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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Jishaku Magnetic Board Game

by Andrew Leibs

Named Learning Express 2009 Toy of the Year, Jishaku demands deft touch, steady hands, and good memory, making it an accessible game for the blind and visually impaired.

Jishaku (Japanese for “magnet”) is a strategy game where players take turns placing game pieces (magnetic stones) on a “game base” fitted with a foam insert topped with holes.

There are three ways to play Jishaku, including “I’m Out!” where players race to be the first to place all of their stones on the board—a deceptively difficult task. Like all magnets, Jishaku stones have North and South poles—but are unmarked; they look like small silver lumps, benign and boring.

But holding one magnet over the game base can make every piece jump. Players feel the magnetic tug on every turn. Learning to use that pull to one’s advantage (e.g. attracting or repelling pieces without pushing them into others) is the key to mastering Jishaku. It’s not only where you place games pieces, but how.

Three Ways to Play Jishaku

Jishaku is a game for two or three players or teams. For games 2 and 3, players should have pencil and paper ready to keep score.

Game 1: “I’m Out!”

Each player starts with nine game pieces (six for three-player games) and takes turns placing one piece at a time into a hole in the game base. If any stones attach to the piece played, that piece and any others connected to it are removed and added to that player’s pile. The first player to get rid of all their stones is the winner and says, “I’m out!”

Game 2: Elimination

Each player starts with nine game pieces (six for three-player games) and takes turns placing one magnet at a time into a hole. Players are assessed one point for each stone that attaches to the piece played (and any other stones that connect) during their turn. The object is to avoid picking up points. All played magnets are left in the base. Play continues until one player has no magnets left, when the board is cleared, points tallied, and a new round begins. The first player to accumulate 10 points is eliminated. Three-player games continue until two players have 10 points, the winner being the surviving player.

Game 3: Roundup

Divide the magnets. Alternating turns, each player places a magnet onto the playing surface until 10 are on the board (nine in three-player games). Players then take turns placing one of their remaining magnets so that it attracts others, scoring one point for each “captured’ piece, not including the piece played.

Round 1 continues until all magnets are captured or one player runs out of magnets, even if the board is not cleared. The first player to capture 12 stones wins.

Jishaku Magnets Tap Hematite’s Healing Power

The primary ore in Jishaku stones is Hematite, which healers in ancient Egypt used to reduce inflammation and treat anxiety. Ancient Romans saw the silvery ore as a talisman. Hematite is used today in “magnetic therapy” and as a “grounding stone” to promote wellness. Replacement magnets (for those that get lost or lose their strength) are available on the Jishaku website.

Few recent board games are as tactile as Jishaku. It’s an ideal game for the blind and visually impaired whose skill at seeing their world by touch might provide an advantage.

Click this link to visit the Jishaku website:

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