- For ages 10 and up (publisher suggests 8+)
- For 2 players
- Approximately 60 minutes to complete
- Counting & Math
- Logical & Critical Decision Making
- Strategy & Tactics
- Risk vs. Reward
- Visuospatial Skills
- Bluffing and Misdirection
- Child – Hard
- Adult – Moderate
Theme & Narrative:
- Move, corner, and control the board
- Gamer Geek approved!
- Parent Geek mixed!
- Child Geek rejected!
Dutch chess player, mathematician, author, and chess administrator Max Euwe, said, “Strategy requires thought, tactics require observation.” It also takes patience. In this game, you build up your plays, taking the time to adjust according to future opportunities. It’s a game of small moves to big wins. It’s also a game that will make your head hurt and your brain simmer. Not for the faint of heart, but most certainly a game every strategist and tactician should play.
Mur, designed and self-published by Desmond Davies, is comprised of one game board and 15 stones. The board is made of thick wood, and the stones are polished rocks in the colors of black, white, and red. Excellent quality throughout. Not included with the game is a pen or pencil and some paper which is helpful in keeping track of scores if playing multiple games.
Setting Up the Game
To set up the game, complete the following steps:
First, place the gameboard in the middle of the playing area. The orientation of the gameboard is largely unimportant.
Second, give each player seven stones of one color. These stones should be placed in front of the owning players. While players are welcome to select the color of their choice, note that the first player is always the individual who controls the black stones.
Third, place the neutral red stone in the center of the game board. This game piece is referred to as the “Mur stone.”
That’s it for game set up. Let’s play Mur!
Mur is played in turns with no set number of turns per game. Like Chess or Checkers, each player has a set number of pieces in the color of their choice. The red stone is considered “neutral” and belongs to both players. Summarized here is a single turn of gameplay and the many different options that a player has available to them.
Step One: Place
The first and subsequent plays can include the player placing one of their stones on any intersecting space on the game board that does not contain a stone. The Mur board looks like a Dartboard, with rings and lines (also referred to as “diameters”). Where the rings and lines meet is an intersection (or “space”). The center of the board, where the Mur stone is placed at the start of the game, is also considered a space for a total of 25 spaces. The term “eye” is used in the rules to describe a vacant intersection surrounded by intersections with stones of the same color.
Step Two: Move or Move and Knock
Moving the stones is where the real strategic and tactical magic of the game becomes apparent. Unfortunately, it’s also the most difficult to grasp and, as a result, master. Conceptually, there shouldn’t be anything about moving a stone around the rings and intersections that will throw you. Still, there are several rules and possible outcomes based on stone movement related to the other stones around them that must be clearly understood to play the game.
The basic move is clockwise or counter-clockwise around the rings or any of the diameters (the lines that interact with the rings), but only after they are placed on the board.
How far a stone can move is based on its rank. Ranks go from one to seven. A rank is given to a stone based on how many adjacent stones it has that are of the same color. Players move their stones around the gameboard creating linking adjacent intersections. A rank two stone moves two spaces, a rank three stone moves three spaces, and so on
Moving a stone to any unoccupied space is always permissible and the total distance it can move is based on its rank. . If, however, the space the stone is being moved to is occupied by another stone, regardless of its color, it must have a higher ranking than the stone currently occupying the same. So, for example, a rank three stone could move into a space occupied by a rank two stone, but not vice versa.
When a higher-ranked stone moves a lower-ranked stone, it’s called “knocking.” The knocked stone is forced to move to the first vacant intersection in the direction from which the moved stone approached. A ranked stone must complete its entire movement (the total of its ranking). If it hits the end of its path and still has movement left, it “bounces” back along the path in which it came and lands on whatever space that is equivalent to its full movement. The same goes for a stone that is knocked.
The Mur stone is neutral and cannot be moved by either player directly. It can only be moved through knocking.
Step Three: Remove
Note that removing captured stones is not allowed until after the 12th turn. After which, stones can be captured for points.
A “captured” stone is surrounded by all positions. If a player finds themselves in this predicament, they must use their full turn to remove the stone from the board.
Their opponent has earned one point.
Removed stones are placed next to their owning player as an “aside”. In subsequent turns, this aside stone may return to the game to exact their revenge by placing it in the center of the game board, but only if it is unoccupied.
The Mur stone is captured in the same way as a player’s stone. However, if caught, it automatically makes the player who captures the Mur stone the winner of the game.
Winning the Game
The game continues as summarized above until one player has earned three points. Each captured stone that belongs to your opponent is worth one point. However, the Mur stone is worth three points, meaning the player can win the game by simply taking the Mur stone and no others.
