Abalone is one of those few, elegant, easy-to-learn, two-person strategy games. What makes it among the very few is a method of movement unique enough, and fun enough, to make playing the game a new, and utterly absorbing experience. Since utter absorption is the point of playing, Abalone is the kind of game the Major FUN Award was created for.
The movement principle? Knock your opponent clean off the board. How? By pushing a bigger row of marbles into her.
As you can kind of see from the picture, the board is made up of a hexagonal honeycomb of holes. Marbles rest on the holes. If you push a marble into any one of the six possible directions, and there’s another marble or two or several in front of it, all the marbles move at the same time. Just pushing a row of marbles is kind of a fun thing to do, like the fun things you do when you’re just playing with marbles. It’s an even funner thing when you push a row of your marbles into your opponent’s. And it’s defnitely funnest when one of your opponent’s marbles drops off the board as a result.
Abalone has been around since 1988. It’s been around long enough to create an international following. And that following has followed long enough to develop an active online community along with a collection of highly playworthy rule variations.
For the non-Macintosh many, there’s an online version. But nothing beats the delight of watching your opponent’s jaw, and her last marble, drop into the pit of sweetly meaningless defeat.