The One About Pushing Rocks and Teleporting Scissors

The One About Pushing Rocks and Teleporting Scissors

May 11, 2021 0 By Ryan Sanders

In this edition of From the Case Files of Adventure Meeple, we look at games that are great introductions for your kids into the world of abstract games, SHŌBU and Rock Paper Switch

In the Case of the Pushing Stones


  • Player Count: 1-2
  • Ages 8+
  • 15-30 Mins
  • Published by Smirk & Laughter Games
  • Designed by Manolis Vranas and Jamie Sajdak
  • Mechanics:  Abstract Strategy 
  • Theme: None 

SHŌBU is a new combinatorial abstract game (i.e. Hive, Chess, Go,)  played with 4 small 4×4 wooden boards (2 dark and 2 light) and 32 river stones -16 white and 16 black. Each player has 4 rocks on each board – and the object of the game is to push your opponent’s rocks completely off one of the 4 boards. How is that done?  Well to start a setup looks like below – the rope divides the players’ homeboard space. The one light and one dark board closest to you are your ‘homeboards’. On your turn, you have to make 2 moves – a passive and aggressive move. The passive move must be made on one of your homeboards – it’s simple, move one of your stones up to two spaces on the board. A passive move may not push an opponent rock. Then comes the aggressive move and the “twist” that makes SHŌBU stand out. You must do the exact game move on either board of the opposite-colored boards (so if I moved two spaces up on my light wood homeboard – I must move one of my rocks on either dark wood boards two up). The aggressive move DOES allow you to push an opponent rock as long as there isn’t another rock behind it – and this is how you are able to push your opponent’s pieces off one of the boards. Just as an aside – you may never make a passive move that cannot also be done via aggressive move. That’s it. It is that simple.

Example of how aggressive movement works.

Gameschool Aspect

This being a perfect information (no luck) strategy game it teaches many of the same things as say, Chess would. For example, players have to learn to play attention to details, as well as use abstract reasoning – “If I do this… they may counter like this…”. That said, this is simplier than Chess, in terms of learning how to play, since there are not different pieces that move different ways. Also, the action is more immediate in SHŌBU , as the boards are much smaller. SHŌBU  requires players to spread their concentration and strategy across 4 boards at the same time, plus you need to think of moves that will work across 2 of the four boards (both passive and agressive movements, as mentioned above). 

Simple, but elegant is a great way to describe SHŌBU. Another way is that can be like a knife fight, no scratch that.SHŌBU can be like four separate knife fights going on at the same time. You have to be diligent with more than just one board, maybe you escape defeat on one board before you know it your opponent has you on the ropes on another board. It’s quite brilliant like that. Part of that is each board is a 4×4 grid, making conflict happening sooner than later, and you’re never really out of reach on any board. This having to watch and play on multiple boards, while also planning a move that can work as a good double move, is what makes SHOBU shine. It is very easy to get caught up in trying to defeat your opponent, that you ignore one board and then find yourself with just one stone left, making you have to adjust your own tactics, to make sure that stone doesn’t get pushed off the board.  This game is a GREAT game to introduce to people that may be hesitant to play abstract games. With the way, movement feels it is very unique but also extremely simple to grasp. This would also be a great game to introduce to children, BEFORE something like Chess. That isn’t to say seasoned abstract gamers, won’t enjoy SHŌBU, there is still fun to be had for lovers of abstract games as well.





The Case of the Teleporting Scissors

Rock Paper Switch

  • Player Count: 2-4
  • Ages 8+
  • 30-45 Mins
  • Published by Mindware
  • Designed by Robert E. C. Coleman
  • Mechanics: Rock-Paper-Scissors, Abstract Strategy 
  • Theme: None

Rock Paper Switch is what you get when you mix Chess and Rock Paper Scissors (Roshambo) together. The idea is each player has rock, paper, and scissors pieces that each move differently on a 10×10 checkerboard. Rocks can move in any direction but only up to 3 spaces. Paper can move horizontal or vertical any number of spaces in s straight line (like the Rooks in Chess). Scissors move diagonally any number of spaces in a straight line (like the Bishops in Chess). Each player sets up in their pieces in their own corner. The object is to be the last one standing (this plays up to 4 people) with at least 1 of each piece. If you lose all of one type (i.e. all your rocks) you are eliminated from the game. There are also 4 switch spaces near the middle of the board, that if you land on, allows you the option to switch with any other piece you own on the board. Like normally rock paper scissors – a rock can only capture scissors, scissors can only capture paper, and paper can only capture rocks. If you are playing with 3 or 4-players and a player is eliminated, the rest of their pieces are wild and can be used by any player to capture opponent pieces (or to switch). Advanced rules allow players to set up their pieces on their side any way they want (in turn order).  That’s pretty much most of the rules. 

Gameschool Aspect: What Does It Teach?

Rock Paper Switch features many of the same thinking skills you learn from games like Chess, like planning ahead and deductive logical reasoning – “if I move here, you will move there, then I…” However, unlike Chess you really need to protect all your pieces, as you can lose if any of them run out, so you have to keep an eye on that as you play the game. 

To be frank, after reading the rules, I didn’t expect to really like the game much, but after getting it to the table, it won me over within the first game. I enjoy it. I’m not sure I would play this one with just adults, however, it’s a good game for mixed-aged companies (adults and kids playing together). It’s also easy enough that once the kids play it once or twice with adults, they could play on their own (which is nice). This one my 5th grader seemed to also enjoy. Rock Paper Switch is a GREAT one to play before introducing your kids to Chess (or kids want to play more Chess-like games, outside of Chess). They most likely already know how to play Rock Paper Scissors, but this also allows them to get used to an abstract game where every piece type moves differently, with the Paper and Scissors pawns even moving like a Rook and Bishop (respectively) in Chess. If you’re looking for a game that is Chess-like, but easier to teach and play for your child, Rock Paper Switch is a good choice.

Note: Both of the reviews are edited versions of one’s done in the past (and may have been slightly updated), to fit this new format. Both were also sent to Ryan by their respective publishers for a fair and honest review.