Lines of Action

Lines of Action is a board game, of the same general type as Chess, Go, or Othello. LOA was invented by Claude Soucie, and described in A Gamut of Games by Sid Sackson
Latest Changes: (Last modified  Oct 4, 2003)
Eighth Annual Email Tournament is in progress..
Online Play at LudoTeka.com!


Table of Contents

How to Play
Where to play
Variations on the basic Rules
Puzzles and Problems
Loa Tournaments
Sample games: Commented Uncommented
My notes about the LOA
Wish List & Treasure Hunt
Staying In Touch, and other resources
Computer Programs
About The LOA Java Applet 

How to Play

Standard Loa Board
  • Equipment: An ordinary checkerboard is all that's needed. 
  • Initial Setup: in the standard version of the game, the black checkers are placed in two rows along the top and bottom of the board, while the white stones are placed in two rows at the left and right of the board. 
  • the Object of the Game: is to move your pieces until they are all in one connected group. Diagonals are considered to be connected. 

The Rules of the game

Board showing action lines

Here is a typical board position, with the legal moves for one of the black stones marked. If you are using a Java enabled browser, this diagram is a real board! You can click on any piece to see its legal moves. Click at the end of any move arrow to move there. 

  • Black moves first 
  • Each turn, the player to move moves one of his pieces, in a straight line, exactly as many squares as there are pieces of either color anywhere along the line of movement. (These are the Lines of Action). 
  • You may jump over your own pieces. 
  • You may not jump over your opponents pieces, but you can capture them by landing on them. 

the "fine print" rules

  • If one player is reduced by captures to a single piece, that is a win for the captured player. 
  • If a move simultaneously creates a win for both the player moving and the opponent, the player moving wins. There are actually quite a few Unusual endgames which are at least theoretically possible. 

A normal endgame position

 
A typical Endgame
Here is a typical finished game, where black has just won the game: 

Where to Play

As of this moment, there are four places to play anytime, anywhere.

Method #1 is to play at home.

That's right, corral some like minded soul, dig a checkerboard out of the closet, and actually meet. In person. That's the best way, and always will be.

Method #2 is to play by email

Richard's PBeM Server serves many types of board games, including LOA. The offerings there include an off site archive of the games played. To get started playing, send mail to pbmserv@gamerz.net. with help as the subject, or check out the PBEM web site.
Play by Email is not as clunky as it sounds. The server maintains the state of the game, a ratings system and so on. Each message during a game includes an ascii picture of the game state. You can (of course) use a real board or one of the LOA programs to provide a better view.   Also, a graphic for games in progress can viewed at  this site and once you locate your game, it can be bookmarked.
 

      A B C D E F G H 

   1  . o o o o o o .  1
   2  x . . . . . . x  2
   3  x . . . . . . x  3   Ohs rrognlie  12
   4  x . . . . . . x  4
   5  x . . . . . . x  5   Eks ddyer     12
   6  x . . . . . . x  6
   7  x . . . . . . x  7
   8  . o o o o o o .  8

      A B C D E F G H 

A public game database at Accessdenied.net keeps track of players who are actually interested in playing LOA, and many other games. The database is rather sparse now, so register, to fatten it up.

Every October, there is a tournament is played using the server.  For results of the previous and current tournaments, consult the tournaments page.

Method #3 is to play by snail Mail

Through the auspices of  The Knights of the Square Table (or this alternate), the world's largest play by mail club. You have to be very patient, of course. Most of the active players I've located, and most of the available material about strategy, tactics, and variations, originates with NOST members. NostAlgia, the NOST newsletter, has apparently published quite a few articles about LOA.

LOA by snail/email is also organized by AISE (Italian Association of Chess Variants). AISE seems to operate mainly in Italian (no surprise there!) so details in English are sketchy.

Method #4 is to play your against your computer

Right here, right now. You and Me.

Method #5 is to play a human opponent, on line.

As of November 2001, LudoTeka, a new multi-game site, features Lines of Action as one of its games.  The site is java based, and interfaces are available in several languages.  As usual with new sites, it has yet to reach critical mass, so the best way to get a game there is to schedule a rendevous with an opponent.

Special events

Consult the RealWorld page for other, irregular opportunities to play or participate in activities related to LOA.


Variations

Like most interesting games, Lines of Action lends itself to variations on the basic game. Some of these are mere curiosities, others are played regularly on their own merits. 

Wish List

Here are some items related to LOA that I'd like to track down.

My notes about LOA

Lines of Action is a board game of the same general type as Chess, Go, and Reversi. It was invented, circa 1969, by Claude Soucie; and described by Sid Sackson in A Gamut of Games. To my knowledge, it has never been commercialized in the U.S., most likely because no one could figure out how to make a profit selling a non-traditional game based on such simple equipment.

However, Philip Cohen reports owning an actual boxed board, published by a German company called "Hexgames".

I have before me a wooden box containing Lines of Action, (c) Hexagames 1987 (a West German game company). Soucie's name is on the front of the Spielanleitung/Game Instructions/Regles de Jeu sheet. There's a rolled-up cloth board and twelve square wooden pieces, brown with beige fleurs-de-lis on them or beige with brown fleurs-de-lis. The advantage over checker pieces is that you can play four-handed or ambidextrous LOA with them by orienting the fleurs-de-lis differently on the four sides.
On the other hand, my few encounters with "Hexagames" while researching LOA suggested that it is now out of business, so perhaps my "not commercially viable" comment is valid after all. Helmut Wresnik reports that the "Hexagames" version is still available from a successor company called "Abacus"
Abacusspiele
D-63303 Dreieich
Schopenhauerstr. 41
T.: 06103 36626
Fax.: 06103 65273
I bet they have other interesting games for sale too!

Since its invention and up to now, Lines of Action has led a nomadic existence on the fringes of gamers' society. I was introduced to the game by my friend Dave Poole, who said it was "from Stanford", but otherwise had no idea where it came from. This kind of irregular introduction seems to be pretty much the norm. For example, Don Woods wrote:

I don't know, but I do remember that John Gilbert, David Wall, et al. had encountered the game prior to coming to Stanford. (They called it "John's Sister's Game", because they'd heard about it from John's sister and didn't know the actual name.)
and David Wall wrote:
John's sister, Jean Gilbert, introduced it to us; I have the vague idea she learned about it at university, though whether that was the University of New Mexico where we were all undergraduates or UC Santa Cruz where she got a masters, I don't recall.
And the meme continues: just recently , Hwei Yin posted to rec.games.abstract
Hey There Guys (and Gals)! I have a game for you to try! I don't think this game has a title, but it appears to be non-trivial. I saw it in an ancient issue of Science (Mathematical Games). We've been having a blast playing it. It requires a checker board and checkers.
The game, of course, is LOA. This kind of life-of-its-own is the hallmark of a truly great game. It doesn't require hype or commercial motives to keep it going, it just lives.


Keeping in Touch and other resources

There is a yahoo lines-of-action mailing list/discussion group, intended for announcements and discussions relevant to LOA.  Yahoo software archives the messages in a searchable form, and gives pretty good control over message delivery and is fairly free of junk mail.  Subscribe lines-of-action-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

Other LOA pages

comments/suggestions to: ddyer@real-me.net

my home page