I have never been a fan of abstract games. In fact, it says something that Abalone is the first one that I have played more than once or twice and it is not solely because it is loosely based on Sumo wrestling. The idea of the game is to push the opponent's pieces off the edge of the playing area. That doesn't sound spectacular but it is the way this is done that gives the game its high interest level and parallels with sumo.

Abalone comes in a hexagonal flat box which contains rules, a plastic base and thirty large marbles, fifteen each in black and white. The two players set up the marbles in three rows and alternate in moving single marbles one space or moving complete 'rows' of two, three, or four marbles either forward, backward or laterally. The key is that you can push back a lesser number of your opponent's marbles at the same time. ie a row of three can push two, four can push three. Rows of four are immovable. Eventually, you or your opponent will be unable to escape the attack and a move will push a marble off the edge. Play continues until five marbles are lost and games are usually close.

The tactics and potential moves that develop are amazing. Lines of marbles advance across the board and various attacks are possible. The rows can be 'cut' by a row coming in laterally and defense can turn to attack in no time. There are so many ways to play and win the game that I am sure it will become a classic. My only comment is that as each players become more proficient, the game can slow up and stalemates can result. I would therefore suggest a chess clock if you have one. Highly recommended. Abalone is published by Abalone Games of France and costs around £20. Mike Siggins.

Sumo - Mike Siggins