Combine the simplicity of checkers, the strategy of Othello, and the unpredictable nature of invisible forces and you have the game Jishaku (the Japanese word for magnet). Part of Jishaku's allure is the well-crafted back story, which borrows from ancient legends about samurais, ninjas and high priests who could alter the magnetic fields around themselves.
This is a great teaser and a brilliant way to gain the interest of would-be Jishaku players. The game consists of a 3×9 dimpled, blue foam playing area (a total of 27 'holes' — although the instructions say that there are 22 or 23 'holes') and 18 magnetic, hematite stones. There are three different versions of game play given in the instructions. In 'I'm Out' each player starts with nine stones (or six for three players). Players take turns placing a stone in any empty space in the base until someone succeeds in placing all of their stones on the board without attracting any stones.
'Elimination' is similar to 'I'm out' requiring played stones to be left on the board, tallying points, and multiple rounds. 'Roundup,' which involves winning by attracting stones to gain points, was not as challenging as the first two game variations. In all game variations, the magnetic attraction between the stones is startling and gives the game an element of surprise and excitement.
From a scientific point of view, Jishaku leans more heavily toward luck than strategy due to the strength and nature of the magnetic interactions of the stones. Each of the irregularly-shaped stones have a North and South pole and their tendency to rotate in three-space from the influence of subsequently placed stones decreases the amount of strategy involved. The varying sizes of magnetic stones also introduces an additional chance variable. Knowing that each of the Jishaku stones are magnetic dipoles and that the force between two pairs of poles falls off proportional to the inverse fourth power of the distance between them does not give you a strategic edge in Jishaku no matter how many mental calculations you make. From a metaphysical view, Jishaku may help players to develop and hone their mastery of Ki (Japanese for "life force energy") through focusing their minds to alter the forces of nature, while reaping the benefits of the hematite stones, which balance the mind, body and spirit… if you believe in that sort of thing.
Overall, Jishaku game play is quick, entertaining and simple. Watching the magnets become animated and jump off the board and stick to each other is startling and lends a slightly supernatural quality to Jishaku. The game variations in which players avoid attracting stones are the most fun to play. It's a great game for kids and adults. Coming up with additional Jishaku game variations is also very easy, fun and also adds creativity to the mix (e.g. my friends have already created a game variation called 'Ji-shot-ku,' which involves 1.5 oz glasses and designated drivers). It's a great way to liven up a party, break the ice at social gatherings, and would make a great gift.
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