opponent’s, because to push your opponent’s marbles you have to have more than he does, and since you can’t push more than three of yours, it stands to reason.

I think the game designers (Laurent Levi and Michel Lalet) wanted you to know that this one’s going to be fun. Marble-pushing. What an interesting, fun thing to do especially with beautiful, large, glass marbles. So black and white. So back and forth. So tempting to make up your own variations in which you can push let’s say up to five of your marbles, which would mean up to four of your opponents, because it’s just so much fun to move all those marbles in a row.

O there are rules. Surprisingly complex rules governing how many marbles you can move, when you can’t, how far, each of which add yet another possible variation to explore, once variation-exploring is what you’re into.

In sum, don’t forget: six pieces and the game’s over! Maybe seven. Maybe three.

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