Game of Stones – a look at the Japanese game Go

Game of Stones – A look at the Japanese game Go

Go – The Surrounding Game

This article is the first in a series that will feature once or twice a month where we will teach you about Japanese games, we start with the board game ‘Go’. Go have traveled far and wide and is known by different names. In China it is called Weiqi, In Japan Igo, and in Korea it is baduk. Go is an abstract strategy two-player board game with the aim to surround more territory than the opponent. It is known as the Surrounding Game.

Its origins lie in China, and it was invented there more than 5,000 years ago, one of the oldest (perhaps the oldest) board game that is still played today. Some believe that the Chinese emperor had one of his counselors design a game to teach his son the skills of discipline, focus and balance, and that is how the game started. The earliest written reference to the game dates back to the 4th century. When it was imported to Japan it became a game of the noblemen and the samurai.

Go stones and board

Go stones and board

The rules of Go are very simple, yet the game is complex, filled with possibilities. The board is larger than a chessboard, and the moves have far more possibilities than chess. The game is played with pieces called ‘stones’. One player uses white stones and the other black. These stones are played on the board, which has a 19 x 19 grid of lines. Don’t let that scare you, as beginners usually start on 9 x 9 and 13 x 13 boards. The game’s objective is simple; you use your stones to surround a larger area of the board than your opponent’s.

A typical Go game in process

A typical Go game in process

Unlike chess, where your pieces have the opportunity to move ever turn, in Go your stone may not be moved once it is placed on the board, but when a stone is captured (surrounded by stones of the opposite colour) it is removed from the board. The game continues until neither player wishes to continue a move or when a player resign, then at the conclusion the territory captured is counted on each side, as well as the captured stones and komi (which are points added to the score of the ‘white stone’ player as an compensation for playing scond) to determine who won the game.Go (or Igo) can be seen as a battle, two warriors of the stone playing their ‘men’ or stones in a battle to surround each other and conquer territory. It truly is a Game of Stones.

Here is a video that explains a little more about Go and how to play the game. Please follow our link:

If you love manga or comics, and want to learn more about Go while having fun we suggest you read Aji’s Quest. Here is a breakdown of the story: Crittervania, a fantasy kingdom where Aji, a Young quoll on a journey to become a Go Master. He goes in search of a Master named Tenuki. After finding Master Tenuki, being tested by the master and taken on as pupil, he is sent on a perilous journey up a mountain to play a legendary game of Go, all part of his training. And of course the journey to the top is never easy, a nice lesson taught to all of us as well, since it takes time and practice to become better at Go.

This is all part of an amazing cartoon series inspired by the game of Go. There are many things happening from a bug doing a scene that reminds one of a scene from the Titanic movie to Aji being haunted by the hundred and eighty ghosts of clams (yes clams). It is quite hilarious and even educational at the same time. To read the cartoon, follow this link:

There is a nifty little mobile app for beginners who just started to play Go and teaches the game in an easy and interesting way. In the game there are cute cartoons that aid you to understand subject matter easily. The app features basic as well as advanced problems and it tests, as well as analyses, you and your abilities and helps you improve on your game! It also features a practice and play mode.
So if you want to try out the game or want to get a friend interested in the lovely game of Go, here is a great help that is free to download on your mobile. Here is the link, so go and get it and have fun!

Join us again next week where we will share the misconceptions about Go and anime and movies that feature Go. Any suggestions, opinions or requests especially about Go, please mail us at