New go game for four players

On a recent trip to Japan, we came across a newspaper account of a new game that had been launched that month, March 2008. It is a four-player game invented by Shinkai Hiroko 5-dan, who some will know from her visit to Europe in 2005.

The game is called Cacomo カコモ and is a mixture of go and playing cards. The name was not explained but seems likely to be derived from Kakomou 囲もう or 'Let's surround!'

Inventor Shinkai, left, with good pal Yuki in London
The game is apparently designed to include relative beginners and to create a more sociable environment for play. The element of chance presumably compensates beginners for their weak play.

The board is 8 x 8 and the coordinates are marked A-H and 1-8. There is also a pack of cards which includes one card for each coordinate. The game starts with an empty board and a shuffled pack, from which each player is dealt four cards. The rest form a face-down stock. The game is designed for four players but two can play.

Play proceeds clockwise. On each turn, a player takes a card from the stock into his hand (this is a standard way to play in most Japanese card games), and from the cards he has he can choose any point to play at, then discarding that card. Plays on the board follow the normal rules of go. When the stock is exhausted, the cards left in hand are used up and when all cards have been played, the game ends and counting starts. The side with most territory and prisoners combined wins.

There are probably other rules, and maybe extra bonus cards. From the limited description given, there is no way to play a recapture or on any other point that has previously been occupied. Also, it would seem that some territories will not be sealed off at the end. Presumably they are not counted - the report makes it quite plain that the game ends when cards are used up. Area rules can't apply.

Even without the full rules, it seems evident that the aims of the game are met and that it is still a recognisable form of go. Shinkai should be commended for a game that will appeal to many people who know go a little but not enough to take it seriously, and at the same time it will keep the real game in the limelight.

The launch was attended by Takemiya Masaki (a games buff - he has been good enough to be Japanese backgammon champion), Shigeno Yuki and Hara Sachiko, and shogi pros also lent their support. Who knows, the game might become the next Othello?

Unfortunately the report gave no details of who publishes the game or where to get it. Once we find out we will post details here. Perhaps you can help? Photos, too?

One novelty we were able to acquire, though, was an iroha card pack of go proverbs. Nothing too special about that - there are many, many, many variations on the traditional iroha cards, which consist of 50 or so pairs of cards, one with a picture and another with a matching proverb starting with each letter of the alphabet. What was special about this pack (see photo below) was that it was produced by the Kansai Ki-in, but was on sale in the Nihon Ki-in's Kansai Branch. If you're not a go history buff you might not appreciate the significance of that, but it's as newsworthy as those pictures of budgies making pals with cats, only not as photogenic.

We've forgotten the price (not expensive), but if you want to get some they are called Igo Kakugen Karuta 囲碁格言カルタ.