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The Fanorona board consists of lines and intersections, creating a grid with 5 rows and 9 columns. A line represents the path along which a stone can move during the game. There are weak and strong intersections. At a weak intersection it is only possible to move a stone horizontally and vertically, while on a strong intersection it is also possible to move a stone diagonally. A stone can only move from one intersection to an adjacent intersection.

The Rules
Fanorona is a board game for two players. It is played with black and white pieces placed on a board. The board is a rectangular grid of nine lines by five, with some diagonal lines marked.
The photo shows the board at the start of the game. The two players each have 22 pieces of their color on the board. The pieces are placed where the gridlines cross.

There exist variations of the rules; this is the main variant.
  • Players alternate turns, starting with White.
  • We distinguish two kinds of moves, non-capturing and capturing moves.
  • A non-capturing move consists of moving one stone along a line to an adjacent intersection.
  • Capturing moves are obligatory.
  • Capturing implies removing one or more pieces of the opponent. It can be done in two ways, either (1) by approach or (2) by withdrawal.
    • An approach is moving the capturing stone to a point adjacent to an opponent stone provided that the stone is on the continuation of the capturing stone's movement line.
    • A withdrawal works analogously to an approach except that the movement is away from the opponent stone.
  • When an opponent stone is captured, all opponent pieces in line behind that stone (as long as there is no interruption by an empty point or an own stone) are captured as well.
  • If a player can do an approach and a withdrawal at the same time, they have to choose which one they play.
  • As in checkers, the capturing piece is allowed to continue making successive captures, with these restrictions:
    • The piece is not allowed to arrive at the same position twice.
    • It is not allowed to move a piece in the same direction as directly before in the capturing sequence. This can happen if an approach follows on a withdrawal.
  • The game ends when one player captures all stones of the opponent. If neither player can achieve this, the game is a draw.

Whenever you make a move, you must make a capturing move if you can. You capture a single piece or line of pieces by moving directly towards them, so that your piece ends up next to them. Or else by moving directly away from them, if your piece was already standing next to them.

Suppose that you are White in this game. You can move your piece marked A in the first photo below one space diagonally forwards to the empty place in the middle of the board. Then it has moved directly towards the black pieces marked x and ended up next to them. So they are both captured.
You can capture any unbroken line of black pieces in this way. Because you captured these pieces by moving towards them, this is called capture by approach.

Relay Capturing
When you make a capture, it is not necessarily the end of your turn. You are allowed to move the same piece again to capture more pieces. You can do this several times during the same turn, so long as you keep capturing each time you move the piece. We could call this a relay capture.

Capturing Restrictions
During a capturing move, it may happen that you move a piece in a way that could take some pieces by withdrawal or some others by approach. If this happens, you must choose which of the two captures you want to take. You are not allowed to take them both.
As an example, we could go back to the opening position. Here you could have started by moving the piece marked A one to the right. If you did that you could choose which of the two pieces marked x to take off. But you are not allowed to take them both.

Starting Position
There are a few other rules about what happens during a relay capture. All the capturing must be done by the same piece. The piece must change direction each time it moves during the relay capture. And it must not stand on the same spot twice during this sequence.
As long as the piece changes direction at each stage during the move, it is free to re-use one of the directions it has used earlier at a later stage in the move.

End of the Game
The game ends when one player has no pieces left, or is unable to make a move. Then they have lost. If neither player can force the other into this situation, the game is a draw. Look at the position below. This might be the end of the game we have been looking at.

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