Full Report for SHŌBU by Manolis Vranas, Jamie Sajdak

Full Report for SHŌBU by Manolis Vranas, Jamie Sajdak

Make a passive move on one of your home boards, followed by an aggressive move on a board of the opposite colour.


Your turn is in two parts. First, a player may move one of their stones up to two spaces in any direction, including diagonally, in what is called a passive (or set up) move. Second, they take a more aggressive move, which must be the same direction and number of spaces as the first move. It is this second move that allows you to push stones across the board - or off the board's edge. Remove all four of your opponent's stones from just one of the four boards to win.


General comments:

Play: Combinatorial

Components: Board

Level: Standard

BGG Stats

BGG Rating7.88834
BGG Weight2

BGG Ratings and Comments

mccoll137.52 pl, 15-30min, 8+, abstract strategy, (8) Price-20-30
mrraow8Interesting passive-active mechanic that feels a little like patting your head while rubbing your tummy! Plenty of drama and sudden reversals, and I still have very little idea how to play :)
motoboyN/AI'm going to try to make a set
Gnomekin8A wonderful example of an abstract that has simple rules but lots of possibilities. It has a short enough time stamp to not overstay its welcome. The four by four boards mean you are always in each other’s faces so the conflict kicks in immediately. I’m sure it can be theoretically solved at least by a computer but o could have years of play out of the game before that’s an issue.
Kaizen Zanshin8Jan/20 - Excellent little 2 player game. This rewards a person who has played quite a bit of Chess by using the same mindset. Rating 8.
candoo8Based on 1 play - very preliminary rating. The best abstract since the GIPF series games. (Though not as top tier as Dvonn, Yinsh, or Tzaar). By its own self description, it indeed does have the feel of a classic design that gives it the impression it’s been around for several hundred years. Minimalist components which are simplistically elegant, natural and earthy (wood, stone, and rope). However gameplay is very thinky as there are 4 boards to think about. One early concern is potential start player bias.
bcurfs9This game is a fantastic abstract strategy game that should be in everybody's collection. It has some shared features with abalone; in both games you need to push stones / marbles of your opponent off the board. The move mechanic requires some getting used to at first, but in the end it's the multidimensional feel of the game that keeps it engaging. Beginners will be challenged to become familiar with the move mechanic and the dynamic board states that feel chaotic at first. More advanced players will love the frantic quest to retain flexibility and the feel of a mini sokoban puzzle that ends in pushing just the correct 4 stones off one of the boards or getting stuck (by defeat). Instant replay is inevitable.
AndySzy7Pretty interesting abstract. Sort of feels like playing mirror chess on four boards. I liked it, and it felt like it hurt my brain a bit. Would be interested in playing again (or maybe creating a copy with a chessboard and some river stones).
bm62627.4I should make my own copy of this.
martipa29I like the way you have to switch your thinking while playing this - it´s a pretty good and challenging game...
Aiken Drum9
JustinRRizzo9Folks rating this anything lower than 7 are not true abstract fans.
keithjt7Best Player Count: 2 Genre: Abstract Strategy Weight: Light Play Time: AP Dependent, Short to Medium [c] Player Interaction: :star::star::nostar: Components: :star::star::star: Aesthetics: :star::nostar::nostar: Replayability: :star::nostar::nostar: Turn Wait Time: :star::star::nostar: Rule Quality: :star::star::star: Box Organizer: :star::star::nostar: Fun Factor: :star::star::nostar: [/c]
ELink2kN/AGen Con 2019
CosmoVibe8Rules are insanely simple, lots of strategy involved. There's a bit of analysis paralysis because even checking the space of possible moves 1 or 2 moves ahead is very tricky. Some tips: losing the game early can snowball into a loss very quickly. Try to keep control of your own board and attack the enemy boards.
rattkin8Very compact and well designed 2p game.
