I have already complained that the majority of board games have non interesting boards, full of straight lines or squares. Games with circular boards (like spiders and flies) are less common, and there are not many games with boards designed on more complicated shapes (like vsadniki).
Today I want to show you a strategy game that makes perfect use from a round board. It’s Ringo
Ringo is a game known in Germany, probably since the beginning of the XX century (and perhaps even in the XIX century). I don’t know much about its history. It’s mentioned in “Discovering Old Board Games” by Robert Charles Bell (well known expert on games). This book was published in 1973, so apparently Ringo already was an old game.
Ringo is certainly a newer version of some older “war games” with element of defending citadel. One player is the attacker and second plays as defender. There are many such games (like Tablut or Hnefatafl). I also met games similar two Ringo but played on a square board with diagonal lines. However, I think original round board of Ringo has a lot of charm.
I warn you in advance that I met with several different sets of rules for ringo. First I describe the most common variant, and finally alternative rules.
Ringo – general rules
Ringo is a board game in type of “war game”, with no random element. Players make moves alternately. One player tries to get to the center of the board. Second players tries to stop him.
Board and pieces
To play Ringo you need a round board with 49 fields. Middle circle is called fortress or Citadel. Other fields are situated on 5 rings divided into 8 pie slices (zones) and are alternately dark or white. Only one zone has fields of the same color. This is Neutral Zone.
Board is shown on the image below.
You also need 7 black pieces and 4 white pieces to play.
At the beginning pieces are placed on board as shown on the image below. 7 black pieces are placed on the edge fields (only Neutral Zone is empty). White pieces are placed on 4 white fields of the the inner ring.
Aim of the game
In the game of Ringo the goal is different for Black and White.
Black wins the game if he can place two of his pieces in the Citadel (central circular field).
White wins the game if he can stop Black from wining (in practice this means he has to capture 6 black pieces).
Because of this, White is called Defender and Black is called Attacker.
Attacker starts the game (the black moves first). Then the players make their moves alternately.
Black pieces (the Attackers) can move one space to the right, to the left or to the front (towards the center of the board). Black pieces may not move backwards (centrifugally). The diagram below shows the possible moves of black pawns.
White pieces (Defenders) can move one space to the right, left, forward and backward (so they can move concentrically and centrifugally). The diagram below shows the possible moves of white stones.
In practice usually all pieces move to the next field of a different color than the field they stay on. The Attacker can not move backwards, Defender can.
Defenders can not enter the citadel (central field of the board).
Only one piece can occupy one field.
Capturing in Ringo is done by jumping, like in checkers. Opponent pieces are captured by jumping over them and landing on the free field just beyond them. White pieces can capture in all directions. Black pieces can’t capture backwards.
Capturing is not mandatory. In one turn only one piece can be captured.
The image below shows an example of capturings made by Defenders.
Although the defenders can not enter the central field of the board, they can capture single black piece standing on this field. Such capture is shown on the image below.
Neutral Zone is of particular importance. Player may not capture pieces standing one the fields of this zone. However, he can attack from the Nautral Zone, and jump to the Neutral Zone as a result of capturing. In the situation shown on the image below we see two black pawns and one white in the neutral zone. All these pieces are safe. One of black pawns standing in the neutral zone has a possibility to capture white piece.
There’s one important rule. Number of Attackers in neutral zone can’t be higher that total number of Defenders on the board. So at start you can not have more than 4 attackers in neutral zone. If a defender is captured, total possible number of Attacker in Neutral Zone is reduced.
There are variations of the Ringo with different rules on Neutral Zone (see below – Ringo variants).
As already mentioned, the aim of the game is to take the Citadel (for Attacker) or defend the Citadel (for the Defender). Taking the Citadel is done by placing two pieces at the central field. Defending the Citadel requires killing attackers or blocking them.
Pieces can move one square forward, backwards or sideways and only Defenders may move backwards. Capturing is done by jumping, but you can not capture stones in the Neutral Zone. As you probably guessed, neutral zone has crucial importance in strategy.
If you read somewhere else about Ringo, you can meet with a slightly different set of rules. I will explain these alternative rules to you. I warn that these different rules may exist in different configurations, and the selection of each of these rules makes substantial changes in the nature of the game.
The board in Ringo is (nearly) always the same, but different variants can vary the number of pieces, the rules of moving, rules of capturing and rules on the Neutral Zone.
List of some alternative rules is presented below
- The game can be played with 5 or 6 attackers (instead of 7).
- The game can be played on a smaller board, having 5 rings around the center instead of 6 rings (the reduced board has 41 fields instead of 49).
- White pieces (Defenders) may have greater possibilities of movement. They can move one field forwards or backwards, and any number of fields sideways (circumferentially). These rule has one restriction – you can’t exceed neutral zone in one move. You can only enter to the neutral zone in one turn and leave it in another turn. In this way the neutral zone creates a barrier limiting the circumferentiall movement of white stones.
The image below shows the possible moves a white pawn according to this rule.
Note: The adoption of this rule does not change moving rules for the Black.
Note II: The adoption of this rule allows capturing from the distance (for white pieces).
- You can adopt the rule that black pieces have the ability to capture backwards, but the still can move only forward in ordinary move.
- You can adopt the rule that you can’t make capture by jumping from the Neutral Zone.
- You can adopt the rule that you can not go out into the central field (Citadel) directly from the neutral zone.
- You can adopt the rule that there can be only one attacker in Neutral Zone.
- You can adopt the rule that a player who plays the defenders (white) has the right to resign from making a move (he can pass).
Adopting some of these rules may significantly affect the level of difficulty the game, the pace of the game and general nature of the game.
Ringo is incredibly dramatic game. It can be very surprising. Pretty soon you will discover how important the neutral zone is for making successful attack. Then perhaps you will discover that it is worthwhile to share defenders on those who defend the citadel and those who have to kill attackers.
A drawback of the game is fluid set of rules and the lack of a developed knowledge about tactics. Don’t worry! Just play Ringo and maybe one day you’ll open the first clubs or you write the first book on Ringo strategy? In the past Reversi was such unknown game, but it gave the basis for othello. Such underdeveloped games can be the beginning of something great 🙂