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.

Generated at 07/09/2020, 14:01 from 8813 logged games.


Representative game (in the sense of being of mean length). Wherever you see the 'representative game' referred to in later sections, this is it!

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 Rating7.73935
BGG Weight2.0526

BGG Ratings and Comments

dbezzantN/AOwned by FallCon Gaming Society - donated by Eastridge Games
Advocator9Wonderful abstract game.
jefflai8Loved it. Tried a prototype awhile ago. Simple. Fun. Elegant.
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.
RandomShuffle9.9DIY version
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).
izimiz7.8Pnp'd. Also very easy to teach, tactical and fun. Perfect 2 player game to play in 20mins with enough "meat" or depth to satisfy.
kochkin93N/AЦЕНА —
jgoyes52020-07-26 Initial Rating: 4.0 (June 2020) Abstracts games are not my cup of tea. I like some of them (like Yinsh) but in general my desire to play them is rather low. I don´t remember why I bought SHŌBU but after I played it, I can say it is better than expected, still it is not a game for me. SHŌBU´s rules are very easy, you can teach them under 2 minutes. Playtime is around 15-20 minutes. The game´s components are very well done and they look great on the table. Gameplay is very simple rules wise, but the game has a lot of depth (as is usual from many/most abstract games). There are 4 boards and both players have pieces on them, the goal is to eliminate the pieces of your opponent in one board. You can move a piece in any direction up to two spaces BUT then you have to replicate the move in another board, and in this second move you can push off pieces off the board. This is very neat and you really need to think through your options. I was surprised to see the 2019 as the published year as the game seems like it has been around for hundreds of years lol! This is obviously on purpose from the publisher and it works IMO. Bottom line, SHŌBU surprised me and I would play it again if requested, however, I´m not into abstract games that much so I already sold it but I think it is a solid abstract game if that´s your cup of tea. Current Rating: 5.0
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
cslinxin5.8游戏性6 体验5 美工7
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.
roccob10First impression was an 8. About twenty games later, my first 10 rated game. Some of the Gipf series are on the same level as far as elegance and sophistication of the game mechanism is concerned, but this one has the added "push" element in the aggressive part of the move that I like very much.
Bojangles20027I 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.
alan_chmiel7Fun game with easy rules. Great For a quick strategy game.
JoeAubrey7A new abstract that immediately feels timeless and classic. I've definitely only scratched the surface on this one.
jeromem8DIY version
celebhir8want to make this actually
DingusN/APnP for now. Suggested for me in my Geeklist.
Lenny47462 Player
Hrothwell9A fun precursor to chess, this strategy game takes quite a bit of thought to master.
DTLibraryN/AShelf 16 C
joshbalvinN/A2p exclusively
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.
dmarsh1989N/AAbstract: 32
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.
cdunc1238Innovative; interesting; elegant. Is there a first player advantage though? I wonder whether Player 1 should just get a passive move for turn 1, not a passive AND aggressive move. (That change would produce a kind of 12*, then). Also, it remains to be seen whether at high level play [url=https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/2423039/endless-endgames]cycles[/url] become a too-frequent issue.
brothervm7.3Interesting little evening-starter for 2-players. I enjoyed the twist on the passive/aggressive actions. Would definitely play it again.
Anakin19815Interesting design but I was not thrilled with this. It's decent for what it is but I don't get the hype for a game you can play using Go stones and having four 4x4 boards. It doesn't even justify the price to pay for this!
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.
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 82.5
magzimN/ASPIEL 19
chromaticdragonN/AUse: King Down
boulderman7Interesting, straightforward puzzle
KubaP8A very good 2player abstract.
codygamer928Very fun abstract strategy game. A very interesting concept for gameplay. I'm quite surprised this was not invented two millennium ago.
gaaloechild6What happens after lets say 50 moves where no pawn is ever captured? Is it a mandatory draw? Does the game keep on forever? A standoff where players can move but no longer threaten each other is a rule situation not covered by the rules as written.
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.
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
Earl of Dukes8A fascinatingly simple game with depths that are completely unexpected. The game just feels like a classic. It offers A great sense of discovery from multiple plays and a easily creates tension between the back and forth with your opponent. The way you have to move your pieces and how you need to react to your opponent forces you to look at the board with a very unique perspective that is tricky and rewarding to navigate.
fess66N/A0920 came across this lil gem of an abstract game. components are just amazing and the game play deceptively simple at a glance
latindog7.5Homemade Version Very cool modern abstract. The inclusion of passive and active moves and the necessity of moving on different boards makes for an interesting game that I will have to explore more.
abstractgamer10With every game of Shobu I play, the game gets better. Beautifully designed abstract and indeed, already a timeless classic.
exorcismo10a real quick brain burner game if your opponent knows how to play.
Twilight Delerium10
Todd Kauk10
eyelashpulseN/A2P only - 30mn Abstract MU
Foxsters8Have a homemade edition but would love to have the official version
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...
ghostofmerlin8I don't usually like these sorts of games, but this one is pretty awesome. It has very simple rules and yet can be a total brain burner. The stones and wood boards are nice, but I would love to have a really nice set. I may make one for myself......
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.
EconaelN/Amake myself
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.
jensheisselN/A2 Players 20 Minutes Age 8+
Johnny Town Mouse9
CDRodeffer8Really enjoyable combinatorial game. I like the two-phased movement.
pedestrianatbest10Thinky and accessible. Everything I want out of an abstract game
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.
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!)
frankqb9Fascinating. Love it!
dtivadarN/AESSEN 2019
Grizzly Archer9
bluebee28very fun game. I like the look and feel of an ancient game even when it isn't. Love the boundless possibilites and that you have to think both offensively and defensively at the same time while planning ahead just a few moves, on four boards.
dpaul77A very interesting game - The unique turn action gives a whole new level of strategies - VERY simple to learn - I DO think the rules could be JUST a bit clearer.
brewsaki6Interesting two player game that has a GO vibe. It's really simple to learn, but also a real head scratcher.
btasam8.5An elegant design that feels like it's been played for centuries. I especially enjoy how SHOBU creates zugzwang opportunities from the dynamic of needing to play both sides of the wood and rope. An enjoyable experience that I want to keep coming back to.
lookitzpancakes7.5I very much enjoy Shobu. Cool concept, very well executed, lovely real stones as game pieces that feel good to handle. The rope doesn't really mean too much but it adds to the aesthetic value. I love that you're playing on all four boards for a win condition on just one board. Occasionally that means that there's not much to do on one or two of the boards because the action is happening elsewhere, so they can sometimes seem redundant. Doesn't really detract from the fun, though. Plus, the state of one board determines what moves you can make on another, so they're never totally out of the conversation. I like it a lot!
squalledd10It's fast 2-players game with depth. The two phases move is so elegant. It really feels like a classic game. Kudos to the designer using actual wood as player board and real stones as stones. The feeling of blocking opponent's movement on their passive board and cornering opponent's last stone so it cannot be moved to safe zone (checkmate) is the same feeling when I play Chess but with shorter and simpler move (All pieces move like a Queen's direction). So satisfying!! This is my second board game received 10 out of 10 from me.
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.
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

