SNAP Review – SHOBU: Beautifully Challenging

SHOBU game
SHOBU game

SHOBU is an abstract game for two players ages 8+, designed by Manolis Vranas and Jamie Sajdak of Seesaw Games and published by Smirk & Laughter.

Asher and Anitra tell you about this game in less than 6 minutes. Listen or read on below.

How to Play

Set out the 4 player boards. Each player gets a light colored board and a dark board, with a rope separating “your” boards from your opponent.

Every board is 4 spaces wide and 4 spaces long. Place 4 stones in your color along the edge closest to you and 4 stones in your opponents’ color on the farthest edge.

2 white boards in the background and 2 dark boards in the foreground. A rope between the left-side boards and the right-side boards. Each board has 4 white stones on the left edge and 4 black stones on the right edge.

Your goal: remove all your opponent’s stones from any ONE of the 4 boards.

On your turn, you’ll first make a “passive” move and then an “aggressive” move.

passive move (black stone moves diagonally not touching anything); Agressive move (black stone moves diagonally, pushing white stone off the board)

The passive move must be on one of the boards on your own side. Move any of your pieces 1 or 2 spaces in any straight line (including diagonally). You may not touch or jump over any other pieces.

Make a matching “aggressive move” on either board that is the opposite color from the passive move.

Your aggressive move must match the direction & number of spaces as the passive move (but not necessarily the position).

On your aggressive move, you MAY push an opponent’s stone. Try to maneuver to push it off any edge of the board! (You may not push more than one stone.)

Remove all 4 of your opponent’s stones from a single board to win!


SHOBU is an abstract two player game, and immediately feels classic. The tagline on the box is “beautifully challenging” which is completely true.

White board surrounded by black and white stones on the outside. Only 3 white stones remain on the board.
White wins – this time.

Simple components from lovely natural materials (wooden boards, polished stones) invite you to play. The simplicity even invites spectators to get involved, since there is nothing hiding any of the strategy.

Everything about this game says “Touch me! Play this game!”


Asher likes finding a plan, getting stopped by an opponent’s clever move, then finding a new even better plan.

Don’t narrow your focus too much! Try to use your “passive” moves to get those pieces in position, even as you also use “active” (aggressive) moves to knockout your opponent. Instead, try to find the aggressive move you want to do, and then plan a passive move that will support it.

SHOBU is a game that immediately challenges you to look ahead and outwit your opponent. Anitra was introduced to it at Origins 2019 by a fellow reviewer who said “you HAVE to play this”. Within an hour of trying it, she was pulling more people in to try it. The simplicity of play but variety of situations keeps us coming back again and again.

Asher gives SHOBU a 4/5, while Anitra loves it at 5/5. If you enjoy abstract games, you must try SHOBU. Find it at Smirk & Laughter Games, on Amazon, or your friendly local game store.

4 boards set up as previous images. Close white board has 3 white stones and no black stones left.

The Family Gamers received a copy of SHOBU from Smirk & Laughter Games for this review.

SNAP review music is Avalanche, provided courtesy of You Bred Raptors?

This post contains affiliate links, which do not change your price, but help support The Family Gamers.

  • Asher's rating
  • Anitra's rating


Number of Players: 2
Age Range: 8+
Play Time: 15-20 minutes