Abalone Review

Screenshot of Abalone digital board game
The goal is for you to make the opponent lose his/her marbles

  • Reviewed by: Mark Goninon
  • Developer: Games-Up
  • Publisher: Asmodee Digital
  • Release Date: 23 Apr 2014
  • Time played: 1.8 hours

What is it

While there isn't much information out there with respect to the development studio Games-Up, there's plenty about the board game Abalone which is what this digital adaptation is based off.

Abalone is an abstract strategy board game designed by Michel Lalet and Laurent Lévi in 1987. Like many other classic abstract strategy board games such as chess, checkers and Reversi, the game is played by two players where one player controls white marbles and the other black marbles. The game is played on a hexagonal board where the goal of the game is to eliminate a certain number of your opponent's marbles by pushing them off the edge (by default, the objective is six marbles).

The board game was published in 1990 and is quite successful having sold more than 4.5 million units. It also received a Mensa Select award the same year it was released and the game has featured at the Mind Sports Olympiad since 1997.

But what about the digital adaptation of Abalone? How has it fared? Well, the game was released on mobile prior to its release on Steam and the 2013 iOS version received a Metascore of 69. The Steam version is unrated on Metacritic but it currently holds a "Mixed" rating based on 27 Steam User reviews.

How I got it

I managed to get this game as part of the Humble Board Games Bundle (November 2018) which came with a lot of digital adaptations of rather famous board games such as Pandemic, Twilight Struggle, Agricola and Colt Express. It also came with a copy of Abalone and since digital board game adaptations tend to not take much time to complete according to HowLongToBeat.com, I thought I'd give it a try.

Screenshot from the digital board game Abalone
Wait, wasn't Sun Tzu Chinese?

What I like:


The game offers challenges for you to complete if you don't want to play a normal game against the AI or one against a human opponent.

Kid friendly

It's an abstract strategy board game, which means it's obviously going to be kid-friendly.

Steam Achievements and Trading Cards

The game has 27 Steam Achievement to earn and has 6 Steam Trading Cards to collect.

Screenshot from the digital board game Abalone
Only a handful of people seem to play Abalone online

What I dislike:


The game seems to be more about minimising mistakes and ensuring your marbles don't get too close to the edge where you're at risk of losing them. An aggressive strategy almost always never pays off as thinning the number of marbles means you're susceptible to being flanked. Of course, you can always use this same tactic against your opponent but you can probably see where this is going: the game is similar to Tic-Tac-Toe where it's not really a game about winning but ensuring you're vigilant enough to not make a mistake. Usually when a marble is lost it's due to a lapse in concentration. While there are elements of this in other games like chess or checkers, it's generally easier to see dangerous scenarios where you're about to lose a marble in Abalone than it is with other games. As a result, even though I don't mind playing a game like Abalone (or chess and checkers for that matter) it's not exciting or intriguing as many other options I have in my Pile of Shame.

Low number of players

I've been on a couple of times now to check what player numbers are like on multiplayer but have only seen between 12-15 people online at any given time, which is better than nothing, but it's still a pretty low number of players.

No frills

While this isn't necessarily a bad thing, it is if you find the core gameplay boring. Yes, there are Challenges (which I believe is the best part of the single player experience) but there's not much else besides that except for multiplayer (which nobody plays) and the ability to choose where you place the marbles before the game (which is probably only appealing for the Abalone die-hards).

Score – 6/10 (Okay)

If you're a fan of abstract strategy board games, Abalone is another one you could give a go, although I find it less interesting than classics such as chess and checkers or indeed, many games on my Pile of Shame. If you're wanting to play the game online you also might struggle to find someone to play with so hopefully you're content with a single player experience otherwise you'll need to buy a copy for a friend.

Is the game worth $9.95 AUD?: No. A fairer price would be $5 (which is how much you can get the mobile app version of the game) since it's a fairly basic, no-frills adaptation of Abalone. If you're into abstract strategy games, wait until it's on sale.

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[ LINK: Official Abalone Website ]