If only one game is needed, you are all done. Congratulations to the winner. However, Mur was intended for multiple plays. Record who won but do not reset the board. Any stones in the center of the gameboard are returned to the owner unless it’s the Mur stone. All stones on the game board remain where they are. The gameplay then resumes, but the player using the white stones goes first.
To learn more about Mur, visit the game’s official website.
The Child Geeks had a hard time with this game. Mur doesn’t have a lot of rules, but it does have a lot of possible outcomes, which makes determining what happens after every move tricky. Especially when learning how to play the game for the first time or even second. According to one Child Geek, “I think the game is interesting, but I’ll stick to Chess and Go, which makes more sense to me, and I know how to play well.” Another Child Geek said, “I like the stones a lot and didn’t like much else. I think the game is confusing, and I didn’t like how often we had to look at the rules, which are hard to read to start with.” While most Child Geeks didn’t care for the game, a few enjoyed it. These few enthusiasts were also big on Chess. They found Mur to be an interesting new approach to tactically and strategically moving their objective on a game board with pieces. Not enough to give the game the Child Geeks’ approval, but worth mentioning.
The Parent Geeks found Mur to be a puzzle not only to learn how to play but also to consider its worth at the family gaming table. One on hand, they found the game fascinating. The minimalistic approach to a deeply strategic and tactical game made them lean into the table and grabbed their interest. On the other hand, the game, once being played, made them push back, as they found themselves continually looking at the game’s rules and referring to them again and again. This reduced the Parent Geeks’ overall satisfaction with the game, to be sure, but they never once fully stepped away from a game either. According to one Parent Geek, “It reminds me of a more complicated version of Chess and Mancala, but not to a degree where I could say that the game is a copycat. It has its unique approach, and I found it to be fascinating.” Another Parent Geek said, “A game I played a few times and never once really understood but always enjoyed. This game has a lot of depth and will take me a long time to learn. However, I enjoyed it, and it made my brain hurt.” The Parent Geeks all collectively agreed the game was a good one, but not necessarily a game they could quickly get to the table for others to play.
The Gamer Geeks found Mur to be a real treat. According to one Gamer Geek, “I have always enjoyed simplistic, abstract games full of strategy. Mur is no exception and has perhaps raised the bar. The rules to the game are junk and difficult to read, but once you get it, wow, what a neat game.” Another Gamer Geek said, “Some exciting things to think and do in the game. I enjoyed how all the pieces interacted and directly influenced one another. That meant I was always playing all my pieces at once, not just one at a time. The result was a game that challenged my partner and me. Each move was difficult – damn difficult – and very rewarding once you resolved the stone movement.” The Gamer Geeks liked the game, and all collectively agreed to fire whoever wrote the rules.
Our groups said several times while they played Mur that it felt like a mix of Go and Mancala, which I agree with. There are certainly some similarities, but nothing I would say is striking or a blatant copy. The game feels familiar in some respects that is easy to associate with games like Go, Mancala, and Chess. But that’s the nature of abstract games. Their simplistic approach to strategic and tactical thinking and moving in a game all have characteristics that can be justifiably considered similar in nature and execution. Just don’t sit down to a game of Mur thinking that you will “get it” just because you know your away around a Chessboard or Mancala tray. This game is a different beast.
I want to make sure you, dear reader, understand that the rules to Mur, as they are currently written, are a mix between stereo instructions and a legal paper. It’s exceedingly detailed, to the point, and precise. The rules are beneficial to ensure that everyone is playing them correctly and are great for quickly referring for rule verification. Still, they are not easy to use when learning the game. Instead, I suggest you watch the video on the game publisher’s website to visualize how the game is played, which pairs very nicely with the game rules provided. The rules have diagrams, but it’s tricky to connect the dots without seeing how stones move in real-time.
Once you jump over the hurdle of the rules, the game comes together. After a few plays, I felt the gameplay was natural and intuitive. Yes, I did have to refer to the rules a few times – which is never fun – but the way stones interact, and move becomes something of an “ah-ha!” moment to each player. I saw it on the faces of our Child Geeks, Parent Geeks, and Gamer Geeks when the clouds cleared in their mind, and they saw the game – truly – for the first time. Their eyes got big, their smile widened, and they almost always said something like “oh!”
If you are a fan of abstract strategy games, Mur is undoubtedly something you should find at your earliest convenience. First, I would look at the rules and then re-write them, as they are not user-friendly in the slightest. Great for lawyers and tournament judges, but not for anyone else. But don’t let that stop you from getting this game to your table and burning your brain.
This game was given to Father Geek as a review copy. Father Geek was not paid, bribed, wined, dined, or threatened in vain hopes of influencing this review. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek.