GO – this is the all-time ultimate strategy game for two people. Confucius recommended it as a way to keep your mind alert. It is deceptively simple to learn and if you truly master it in your life-time you are a real champion. Unlike chess, where your pieces are moving around the board, once you place a piece on the GO board it remains there. The strategy is in the placement of your pieces. This is how you can capture opponent’s men and control territory. The person that controls the most territory at the end of the game is the winner. The game set can be simple and inexpensive, paper or vinyl board and plastic pieces (stones) or it can be a beautiful GO table, made of exquisite woods, with stones of slate or abalone. I recommend trying it out on a simple vinyl and plastic set and as soon as you are hooked invest immediately on a nicer set. Part of the joy of GO is the feel of the stones in your hand and the resounding ‘click’ when they are placed on the board. My board was handmade, for me, by an excellent craftsman here in Vermont. The lines are routered, not drawn, and the board has “hollow” cells to provide the wonderful sound as the pieces are placed.
THE HILL – this strategy game, for 2 – 4 people, is not a well-known game. Perhaps it shouldn’t be considered “pure” strategy as dice are rolled to move your men. The strategy is in how you choose to use those moves. I don’t believe this handmade, wooden game is still being produced which is a pity as it is so much fun to play.
TA YU – this is a beautiful strategy game for two players. It is possible to play TA YU with three or four players, but it is best with two or four. The board has great art and the patterns are engraved into the tiles, not drawn. The goal of the game is to create ‘channels’ from the center of the board to the edges of the board. The players score is a result of the number of channels reaching the edge. Each stone covers three squares. Some have exits on three sides of the tile, some exits on two sides and one has three exits all on one side. A stack of tiles is created and tiles are always drawn from this stack and placed on the board. Channels must always connect and a tile may not “cut off” a channel. The game continues until a player cannot place a stone. Niek Neuwahl became one of my favorite game designers when he made this game. It was published by Rio Grande Games.
XO DOU QI – this two person strategy game originated in China. The object of the game is to reach the “burrow” of your opponent across the board. The “burrow” is the center square in the back row. Stronger animals capture weaker ones. The two wavy rectangles in the center represent lakes. They are impassable, except for the mouse, but some animals can jump over them. Moves are always one square in any direction except diagonally. The three squares surrounding the burrow are traps and if you land one of your enemy’s traps any animal, even a weak, one can capture you.
CHECKERS 2000 – If you think you have Checkers pretty well conquered, or that checkers is more a kid’s game… try out CHECKERS 2000. Each piece is numbered. You can use strategy in how you lay out the pieces to begin the game. The goal is to capture your opponent’s #12 piece. Rules are like Checkers in that you may make one move or jump, as in checkers, except that you may only jump pieces that are less than or equal to the piece you are moving. It is quite the challenge!