Abalone: Just wrote the first in a planned series of game reviews. Out of the box Abalone isn't really my favorite game, but it has a number of good variations. I'll expand this article as time goes on, but for now a quick intro will have to serve.Abalone is one of the most elegantly designed abstract strategy games I've encountered. The game consists of a hexagonal slotted board, 14 black marbles, and 14 white marbles. The object of the game is to push your opponents marbles off the board via linear numerical superiority. The marbles are large and make a satisfying "ker-chunk" as entire rows can be pushed via a single marble. Game play is intriguing except that the game favors defensive play to a fault. The player that takes risks loses. This fatal flaw can be overcome by adopting a different opening setup, or by playing any of these variations.
Actually, one of the things I like about Abalone more than it's basic rules is that with additional marbles it's a wonderful gaming system. Along with the variations referenced above, there are all kinds of games you can adapt to an Abalone board, including Gipf and Kuba. This is how I've adapted the Kuba configuration (played on a square board) to Abalone's hexagonal board:
Note that many of these variations require extra marbles or colored marbles (or extra colored marbles). If you have a newer set, you can buy expansion packs. But beware, Abalone marbles have shrunk! If you have an older set your marbles are larger than current expansion pack marbles. For older sets, LandOfMarbles sells some 1-inch opaque chinese checkers marbles that are perfect. If you just want Abalone or the expansion marbles, I can't recommend Funagain.com highly enough. Great game store.