Bojangles20028.2I love abstract games, and I am happy to own this one. Very chess-like in my mind. Definitely AP-prone, but beautifully constructed with great depth of strategy. Need to play someone of similar skill level to have a balanced game. All in all, seems "timeless" - one that I will still have and be playing years from now.
Andy Parsons7Four separate boards; push your opponent's four stones off just one of them. What makes Shobu feel very novel is its passive - aggressive turn structure. A move on one of the boards nearest you, in which you cannot push an opponent's stone, is followed by the same move on one of the opposite coloured boards in which an opponent's stone can be pushed. One of the keys to the game is to keep options for a range of moves open, while denying them to your opponent. Another is not to fall into the trap of focusing on just two boards. Shobu is certainly a clever and further plays may deepen my appreciation of it. I quite like the game's look, as though it has been crafted from off-cuts of wood, stones found on the beach and a bit of rope. The rules seem clear.
Sgt62e9I absolutely love this one. It's fresh yet feels like a game Henry VIII might have played.
JoeAubrey7A new abstract that immediately feels timeless and classic. I've definitely only scratched the surface on this one.
munchkinloser75Not overly interesting abstract strategy game.
mattdehlingerN/A2P Abstract strategy game with stones and four chess boards
jeromem8DIY version
Purrceys6Beautiful abstract strategy game with very clear rules. It feels like a classic. However, it is NOT a game for 2 players who have very different forward visual spatial planning abilities. When I play it with my husband, he can see multiple moves far ahead of me and therefore always wins. Boring for him and frustrating for me. Therefore we sold our copy and the rating isn't as high it would be otherwise. However, if the 2 players have similar levels of visual spatial planning abilities, It is excellent and I'd highly recommend it.
celebhirN/Awant to make this actually
Hrothwell9A fun precursor to chess, this strategy game takes quite a bit of thought to master.
DTLibraryN/AShelf 16
jtakagi5The game kind of works, and is challenging, but I have a kneejerk reaction to several elements. The components are kind of nice, but coupled with the faux-Japanese name and theme, it just feels like it's trying to be something classic without having the actual challenge to really be a classic abstract.
Maglinkinpark9Just a killer pure and simple abstract. The new reprint components are excellent and I’m SO down to play this game literally anywhere
Roe_Serik9Shōbu is a great abstract. Simple rules, lots of interesting strategy. I've only played it a few times thus far but am really enjoying it.
DMountford8Have actually played this a bunch. But it's the sort of game I don't think to record. Lovely to look at, quite challenging to play.
GregkiraN/AGencon 2019
Dracilic6.5Super interesting abstract strategy game. I'm sure I'll never play this game enough to really get great at it since it appears super deep but it's a lot of fun.
reaper373N/ADigital & physical
brothervm7.3Interesting little evening-starter for 2-players. I enjoyed the twist on the passive/aggressive actions. Would definitely play it again.
Verecundus9Excellent abstract game. Liking it more and more with each play so far. Simple rules while still being deep, and a beauty out on the table.
MogarvinN/ATabletop best games 2019
Planet Pusch GamesN/ANew to Library RinCon 2020 Envoy Herald Game
cowchip77What I like in an abstract game: quick, simple rules, interesting game play, beautiful components.
Alteffor9For such a quick game, this abstract maintains tensions and hits hard with consequences at each turn. Love the wooden board and the stones. Feels punishing and thoughtful, like the best of them. Rating is tentatively 9, will see how it trends after a few more plays.
boredbeyondbelief6Nothing wrong with this. It has lots of nice, crunchy decisions. But it’s too crunchy - because it’s perfect information with the only change of board state being caused by the other player. Which means you have to start going down those decision trees. I’m not a fan of abstracts that you win by outthinking your opponents. So this might be a great game, but as it’s my rating, it’s just not going to be that high.
BastardCafeN/A1 180.4
magzimN/ASPIEL 19
