Lines of Action

I’d initially wanted to write an article about games that can be played while camping, but instead, I’m going to introduce you to a game that can be played absolutely anywhere that you very likely already have the pieces for (and at the end, I’ll show you an example made with scraps of paper and a pen).

The name of the game, as you may have surmised from the title, is Lines of Action. Lines of Action was designed by Claude Soucie and popularized in Sid Saxon’s remarkable book A Gamut of Games first released in 1969. Lines of Action is an abstract strategy game meant for two players. It uses a standard checkerboard, and 12 checkers of each color.

The premise of the game is simple: all pieces start out on the edges of the board and throughout the game players take alternating turns moving their pieces toward the middle. The first player to connect all pieces of their color on the board in one continuous shape is the winner.

Here’s what the start of the game looks like:

The darker checker always goes first. Pieces can move sideways, up-and-down, or diagonally. To determine how far a piece must move, a player chooses a piece, decides on the line of movement, counts the total number of pieces along that line, and then moves exactly that many squares.

A piece may jump over a piece of the same color, but cannot jump over an opponent’s piece. If a player’s piece would land directly on an opponent’s piece as the result of a legal move, the opponent’s piece is removed from the game.

Here’s an example of play. If a player chose to move the piece at E1 down and left diagonally, they would look at the line connecting E1 and A5, count the total number of pieces (in this case: 2) and move accordingly as shown in the diagram below:

It’s now the lighter color’s turn. Suppose they chose the piece at A3. If they chose to move to the right, they would count the pieces in that line (3) and move accordingly (in this case to D3). Unfortunately, because this move would jump over their opponent’s piece, they are not permitted to perform this action. They instead elect to move the piece at A3 to C5 as illustrated below:

Note, the active player could have also moved their piece from A3 to C1 resulting in a capture of the darker piece at C1, thus removing it from the game, but we’ll let that go for this example.

Play continues back and forth until one player has connected all of their pieces. Here’s an example of the final move winning the game for the player with the darker pieces (C1 to D1):

If a move would simultaneously end in both players’ pieces forming continuous shapes, the game is ruled a draw. This rule was amended in a later edition of A Gamut of Games to give the win to the moving player, but competition rules leave the draw rules in, so I’ve left them here.

Finally, here’s a shot of a game board and pieces I made in about 5 minutes:

And there you have it, a game that can be played anywhere and anytime, including while camping. Games like these can be taught in moments, and last a lifetime.

What lines will you draw, and what actions will you take?

At TAG, we use tabletop games to build communities, strengthen STEM skills, teach story-telling, and lift people up. Want to join us? Visit our TAG Facebook Group or our Tri-City Area Gaming Facebook page. You can also find TAG on Meetup.

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