Ishido: The Way of the Stones logo

Publisher: Accolade Price: £24.99

The Way of the Stones is an enigma that appeared though the mists of time some 30 years ago. Boards of 96 squares, 12 across and eight down, were discovered by archaeologists in several parts of the globe within a few years of each other. Places as far apart as northern England, Egypt, the Israeli desert, the Nepalese Highlands, Japan and Central America revealed similar boards from quite disparate periods of time.

During the ensuing years scholars managed to link the boards with a philosophical school. However, it was not until an anonymous Taoist monk delivered an ancient scroll and set of 72 stones to the first person he met, that the mystery could eventually be unravelled. So the story goes! Even without the history, Ishido is a remarkable game - the strategy of chess with the simplicity of ludo.

The 12 x 8 board is divided into two areas. The Beyond is simply the outside squares and are darker in colour than The Within - the centre 54 squares.

Ishido opens with six pieces already in place, four on the corners of The Beyond and two in the centre of The Within. The next piece to be played is shown at the top right corner of the screen in an area called The Touchstone.

Before indicating the location of the next piece on the board, two factors have to be considered - its shape and colour. A stone can only be placed next to another provided there is a link with the shape and/or colour. This is how points are amassed.

Any stones placed in The Beyond do not score, their importance is strategical. Four types of stone match provide the points - single-sided match, two-sided match, three-sided match and a four-way. The points score double for each side of a match, beginning with one for a single-sided to eight for a four-way.

The Pouch contains the 72 stones available in each set. Once these have been used or there is no possible match the game ends and the winner is the one with most points. At any point during the game you can click on The Pouch to discover how many stones remain.

To prepare yourself for the complete challenge there is a one player option available. If you feel confident you can also play the computer. But be warned, it may look as if it is being careless placing a lot of stones in The Beyond, but will inevitably come back at you with a four-way - I know to my cost!

You may also use the game in two-player mode against anyone good enough to warrant your skilled attention.

There are eight pre-defined boards and stonesets to choose from. In days of yore, Ishido players always carried their own stonesets. If they won a match then it was their right to destroy their opponent's set. An editor to design your own set will allow that personal touch to the game. The editor is extremely user-friendly. Stonesets are designed by selecting a basic shape and then creating your own images and colours. Once you are happy with the design, you can then save to disk for later use.

Ishido will surely become one of those classic and timeless games. It will doubtless take only a minute to learn bt a lifetime will be required to master its subtleties and the idiosyncrasies of your opponents.

Ishido: The Way of the Stones logo

Accolade £24.99 * Mouse

When the Chinese weren't inventing gunpowder, poetry, wall building and outrageous punishments for minor misdemeanours they were inventing games. Not cricket, or nine-man's Morris, no they came up with Ishido: The Way of the Stones.

It's a puzzle game involving 72 coloured stones being placed on an 10 x 6 squared board. Additional rows and columns don't help you score points, they merely provide a border useful for strategic moves. The scoring part of the board is "The Within", while the non-scoring section is known as "The Beyond". You also get bonus points for using all your stones.

It's not as simple as whacking stones down willy-nilly. You have to place one stone next to another, diagonals do not count. You also have to match patterns and colours so stories correspond on at least one of these aspects. There are thousands of ways of doing this but only a few ways of scoring big points.

A Lying Priesty Scores
Getting a stone onto The Within will score one point. Getting a two-sided match gives you two points, a three-sider earns you four, and the magic four-way makes eight points. Scoring a four-way opens the route to loads of points. The second four 'er makes 25 points and this works up to a twelfth which earns an astronomical 50,000 points. Anyone who managed 124-ways is either lying or is a 15,000 year old Chinese priest.

There are several ways to play. In hermit-like solitaire, you play a board on your own. In a tournament, a number of pals take turns to play a board each, trying to get the highest score. The third option is a two-player challenge, in which you and a friend (or the computer) take turns to make moves on the same board. Finally, there is a cooperative mode where you and friends gang up on the machine.

Three elements allow Ishido to lift its digital head above the board game: firstly, you can create stone-sets using the on-board editing facility. This is a challenge in itself and should not be taken lightly. Secondly, when making a four-way a pleasant jingly noise is heard and four stars appear on the golden pieces. Thirdly, there's the Show All Possible Positions option. This doesn't help with strategy but gives you a glimpse of positional play.

As a game of strategy Ishido appears to have one major flaw, and this can be irritating for the first few plays: it involves an element of luck. You have no idea which stone is coming up next. However, the more you play the more you realise placing the stones you do have is more important than knowing what you've got coming to you.

Very Chinkie
It's all very Zen, with an element of Taoism thrown in and that's enough philosophy for a while. In practice you have to play extraordinarily positionally to achieve anything you would apply to chess, or eve Go, with both of these you know what you have to play with. Nope, this calls for blind forward thinking and getting your brain around that alone is worth a few hours with the Stones.

Der Steinchenkönig

Ishido: The Way of the Stones logo Amiga Joker Hit

Egal ob Macintosch-, PC- oder Gameboybesitzer - bei der Frage nach dem Denkspiel mit dem grösßten Sucht-faktor sind zur Zeit wohl alle einig. Jetzt werden endlich auch wir Amigianer in den Kreis der Ishido-Abhängigen aufgenommen!

Vom Spielprinzip her ist Ishido ungefähr das Gegenteil von "Shanghai"; Anstatt die Steinchen von der Spielfläche zu entfernen, muß man sie hier möglichst alle darauf unterbringen.

Genauer gesagt müssen exakt 72 Steine auf insgesamt 96 Feldern abgelegt werden. Und zwar so, daß benachbarte Steine sich in Farbe und/oder Form decken, wobei man durch Viererkombinationen noch ein paar Extrapunkte herausschlagen kann.

Zu Anfang (solanger Screen noch halbleer ist), geht das natürlich alles noch kinderleicht vonstatten - dafür wird's aber gegen Ende umso kniffliger! Es sei denn, man hat sich rechtzeitig ein paar Gedanken über die richtige Strategie gemacht...

Ausgestattet ist dieser simple aber höchst fesselnde Tüftelspaß geradezu luxuriös. Einzel-, Team-, Wettkampf- und Turniermodus, historische oder moderne Regeln, ein echtes Orakel als Ratgeber, verschiedene Spielfelder plus Editor, Tages- und Alltime-Highscores, und noch vieles mehr.

Die Grafik ist eher von schlichter Schönheit, Sound nur minimal vorhanden. Aber das macht überhaupt nichts aus, denn das, worauf es hier wirklich ankommt - Spielidee, Handhabung, Steuerung - zählt zur absoluten Spitzen-klasse. Ishido ist mehr als empfehlenswert, Ishido muß einfach jeder haben! (mm)

Ishido: The Way of the Stones logo

Accolade/Amiga/£24.99/Out Now

Amiga reviewPaul: Described as "the way of stones", Ishido is more like "the way of options". There are two different scoring systems, loads of different styles of board and stone (plus an editing section for you to create your own board) and competitive, co-operative or solitaire play options. If you can come to terms with all these options then the game itself will seem positively straightforward. Not easy mind, just straightforward.

The purpose of Ishido is to match stones by either design or colour. Much like dominoes, really, except if you are trying to match against two stones, one must match by colour and one by design. The ultimate achievement is a four way, where a stone is matched on four sides: two sides by colour, two by design. The advantage of a four way is that it earns you not only money but also a chance to consult the oracle about life, love and the way of stones.

Despite some of the colours being a little similar, Ishido is a well designed game. Attractive to look at and easy to operate, it does not take long to get started. Stopping is more of a problem.