nisanchez7BGG Con 2019
boulderman7Interesting, straightforward puzzle
KubaP8A very good 2player abstract.
Rontuaru7Something about this game feels suffocating. It does not evoke the free-minded feel that games like YINSH or Go do for me, or distant cousins like Samurai, Blue Moon, and Through the Desert. In those games, I feel liberated, like the world is my oyster and I can portray my personality through the abstracted play. In SHOBU, and perhaps this is by design, I feel like I'm playing a cat-and-mouse-checkers-plus game. It is an elegant design, but I do not feel like it is tapping into the areas of my gaming mind that equate play with fun. I have only played this twice, but I feel my rating could just as easily rise as it could fall, with further exploration. (+) Novel as all get-out, with a contentious give and take tone that keeps you engaged (+) Offers opportunities for subtle diversion and mindgames (+) Terse playtime (-) A feeling of constriction rises as you play, rather than the more appealing open-endedness of other abstracts I favor (-) Ends with a whimper, rather than a bang (-) Room for long-term strategy is limited
sdrewthomson7.5This seems like a super intelligent design for super intelligent people. It's basically like playing four games at the same time, and all four games are connected to each other. I would need a lot more plays to become better at it. I still can't wrap my mind around how to play well.
codygamer928Very fun abstract strategy game. A very interesting concept for gameplay. I'm quite surprised this was not invented two millennium ago.
gaaloechild6Warning! This game lacks two rules: What happens if a player has no legal move? Or both? What happens after lets say 50 moves where no pawn is ever taken out? Is it a mandatory draw? Does the game keep on forever?
grid8Picked this up at Gen Con 2019, and played it about 6 times over the course of the con. Really enjoying it.
Senor Swanky10I played this for the first time the other night and my mind was blown. This is a game of very few, simple rules, but the strategy is very deep. The temptation is to overly focus on one or two boards, but to win you have to be aware of what is going on on all four boards. One of the best perfect information, abstract games I've ever played.
rgm1357N/AJen and Eric
moriarty9This game is pure abstract elegance. I don't think I know another game which achieves the same depth with as simple means. You can make this game yourself, but the guys inventing this really deserves your money.
briatharen7rated 2019*20 // rating: 7 // plays: 1 2019-11 // rating: 7 // plays: 1
starshipb9.4Played 8 games tonight, easy to learn, brain burning to execute
Sandmanx828.5I love abstract strategy games and this one is a great new take on that genre. I love how you have a passive board that can't touch your opponent's pieces, and an aggressive board that can, and your move has to impact both boards on your turn. I also love how my passive board is my opponent's aggressive board, and vice versa. Such a cool new game. I really enjoy it.
abstractgamer10With every game of Shobu I play, the game gets better. Beautifully designed abstract and indeed, already a timeless classic.
Qumpelblase8.5Wow- ein Spiel, was durch seine bloße Präsenz auf dem Tisch schon für staunende Blicke und Bock auf spielen sorgt. Und das, obwohl dem Hobby-Heimwerker schnell der Gedanke kommt "das hätte man eigentlich auch selber basteln können" und die Steine und der Strick zwar schnieke aussehen, die dunklen Holzplatten aber genauso siffig aussehen, wie mein Terrassentisch, der seit zwei Jahren Wind und Wetter ausgesetzt ist. Trotz kleiner Mängel überzeugt das Spiel mit seinem einfachen, aber irgendwie schicken Look. Und spielerisch? Auf der Spielschachtel steht "Beautifully Challenging"- und genau die Beschreibung passt. Das Spiel ist unheimlich elegant und wirkt einfach wie ein königliches Pendant zu Schach. Die Züge sind zwar taktisch und es qualmt auch der ein oder andere Kopf, aber man hat nie das Gefühl, dass das Spiel zu anstrengend ist. Schön ist vorallem, das das Spiel von Anfang an vor sich herplätschert (im positiven Sinne) und direkt in den ersten Zügen die ersten Steine vom Brett fliegen. Und obwohl ein Spieler in Führung ist, kann es gut sein, dass der andere Spieler ihn überlistet und einen geilen Zug auspackt. Wie taktisch die Züge wirklich sind und wie viel Zufall dahinter steckt, weiß ich noch nicht genau- aber mir gefällt Shobu richtig gut.
