Playing go with marbles

Has anyone played go with marbles instead of oblate stones, on the order of a Chinese Checkers board?

Just curious cause I’m planning another project, and it seems like colored marbles might be an inexpensive way to get an exotic look, plus the divots in the board would automatically enforce perfect stone/grid arrangement.

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I’ve played Halma, but we used “pins”, not marbles. :stuck_out_tongue: I imagine if you’re planning a marble version of Go, you better find a clever solution to large-scale captures, because trying to remove 40 marbles from pits deep enough to keep the marbles in place would be quite annoying.

The only thing I can think of involves a rubber ‘valve’ (a circular piece divided into 2-4 parts to make it semi-permeable) letting you push the marbles down into a tilted collection chamber, sort of like a pool table, but I imagine that would be quite vulnerable to wear and tear.

Perhaps it would be simpler to scrape off some of the edges so only 4 “thorns” remain, allowing the player to more easily… pincer each marble from all sides.

Or just keep the pits shallow and risk shrinkage. :slight_smile:

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I was actually thinking of small holes drilled in the surface at each vertex, just enough to keep the marbles from rolling accidentally, and perhaps a proportionately larger space between each stone to facilitate plucking them amid the others.

P. S. I like the valve idea. Could be done quite simply with small rubber gaskets in a hollow board

P. P. S. Maybe we should stop talking about this until I’ve patented my idea haha

I think all of the Chinese checker boards using marbles that I’ve seen are designed with shallow enough divots and wider spacing to make it easy to pick up and move the marbles. The game involves constantly picking up and moving marbles, so a board that isn’t designed to make that easy would be terrible for Chinese checkers as well.

Pushing pieces through the board into a collection chamber seems a bit gimmicky, and moves away from a simple wood and glass aesthetic. The rubber gaskets would have to be sized just right, and might wear out over time, or perform inconsistently with marbles that could vary slightly in size.

I guess @Skurj is talking about making a normal (square grid) board that just borrows the divots concept. However, actually playing an improvised game on an existing Chinese checkers board would introduce a much bigger change to the game: the hexagonal grid would give the interior points 6 neighbors instead of 4.

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The circular gasket could have radial splits, making flaps to alleviate material stress and buffer the size inconsistencies. It does seem gimmicky, but it would also be a bit of juvenile fun playing marble machine every time a capture is made.

It seems to me that 360 marbles are going to make it a bulky and heavy set.


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360 marbles are also a lot of fun! :smile:

It could be difficult to find them black and white though.

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Who said it had to be 19x19? :upside_down_face:

Who said they have to be black and white? :upside_down_face:

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It’s actually pretty easy to find these. A quick google search yields one vendor with white, black, and several other common colors:

However, as @Skurj notes, we don’t need to restrict ourselves to just white and black.


Assuming 5 grams per marble, 360 marbles would weigh just a little under 4 pounds.

They wouldn’t take up that much space either:

6 * 6 * 5 = 180
6 * 6 * 10 = 360

So, even if they were loosely packed (like in a cubic lattice), they could easily fit in a box of 4" x 4" x 6" with some room to spare.

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I agree. We could even have bugs vs four-leaf clovers:



I think such a design would be quite aesthetically unpleasing. Imagine a large grid of holes, each with some sort of rubber gasket. There wouldn’t be much wood to appreciate.

Each hole would have to be at least slightly larger than the marble, and then there would have to be adequate spacing between each hole in order for there to be enough material that it remains structurally sound. Taken altogether, that means that there would probably be more spacing between each marble than a simpler divot design, with enough spacing just to pick up the marbles.

For making divots, you mentioned simply drilling holes. I think cutting out spherical divots sized to fit the marbles would be more elegant.

Overall, I like the idea of considering novel go stone/board designs. It’s surprising and disappointing that despite the fact that go is an incredibly abstract game, set designs are dominated by the traditional aesthetic with virtually no alternatives available on the market.

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I wonder if a metal or acrylic board would work, as long as we are departing wildly from a traditional go aesthetic anyway.

Getting crazy here, but imagine that kind of push-through Swiss cheese board with a UV back light and fluorescent marbles…?

For wood I do like the spherical divot idea

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How about a net that is just suspended along it’s edges? The net could be just tight enough to support the marbles, but stretchy enough to push them through. Or, with a tighter net, a player could just reach underneath to help lift out any captures.

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361 mini airjets to suspend each marble in the air?


A board with 361 toggle buttons that cycle between blank, white and black?

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Buttons != marbles, no? But it would make for a fantastic travel set. No more missing stones, you could play it on the ISS… what’s not to like.

Still tricky to find a way to represent three states with a purely mechanical button/switch (though it would be a great piece of engineering). Easier to do with a color LED but then it needs a battery or something.

Maybe if the button is down, it’s an empty intersection and when it’s up, you reveal a colored disk with a yin-yang stencil covering half of that disk, allowing you to change colors by turning the button/disk.

Of course you can keep the marble idea by implementing what amounts to a 361 “trackball mice” version. Suspend 361 marbles whose surface is divided into 3 colors (how? I haven’t got a clue) and just roll over them when needed. Also difficult to pull off.

Would be interesting to see all these designs tested on 2x2 boards :stuck_out_tongue:

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Step 1: Engineer toggle button Go board
Step 2: Procure invitation to space station

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