| © 2002,|
|11 holes per row|
55Stones was invented in the night before All Saints Day 2002 by Ralf Gering in Kusterdingen, Germany. The game was originally meant to be a candidate of the Simultaneous Game Design Competition sponsored by About Board Games and Abstract Games magazine in 2002/2003, but when the inventor became a member of the jury, he withheld the game. 55Stones (originally spelled 55 Stones) was first published in the Yahoo! forum mancala games on February 7, 2004.
It was added to Super Duper Games on October 21, 2006.
This mancala game is rather unusual:
- It is one of the few one-rank mancala games for two persons along with atomic wari and sowing.
- All moves are performed simultaneously, which is otherwise only known from agsinnoninka, a traditional Philippine game. However, unlike agsinnoninka all moves are performed at equal speed (starting and ending at exactly the same time) and all decisions are made in turns.
- The pie rule is used, which is primarily known from connection games to make the game fair.
Unlike many modern mancala games 55Stones is a multi-lap game.
55Stones is played on a one-rank mancala board which has 1x11 holes.
Also, each player has a cup which serves as a store for the stones he captures. The players called West (or Blue on Super Duper Games) and East (or Red) sit at the distant ends of the board and the cup is put on the right side, respectively. Each hole has initially 5 stones. Altogether, you need 55 stones to play the game.
East starts. Each move, one player takes the contents of one hole in his hand, then the opponent must take the contents of another hole in his hand. The player who decides first has sente (a Go term), the other player has gote.
You may only take the contents of a hole which at least contains two stones.
Then both players simultaneously distribute the contents of their chosen hole towards the opponent. The stones are distributed one by one. In each step one stone is dropped simultaneously while players count together and aloud "one, two, three, four, ..." for each step done.
If the last stone is dropped in a non-empty hole, its contents are taken (including the stone you just dropped there) and simultaneously distributed together with your opponent in the following holes, if the opponent still has stones in his hand. A hole is also regarded as "non-empty" if the opponent has just dropped a stone into it.
Each step is defined by dropping exactly one stone. Lifting up stones from a hole is not considered a step.
If a stone is dropped into an end hole, the direction of distribution is changed 180 degrees, that is, you continue in the opposite direction.
If a player decides in his first turn to take the contents of the most distant hole, he must move towards himself.
If the last stone of both players is dropped into the same hole or in empty holes, the move is over and nothing is captured.
If the last stone is dropped into an empty hole, the player says: "Stop!". He then wins all stones which his opponent still has in hand after he completed this step.
A player keeps sente, if nothing was captured. If something was captured (no matter by whom), the player who had gote gets sente now.
After the first stones have been captured by reaching an empty hole first, the player who had sente decides if the board is turned 180 degrees ("pie rule"). This action changes the player's color, Sente/Gote and the ownership of captured stones.
This new pie rule was suggested by Clark D. Rodeffer and officially replaced the old pie rule on May 11, 2007. The old rule stated that the game can only be swapped after the first pair of simultaneous moves whether stones were captured or not. However, an extensive analysis of all 110 openings showed that this was unfair to the second player.
The game ends when simultaneous moving is no longer possible.
If nobody could move anymore, the stones which remain on the board are captured by the player who had Gote in the last move of the game. If there is still one hole on the board which could be moved (ie. contains at least two stones), the remaining stones are captured by the player who would now have Sente.
The player who captured more stones has won the game. Draws are not possible, because the sum of all stones is odd. However, it is not known if never-ending moves exist or the board position could repeat indefinitely.
If you play the game for the first time, you can put just three stones in each hole.
The rules for captures are reversed. The player who has still stones in his hand when his opponent reaches an empty hole captures these stones. The player who has emptied the last pit at the end of the game, loses all stones that cannot be played. The "old" pie rule is used, i.e. after the first pair of simultaneous moves the first player decides whether he wants to swap or not. This game was invented on November 7, 2006.
The simultaneous play causes many unusual techniques. An empty hole can be protected by reaching it first.
It is a disadvantage to have sente at the start of the game.
The endgame is often decisive so that a good knowledge of sente and gote is important.
|East has Sente and plays B (marked light grey). How can West win the game?|
Note: The cups are called A to K from left to right in the diagrams.
- Gering, R.
- (2004) 55 Stones (one-rank Mancala!), email to Mancala Games maling list (firstname.lastname@example.org), 7 Feb.
- 55Stones game between Mark Steere and the inventor (2006).
Solution to the 55Stones Problem
g! - West sacrifices three stones and gets Sente. As only one cup can be played, he wins the remaining eight stones and thus the game with 27 : 28 points.
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