Twilight Delerium10
Mozzik7This is a fascinating abstract game with good production values. It certainly captures the feel of being a "classic" abstract and it gets very thinky while also being simple to teach and learn.
Todd Kauk10
Sparticuse9Reminiscent of Onitama which is one of my favorite games.
bnordeng7SHŌBU creates the opportunity for deep thought in an abstract game. In my 3 plays, I couldn't determine if it "felt" deep because it requires thinking about 3 or maybe all 4 boards at once to determine feasible and helpful moves. Keeping track of the combos between the boards is tricky. The question is if it's just tricky or a very deep, thoughtful game. It felt like the latter, but more play is needed to get a better feel. That would be worth it as SHŌBU seems to deliver a heck of a quality, abstract experience. I want to play this game more.
dancdow10The best abstract strategy game this year. Get this game, you won't regret it.
BeldVanguard9An incredibly simply, yet super deep and complex strategy / puzzle game. By turn 3-5, you have that "Ohhhhh wow" moment as you see everything that game opens up (and everything you misplayed already) Any strategy game fan, abstract or not, will love this game
aznsaiyan10299Very good abstract game. And this is coming from a go player who played for years. Nice multi direction thinking that brings the beauty of the game. My one tiny nich is that there is a stalemate in the game like a ko situation in go. My friend and I got into a board situation where 3 of the boards had only 1 stone left for each of us, at that point there is no way for anyone to win...
Redward5Dull as dirt
mlvanbieN/AI played this as the prototype 'Sumo Stones'. With the prototype copy it was hard to remember which pieces you could move, but this lovely production should solve that problem. Definitely worth playing again using a proper set.
GeekwayN/AFinefield, MM, 11-08-2019
kalchio8.5"Overall, I think Shobu is quite fun! Naturally, as I've said elsewhere, I'm a huge sucker for abstracts, but this has a nice sense of minimalism to it that reminds me of Othello (with less bold green felt). The component quality is also very nice, as they really did get some nice stones and some very pleasant boards. The end result is an abstract that's got a really nice table presence, which is always a good move for a game. While it's very easy to set up and I suspect with experienced players it plays quite quickly, this is a game that's going to be a bit of a struggle for newer players. The flow isn't quite intuitive. That's not bad; it's just the product of a lot of observation (and learning myself). New players struggle a bit with connecting the available passive actions and the available aggressive actions into one fluid turn, and the game doesn't offer much in the way of visual aids or guides to make the process easier (beyond the different board colors, which does help).  Either way, if you've got a patient teacher I think the game really takes off once players totally get what to do, which is always a nice outcome. You're left with an interesting abstract that does a great job with the components it has (without taking up a ton of space). To that end, yeah, I think Shobu is a lot of fun, and if you like abstracts, you may enjoy it too!" For my full thoughts, check out https://whatsericplaying.com/2019/11/11/shobu/
JerryThorpeN/AAbstract Strategy Games
SageClock9Played twice at Origins, and immediately picked up a copy. Excellent quick abstract where you have to fight your natural tendencies to focus on only one board, since you risk ignoring another board in danger. For the win you likely set it up a turn or two in advance with seemingly innocuous passive moves that the other player didn't catch. Very satisfying, very thinky. Already giving it a high score, but I might even increase it with more plays.
Ayanami77Ivy9This one could be an all timer. What a wonderful abstract. The best since the GIPF series easily.
arcplayer9The components make this feel ancient. The passive move setting up the aggressive move for another piece reminds me of selecting the movement card in Onitama. I will play this any time.