Kolomogorov Complexity Analysis

Size (bytes)27313
Reference Size10293

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 second1548.73 (645.69µs/playout)
Reference Size1291320.65 (0.77µs/playout)
Ratio (low is good)833.79

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.

Playout/Search Speed

LabelIts/sSDNodes/sSDGame lengthSD
Random playout1,867105718,03739,098384201

Random: 10 second warmup for the hotspot compiler. 100 trials of 1000ms each.

Other: 100 playouts, means calculated over the first 5 moves only to avoid distortion due to speedup at end of game.

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.

Heuristic Values

This chart shows the heuristic values thoughout a single representative* game. The orange line shows the difference between player scores. (* Representative, in the sense that it is close to the mean game length.)

Win % By Player (Bias)

1: White win %66.22±0.99Includes draws = 50%
2: Black win %33.78±0.98Includes draws = 50%
Draw %0.30Percentage of games where all players draw.
Decisive %99.70Percentage of games with a single winner.
Samples8813Quantity 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.

Levels of Play

AIStrong WinsDrawsStrong Losses#GamesStrong Win%p1 Win%Game Length
Rαβ + ocqBKs (t=0.01s)360036100.0061.1130.11
Rαβ + ocqBKs (t=0.03s)36094580.0044.4454.04
Rαβ + ocqBKs (t=0.20s)36044090.0055.0045.90

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

Draw%, p1 win% and game length may give some indication of trends as AI strength increases; but be aware that the AI can introduce bias due to horizon effects, poor heuristics, etc.


Game length44.82 
Branching factor18.57 
Complexity10^43.90Based on game length and branching factor
Samples8813Quantity of logged games played

Computational complexity (where present) is an estimate of the game tree reachable through actual play. For each game in turn, Ai Ai marks the positions reached in a hashtable, then counts the number of new moves added to the table. Once all moves are applied, it treats this sequence as a geometric progression and calculates the sum as n-> infinity.

Move Classification

Distinct actions528Number of distinct moves (e.g. "e4") regardless of position in game tree
Good moves210A good move is selected by the AI more than the average
Bad moves318A bad move is selected by the AI less than the average
Response distance0.17Mean distance between move and response; a low value relative to the board size may mean a game is tactical rather than strategic.
Samples8813Quantity of logged games played

Board Coverage

A mean of 67.19% of board locations were used per game.

Colour and size show the frequency of visits.

Game Length

Game length frequencies.


Change in Material Per Turn

This chart is based on a single representative* playout, and gives a feel for the change in material over the course of a game. (* Representative in the sense that it is close to the mean length.)


Table: branching factor per turn, based on a single representative* game. (* Representative in the sense that it is close to the mean game length.)

Action Types per Turn

This chart is based on a single representative* game, and gives a feel for the types of moves available throughout that game. (* Representative in the sense that it is close to the mean game length.)

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


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 0% of the game turns. Ai Ai found 3 critical turns (turns with only one good option).

Position Heatmap

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

Good/Effective moves

MeasureAll playersPlayer 1Player 2
Mean % of effective moves60.1353.9366.33
Mean no. of effective moves8.167.189.14
Effective game space10^26.8210^12.3810^14.44
Mean % of good moves9.6212.946.30
Mean no. of good moves1.271.231.32
Good move game space10^5.0410^2.9810^2.06

These figures were calculated over a single game.

An effective move is one with score 0.1 of the best move (including the best move). -1 (loss) <= score <= 1 (win)

A good move has a score > 0. Note that when there are no good moves, an multiplier of 1 is used for the game space calculation.

Quality Measures

Hot turns75.00%A hot turn is one where making a move is better than doing nothing.
Momentum2.27%% of turns where a player improved their score.
Correction22.73%% of turns where the score headed back towards equality.
Depth1.65%Difference in evaluation between a short and long search.
Drama0.79%How much the winner was behind before their final victory.
Foulup Factor18.18%Moves that looked better than the best move after a short search.
Surprising turns0.00%Turns that looked bad after a short search, but good after a long one.
Last lead change-2.27%Distance through game when the lead changed for the last time.
Decisiveness15.91%Distance from the result being known to the end of the game.

These figures were calculated over a single representative* game, and based on the measures of quality described in "Automatic Generation and Evaluation of Recombination Games" (Cameron Browne, 2007). (* Representative, in the sense that it is close to the mean game length.)



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 2 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.