55 Stones

Official Description of 55Stones

(Please do not change the following description!)

55Stones was invented in the night before All Saints' Day 2002 by the cultural anthropologist Ralf Gering (M.A.) in Kusterdingen, Germany. He also created numerous other mancala games, e.g. Afrika (2004), Geisterfahrer (2004), Pas de Deux (2004), Progressive Mancala (2004), Rondell (2005) and Kauri (2006). 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! group "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, all decisions are made in turns. Unlike Agsinnoninka and other traditional mancala games with simultaneous moves (e.g. Sungka, BarĂ©), 55Stones is a game with complete information, thus proving that Cohen's statement "simultaneous play is a strict subset of games with hidden information" (Abstract Games Magazine 16, p. 2) is incorrect, if only the execution of moves is simultaneous and at equal speed.1
  • The pie rule is used, which is primarily known from connection games to make the game fair.
  • Unlike many modern mancala games 55Stones is game with multiple laps which makes it for beginners often difficult to predict the outcome of a move.


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 end of the first simultaneous move of the game, 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.

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.


  • 33Stones. If you play the game for the first time, you can put just three stones in each hole.
  • 55Stones with Capturing Rules Reversed. The player who has still stones in his hand when his opponent reaches an empty pit with his last stone, captures the stones in his hand. The player who could empty the last pit at the end of the game, is losing the last stones that cannot be played. This strange game was created by Ralf Gering on November 7, 2006.

Author: Ralf Gering


The simultaneous play is the cause for 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, but towards the end it becomes more and more an advantage.

The endgame is often decisive so that a good knowledge of Sente and Gote is important.

55Stones Proverbs

"Be careful picking up huge cups!" (Aaron)

"Masters don't play moves if they don't know where they end." (Borrowed from Bao)

"A palace is a burden!" (Palace = A cup with many stones)

"A palace will decide the game."

"Sacrifice plums for peaches!"

"Many a little will make a mickle."

"Give your opponent what he wants!"

"Distant water won't help to put out a fire close at hand!" (Borrowed from Go)

"Sente gains nothing!"

"Don't follow proverbs blindly!" (Borrowed from Go)

"Proverbs only apply to weak players!" (Borrowed from Go)

See also

Talk Page

  • This feedback style is perfectly acceptable, although I'd prefer a slightly different url format. If there are no objections, I will change it to /games/stones/talk instead of /games/talk:stones in the next few days. — ac.snotlad|noraa#noraA 06 Nov 2006 12:54
    • That's fine. Just go ahead. Ralf
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