rayzor68I like it for the reason many like it: you are constantly flittering around the board looking for stuff to do with your simple action. It is very well done
Johnny Town Mouse9
Renno8.831Need to try
mnemonicuz8Amazing abstract game! The opportunities you create by moving your pieces are beautiful. The same goes for the symmetrical movement you do with your pieces. So many great and creative ideas are in this one. Way more than meets the eye!
ericbinnyc8SHŌBU took me completely by surprise when I demoed it at Origins with Curt Covert. It is one of my new favorite abstract games to play — I prefer it to both Tak and Santorini. More of my thoughts on it here: https://www.punchboardmedia.com/home/2019/8/5/the-cardboard-hoard-review-of-shbu
unionrodent9Fantastic abstract that rewards planning ahead.
longhunterN/AHomemade version.
Michael WardN/A08/18/19 Made my own set. Then I played about 15 games solitaire over the next 4 weeks. Enough to see I like the game. 09/15/19 I now see no reason to buy a boxed set. What I've made is good enough. I will rate the game after I play it a few times with a live opponent. I do find it odd no one has posted any strategy or tactics tips yet.
AlcuinusN/AV good 2 players abstract game
elclarkey6Interesting abstract concept that felt a little underwhelming after play.
FirestormInk10This is one of those games that after I played it for the first time I spent the next two days thinking about it and what moves I could have made. If you like abstract games, you'll love this one.
gr9yfox8Shobu is a fantastic abstract game. The goal is to push all the opponent's pieces from one of the four boards. Here's the twist which makes every decision tricky and painful: first you make a move on a board, then you have to repoduce it on another. Only the SECOND move can push the opponent's pieces. This means there are several layers to this. As the game progresses you'll see possible moves be closed off or opened, which can naturally be used to plan ahead. There are no safe places until some of the positions get blocked. (Caught a glimpse of it online and seemed really intriguing so I reproduced it with components with other games. Created a fan even before the game is out!)
redbeardbermanN/AHandmade - tile and glass
frankqb9Fascinating. Love it!
Scarecrow414N/A2p 15-30m 8+
dtivadarN/AESSEN 2019
Grizzly Archer9
saintames8Such a simple premise with huge depth of strategy. The passive / active movements are so clever. Probably won't see much airtime given 2 player and my SO hating abstracts....shame.
SoFarBehindN/A2 player.
brewsaki6Interesting two player game that has a GO vibe. It's really simple to learn, but also a real head scratcher.
btasam8SHOBU is a wonderfully designed abstract with satisfying tactility of knocking another stone off a wooden platform. With more plays, SHOBU feels deeper; planning moves in advance and taking into account what moves your opponent cannot make. Very enjoyable.
qswanger9So, this game is not even released yet and I am already crazy over it. I printed up my own boards (files section here), used some glass beads, and have managed to rope a few people into playing. Wow. This is more interesting than would first appear from reading the rules. Seems like there is a danger for this game to devolve into some sort of stalemate-ish type of position, but the boards manage to diverge pretty quickly and then you have some tough decisions as to where your priorities should be. And it’s not easy at all to read out! Got two copies pre-ordered.
pezpimp6.5I love my abstracts and to me the rules should be simple and the game play should really make you think especially due to the interaction between the players. This game somewhat meets that criteria. The rules are extremely simple as you move one piece and then make a matching movement on the opposite side, but only the second movement can attack your opponent as you aim to knock all their pieces off of one of the tablets. Once you get the hang of it it becomes a little short and too simple, not enough variety, but for a 15 minute game it is still worth playing.
CHRISDH8*8* (Initial Plays) Good abstract with room for clever play and positioning. Performing mirror moves on another boards adds a whole other element to abstract. The components are great as well.
infomage27N/Afor piracy only

