Revised: December 11, 2010


Epaminondas started out as a game of mine called “Crossings,” played on an 8 x 8 board. It was first described in Sid Sackson’s 1969 book A Gamut of Games (this is the same book that introduced Claude Soucie’s great game “Lines of Action”).

After Sid’s book was published, I figured that I could add more complexity to Crossings if I went beyond the 8 x 8 board size, and I also might be able to turn it into an equipment board game. I settled on a 14 x 12 board, with the players seated at the long sides of the board. I chose this non-square board because it added more long diagonals, and battles along these diagonals bring more interest to the game. Actually, the game works on boards of many different sizes; so if you want to give the game a try, you can use whatever size board you happen to have.

Since I had pretty much worked out a new game, I thought I should give it a new name, so I called it “Epaminondas.” This was a really stupid (and pretentious) move on my part and probably been a hindrance to the game. Epaminondas was the Theban general who made improvements to the phalanx formation and was able to defeat the Spartans. The only connection between the game and the general is that the game uses “phalanx” to describe the lines of pieces. If I had a chance to do this over, I would change all my nomenclature and would go back to calling the game “Crossings.” But it’s too late now, because the game has gone through three editions and has been written about in several articles and books.

Epaminondas was first published in 1975 in a British edition by Philmar Ltd. A year later I published my own edition in America.

I wrote an article about Epaminondas for the May 1975 issue of the British magazine Games & Puzzles. The article was called “Under the Strategy Tree.” I’ve copied it to my web site at this location. The article discusses my concept of “clarity,” and clarity is, I think, the best feature of Epaminondas.

The complete rules to Epaminondas, as well as three puzzles based on the game, are in an article by Kerry Handscomb. The article was in Kerry’s brilliant (but small) magazine, Abstract Games (published in Vancouver, Canada) and also on the magazine’s web site. Unfortunately, brilliant (but small) games magazines have a tendency to disappear, and Abstract Games is now gone, along with its web site. I’ve seen this happen before (to World Game Review and twice to Games & Puzzles), so I had taken the precaution of downloading a copy of the article. It is now on my web site at this location.

In the fall of 2005, added Epaminondas to their games you can play on-line with another human. There are a couple of problems with their write-up of the game. First, they point to the rules in the Abstract Games article, which no longer exists (but, as I said in the previous paragraph, you can find it here). Second, they don’t explain how to indicate your moves. What you have to do is: Put the cursor over the last piece in the phalanx you intend to move. Press the left mouse button and hold it down. Drag the cursor to the square where the head of the phalanx should go. Then release the mouse button.

Since the late 1970s, Epaminondas could not be found on the market, but recently (May of 2010), Nestorgames brought out a new edition. It is shown at the left. It’s a full-size board game, but it is actually portable. It collapses into a very small package that can easily be carried. Their web site has a video that shows how this works.

Nestorgames is located in Spain and they only sell by mail-order. You might check out their web site to see the other games they publish.

In my opinion, the Nestorgames equipment for Epaminondas is superior to any of the previous editions of the game (and that includes my own privately-published edition), so you might consider buying a copy from them. If you live in Europe, you probably should buy the game from Nestorgames in Spain. The price is 22 euros plus shipping. Nestorgames also has an agreement with MAY DAY GAMES to sell the Nestorgames in the USA. So if you live in the U.S. or Canada, you can get Epaminondas from MAY DAY for $29.95 plus shipping.

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