Cameron Browne (c) 2010
Stax is a strategy game of tile placement, movement and stacking.
News: Stax is now available from Nestorgames!
Tiles: Each player has thirteen* tiles, each with a unique arrangement of pointers to various edges. The blank tiles without pointers are the players' kings, and the tiles with six pointers are the players' queens.
Aim: The aim is to capture the enemy king.
Start: Light starts by placing any tile (except their queen) on the playing surface. Dark then places any tile (except their queen) adjacent to it, to share an edge.
Play: Players then take turns placing a tile of their colour. Once a player has placed their king, they may then choose between placing or moving a tile of their colour each turn.
1. Placement: Tiles may be placed on the table adjacent to any two or more existing stacks (a single tile is a stack of 1), provided that the tile placed does not point at the enemy king, either directly or through intervening pieces pointing the same way.
2. Movement: Tiles may move in a straight line in the direction of any of their pointers. Tiles cannot change direction during a move and must land adjacent to at least one other tile or stack. If the move passes over any other tile or stack (of any height and belonging to either player) then the move ends there unless that tile or stack also points in the direction of travel, in which case the move may continue in that direction.
For example, tile m has five available moves in the following example, one of which would cover the enemy queen:
Tiles can move in a line over empty space, provided each empty cell passed over along the way has an adjacent tile.
Tiles cannot be moved unless they have at least one free side. A tile cannot make any move that would split the board into two or more separate subgroups after the move.
After moving, the tile may be rotated. Tiles cannot rotate in-place without first moving.
King: The king is a special case. It has no pointers, but can move one step in any direction.
Stacking: Tiles may land on pieces of either colour to stack upon them. Any tile stacked upon is immobile until everything moves off it; only the top tile of a stack can move.
Step Rule: There must be a path of adjacent steps from every stack to the table level. Each step can be flat, up a level or down a level. In other words, a miniature person placed on any tile or stack must be able to step down to the table without dropping down a cliff of two or more levels.
For example, tile m only has three available moves in the example shown below, as stacking on top of either of the height 2 or Height 3 Dark pieces would violate the Step Rule. In this case, m can step past the enemy queen but not land on it.
End: A player wins by landing on the enemy king to capture it (the enemy king is removed) or if the opponent has no legal moves.
Players are forced to move if possible, but can never move onto their own king.
All tiles, including the king, must obey the Step Rule. However, this rule is only checked after each move is completed and any captures have been made.
It is not allowed to repeat any previous board position (superko rule).
Strategy and Tactics
It is generally good to place tiles such that as many arrows as possible point towards both enemy pieces (to attack them) and friendly pieces (to defend them).
It is generally good to stack on enemy pieces as much as possible, and avoid stacking on your own! A player's mobility can be estimated by simply counting the number of arrows visible on their tiles in play.
It is generally good to get your king as high as possible and to form an isolated peak if possible.
The single arrow tiles are more useful than they might appear. They can be used to pin dangerous enemy pieces, so that the opponent cannot move their piece without isolating the pinning tile in the process.
Observations by Daniel Shultz:
Tiles that are mostly blank can be useful as "speed bumps" that absorb moves and stop any tile that moves over them in the non-arrow directions.
Players may introduce an element of bluffing by placing tiles such that superfluous arrows point in inconsequential directions, to distract the opponent from their intended attack.
Players should leave their unplayed tiles visible so that others can see what has and what hasn't been played yet.
There is a tension between placing your king early so that you can move tiles more quickly, or placing it later so that the opponent has less opportunity to attack it.
*The tile pointers represent all symmetric arrangements of 0 to 6 pointers within six sides. Each player has twelve symmetrical and one asymmetrical three-arrow tiles. Note that the asymmetrical tile is reversible in the official Nestorgames set, so can be played two different ways.
A nice feature of Nestor's cut-through tile design is that players can see through a tile's hole to reveal some information about the tile(s) stacked underneath. This removes some of the reliance on memory from the game, and also means that tiles only need a single free side to be picked up.
The king may be placed at any time, though it is usually prudent to place it after most (or all) other tiles have been placed. Otherwise moves can be wasted escaping from threats rather than adding pieces.
Stax may be played with a third player using a third set of differently coloured pieces. The aim of each player is to capture the king of the player on their left (i.e. next in the turn order) to win the game. Players cannot land on or capture their own or the previous player's king.
Stax rules and design by Cameron Browne and copyright (c) Cyberite Ltd 2010.
Thanks for Daniel Shultz for extensive play testing and rule tweaking, including the suggestion that tiles be allowed to move across empty cells, which has improved the game. Thanks to Nestor Romeral Andres for breaking the game, Stephen Tavener for fixing it, then Nestor for fixing it again even more completely, by pointing out the need to capture rather than pin the enemy king (this stopped the king from escaping upwards too easily). Thanks also to Russ Williams for pointing out ambiguities in earlier versions of the rules.
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