Levels of Play

AIWins vs prev levelDrawsLosses#GamesWin%
Rαβ + ocqBKs (t=v0.01s)360036100.00
Rαβ + ocqBKs (t=v0.03s)36054187.80
Rαβ + ocqBKs (t=v0.07s)36064285.71
Rαβ + ocqBKs (t=v1.48s)360124875.00

Level of Play: strong beats weak 60% of the time (lower bound with 90% confidence).

Kolomogorov Complexity Estimate

Size (bytes)28140
Reference Size10403

Ai Ai calculates the size of the implementation, and compares it to the Ai Ai implementation of the simplest possible game (which just fills the board). Note that this estimate may include some graphics and heuristics code as well as the game logic. See the wikipedia entry for more details.

Playout Complexity Estimate

Playouts per second1986.70 (503.35µs/playout)
Reference Size605803.60 (1.65µs/playout)
Ratio (low is good)304.93

Tavener complexity: the heat generated by playing every possible instance of a game with a perfectly efficient programme. Since this is not possible to calculate, Ai Ai calculates the number of random playouts per second and compares it to the fastest non-trivial Ai Ai game (Connect 4). This ratio gives a practical indication of how complex the game is. Combine this with the computational state space, and you can get an idea of how strong the default (MCTS-based) AI will be.

Win % By Player (Bias)

1: White win %69.65±2.92Includes draws = 50%
2: Black win %30.35±2.77Includes draws = 50%
Draw %0.50Percentage of games where all players draw.
Decisive %99.50Percentage of games with a single winner.
Samples1000Quantity of logged games played

Note: that win/loss statistics may vary depending on thinking time (horizon effect, etc.), bad heuristics, bugs, and other factors, so should be taken with a pinch of salt. (Given perfect play, any game of pure skill will always end in the same result.)

Note: Ai Ai differentiates between states where all players draw or win or lose; this is mostly to support cooperative games.

Mirroring Strategies

Rotation (Half turn) lost each game as expected.
Reflection (X axis) lost each game as expected.
Reflection (Y axis) lost each game as expected.
Copy last move lost each game as expected.

Mirroring strategies attempt to copy the previous move. On first move, they will attempt to play in the centre. If neither of these are possible, they will pick a random move. Each entry represents a different form of copying; direct copy, reflection in either the X or Y axis, half-turn rotation.


Game length51.46 
Branching factor18.24 
Complexity10^49.12Based on game length and branching factor
Samples1000Quantity of logged games played

Move Classification

Distinct actions528Number of distinct moves (e.g. "e4") regardless of position in game tree
Good moves222A good move is selected by the AI more than the average
Bad moves306A bad move is selected by the AI less than the average
Samples1000Quantity of logged games played

Change in Material Per Turn

This chart is based on a single playout, and gives a feel for the change in material over the course of a game.


This chart shows the best move value with respect to the active player; the orange line represents the value of doing nothing (null move).

The lead changed on 8% of the game turns. Ai Ai found 9 critical turns (turns with only one good option).

Overall, this playout was 56.90% hot.

Position Heatmap

This chart shows the relative temperature of all moves each turn. Colour range: black (worst), red, orange(even), yellow, white(best).


Table: branching factor per turn.

Action Types per Turn

This chart is based on a single playout, and gives a feel for the types of moves available over the course of a game.

Red: removal, Black: move, Blue: Add, Grey: pass, Purple: swap sides, Brown: other.

Unique Positions Reachable at Depth


Note: most games do not take board rotation and reflection into consideration.
Multi-part turns could be treated as the same or different depth depending on the implementation.
Counts to depth N include all moves reachable at lower depths.
Inaccuracies may also exist due to hash collisions, but Ai Ai uses 64-bit hashes so these will be a very small fraction of a percentage point.

Shortest Game(s)

No solutions found to depth 6.





White to win in 5 moves

Selection criteria: first move must be unique, and not forced to avoid losing. Beyond that, Puzzles will be rated by the product of [total move]/[best moves] at each step, and the best puzzles selected.