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The Meeple Guild: Experience the battle ebb and flow with Bikido

The pieces are large stones rather reminding of those from a larger backgammon set.
Bikido has a very nice look.

YORKTON -  A good looking game goes a long way in terms of generating interest and Bikido, a new offering in the realm of abstract strategy games certainly has good looks going for it.

The pieces are large stones rather reminding of those from a larger backgammon set.

Each player – it is a two player game -- lays out 34 of the pieces, so you have lots of ‘material’ to work with.

Players must work their way through the opponent’s defense, cross the river – the centre row on the board not unlike that in Xiangqi -- by taking over the banks, and use the opponent’s pieces to climb up and reach the opposite bird’s nest to cover it.

You will notice I’ve noted a couple of other games, but neither is a match in terms of how Bikido plays. Finding a good comparison is not easy here. You will think checkers in terms of lay-out, and breakaway because the heart of the game is to cross the board, but in a broader sense Bikido is quite different, which is a good thing of course.

In should be noted that in addition to the basic rules, the game provides a campaign of 10 scenarios and 20 starting arrangements of varying difficulty. This is hugely positive for replayability, especially for those who don’t want to dedicate repeated plays to just improving general play as you might with chess, Othello or Hive.

So at this point I will give Bikido, by designers Raphaël-James Lebel, and Jérôme Mariaud de Serre, as one I’d suggest giving a long look.

But it’s also good to know more about the game, so we fired off some questions to Jérôme Mariaud, who not surprisingly likes abstract strategy games as a player.

“I am an avid gamer, especially minimalist abstract games -- Chess, Go, Tak, Hive, Abalone, and Shogi,” he explained via email.

“But I like games where we collect and trade resources such as Catan too.”

Mariaud added his design partner Raphaël Lebel “is a very good chess player.”

For Mariaud Bikido came at least in part from his career.

“I am a pedagogue, I work with all level students,” he said. “I created a cognitive method with token, and the basis of the method is encouraging the student to seek and to focus.” He added, “the game of Bikido is not an idea of a lucky morning! It came from a variant of Gomoku I developed with students. After a while, lots of token were glued to each other. I wanted to go forward with that form to leave Gomoku behind.

“A token we chose was the treasure we supposed to reach! The only way to move was to form stacks of tokens.

“And then came the rules I explain after to Raphaël-James Lebel, who is a game mathematician. We found the way, with my wife Natalia and Raphaël -James, to balance the game perfectly.”

The result is a game Mariaud said he is pleased with.

“Bikido is an abstract game that has a thematic. The idea comes from a novel of Makoto Shiina -- bird people in Chin. Biyi is a creature of the Chinese mythology. I found very strong associations between old Chinese gods who played a game, the biyi and bird people from the novel.

“Then Eric Jumel wrote some little chronicles that give a background for a campaign mode.”

But what were the designers trying to achieve in creating Bikido?

“The Bikido is a very new mental way to process,” suggested Mariaud. “In the past, abstract games were the reflection of a culture, abstract games belong to people. I think it’s not a coincidence that Bikido appears today. It’s a moment in our civilization when we have to share.

There is no ‘meeple’ (piece) elimination in Bikido, you have to use the tokens of the opponent to reach the bird. It’s more a question to find a way to cross the river, than to break the opponent.”

From the perspective of one of its designers, what can players expect here in terms of gameplay?

“One day Raphaël-James said ‘not eliminating or adding tokens gives the impression that we are participating in the movement of time in a living world.’ I cannot say more,” offered Mariaud.

“The gameplay is very easy, but all the rules are not intuitive right away. Especially because you think in three dimensions that opens so many options and so many scenarios. With few rules, you won’t think at the beginning that you can do that or that -- you will discover it by yourself.

“That’s the beauty of the gameplay and its replayability.”

Mariaud said he feels there are some fine elements to Bikido for players to explore.

“First of all, Bikido present two real sides, face to face, separated by a river as the Chinese Xiangqi,” he said. “It’s a real battle.

“The river is a great element.

“The defense is a duty, the attack is a desire, what happen at the river, in the middle of the board, is more complex, it’s about psychology, the architecture of the game is at that moment. We are not face-to-face anymore, we are mixed. It’s crazy!”

It's the ebb and flow of pieces Mariaud thinks is Bikido’s unique aspect. 

“A piece is a token or a stack. Stacks moves, change,” he said. “A simple free token at the ground can stop a very strong stack. All pieces have their strengths and weaknesses, it depends on the moment.

“And you never know how the stack will change.

“An opponent token of your stack can make you go backyard, but stop you if you want to go forward.

“There is no bad or great stack, it’s a question of situation.”

As for mechanics Mariaud added, “the rebound is very fun, and very unique, especially when you go backward, and make a rebound because the token on top is on a new stack with three tokens of his color. Like that, in one move, you move your stack and the free token on top.

“At the beginning, it’s not easy to think about it, but it’s very hard to anticipate.”

Certainly there is enough options to explore that even without the campaign and alternate set-up rules Bikido offers a lot of game play is a very nice looking set.

For more info you can check it out at

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