In the realm of Critical Thinking and Strategy games, it is easy to get lost in the deluge of fun and intensive games. However, amongst the cream of the crop games found on the shelves at Marbles, Abalone stands above the rest for sheer cognitive rigor and strategic complexity.
One of my favorite aspects of Abalone, as opposed to many other strategy games, is the number of directions in which players must think. Most other games, chess included, are predominantly played in two directions; most of the action is concentrated in moving forward and backwards, with a little side to side thrown in the mix. Abalone, however, forces players to pay attention to six different directions at once, allowing for the subversion of an opponent’s strategy by simply sideswiping the attack. Another wonderful characteristic of Abalone is how quickly players must adapt their strategies; the multi-dimensionality of the game actually makes this possible. Once an opponent has successfully countered an attack, it is simple for a player to redirect the game’s momentum along a different line.
Not only is it a very fun game, but Abalone also provides players with a strenuous mental workout. The fast-paced adaptability of the game forces players to utilize and strengthen their attention and concentration skills. As the board’s layout continuously shifts, players must continuously follow it and adapt their strategy accordingly. Another benefit that comes from playing Abalone is developing strategic planning abilities. Much like in chess, experienced players will learn how to foresee the affects of their moves to plan ahead, anticipating their opponents and capitalizing on the outcome. With both the frequently fluctuating board and the high need for strategic fore-planning comes the need for mental flexibility; just as quickly as plans form, they can be destroyed by an opponent’s single move. Players must keep on their toes and continuously adapt to their game plans to come out on top.
All in all, Abalone provides players with a complex and versatile cognitive challenge. Its multi-dimensional board provides several directions in which to focus attacks, but also provides multiple fronts that must be defended. Abalone is also a fast-paced game, in which every move alters the board’s layout, forcing players to get mentally limber and ramp up their concentration. Abalone stands among the competition as a highly enjoyable and heavily demanding strategy game.