How to Play the Game of Moves




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The Game of Moves has had many names over the years. When I first learned about it, it was just called The Game, but that was before the invention of The Game (which I just lost).

Other names it has had have been The Stationary Game, The Strategy Game, or The Tactical Game.

It is a much-mutable game, very much in the vein of a table-top version of Mornington Crescent.

So, read on, dear reader, and I will enlighten you...

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Step 1: Equipment

The Game of Moves needs no board, but it does need a flat surface, and approximately 4-6 small, different* items from your pocket, pencil case or desk.

A long-running game may also be played on a fridge, with magnets.

You also need an opponent, and at least one Knowledgeable Observer who knows how to play the Game of Moves.

*You may use more than one of the same item such as two coins, but that requires the Advanced Rules (see step six).

Step 2: Set-up

On the desk or table* before you, lay your items in a straight line.

As you lay them out, it is good form to pause with each item, and consider carefully which end of the line the item belongs on, and it's relative orientation to the other items. Mutter to oneself, or raise a questioning eyebrow to one's opponent or the Knowledgeable Observer as you lay them down. Look for an approving nod, or simply declare that you are going to play your house rules.

Make it clear, as you lay the items down, that there is an Established System, which must be followed in the set-up.

*A quick game may be played on a book or binder balanced on a knee. Some modern versions of the Rules also allow a closed laptop or inverted tablet computer to be used as the playing surface, but both players must agree that the Stalemate rules (see step 5) shall also apply to the playing surface.

Step 3: Play

In turn, each player must make A Move.

In the Basic Rules, you must make a Reposition, an Alignment, or an Exchange. All moves must be Legitimate.


Pick up the appropriate Item, and put it back down, somewhere else in the line. Be careful to consider several locations, and whether the Move is Legitimate.


An Item may be nudged slightly towards or away from other Items in play, or it may be rotated about an axis of your choice, to an Orientation of your choice. Be aware that the number of Stable Orientations is finite on most playing surface.


Pick up two Items (being careful to lift them in a Legitimate order), and replace each in the location of the other. An Exchange is a simple Move to make, but risky, as you double the options open to your opponent.

Have a look at this quick Game:

  • Every Move must be Legitimate, but No Move is also a Legitimate Move.
  • You may not Legitimately combine Moves, unless you are playing the Advanced Rules.

Step 4: Ending Play

Play ends when a Winning Move is made.

Winning Moves are varied in form, but are always obvious. Upon the execution of a Winning Move, the losing player must immediately declare that the Winning Move has been made, and express his admiration for the skill and planning that went into the Winning Move.

A Sore Loser may appeal to any Knowledgeable Observers present to adjudicate on the Legitimacy of the Winning Move, but play cannot continue, and players and and Knowledgeable Observers must retire from the locale to discuss the Legitimacy of the Winning Move.

Sometimes a player may see a Winning Move coming, through the inevitable, logical progression of the available Legitimate Moves to both players. In such a case, a player may resign the game, and explain the moves that would have led, ultimately, to the end of play.

By such a move, a Losing Player displays both his sportsmanship and his deep knowledge of the Game of Moves, and is thus automatically the Winner.

Step 5: Stalemate and the Solo Game

The Solo Game is set up in the same manner as the Paired Game, but the Solo Game only requires two people to play, in the same manner as the Paired Game requires three people; every Game of Moves requires at least one Knowledgeable Observer to be present.

It might be expected that the Solo Game would take much less time than the Paired Game, since the single player does not need to outwit an opponent. However, since a player can only be both a Winner and a Loser if the House Rules allow Schrodinger's Move to be made (and who, realistically, carries a cat in their waistcoat in this day and age?), a Solo Game must end in a Stalemate.

Stalemate is declared when the Game enters into an obvious loop, when no Legitimate Moves are possible, or when the Knowledgeable Observer needs his pencil sharpener back.

Step 6: The Advanced Rules

The Advanced Rules may not be declared before the game, but, in the event of the Standard Rules not applying, the Knowledgeable Observer may ask both players if they are playing the Advanced Rules.

If the Advanced Rules are being played, then it becomes to responsibility of the Knowledgeable Observer to ensure fair play, maintain order, and to hold the overcoats of the players, should Casanova's Rule be inadvertently invoked. Occasional tutting and tooth-sucking is generally expected.

Under the Advanced Rules, play continues as previously, however, whenever the Knowledgeable Observer is unsure whether a Move is Legitimate under the Advanced Rules, he must question the player involved as to the particular rule he is following, and, if the answer is unsatisfactory, then the Move is clearly not Legitimate, the Items are replaced, and play continues. If the answer is hesitant, then the player involved clearly does not understand the Advanced Rules as deeply as required, and was probably winging it to see if the other player was also lacking the depth of knowledge required to play the advanced rules. At the Knowledgeable Observer's discretion, play continues, Stalemate is declared or the offending player buys the next round.

An Incomplete List of The Advanced Rules currently accepted in play:

  • Castling (not to be confused with an Exchange)
  • Victoria's Gambit.
  • Byron's Third Rule (remember, the first and second rules were outlawed in 1863)
  • Newton's Rule (intended to be played with fruit, it works well with modern synthetics as well)
  • The Bayesian Exception.
  • The Upgraded Allowance.
  • Turner's Follow-Through Rule.
  • The Clone Move (if you learned in the 1970s, you may know this as the Stormtrooper Entrance).
  • Housemaid's Excuse-me.
  • The Closing Turn.
  • The Second Shot (although this is not usually combined with Casanova's Rule in most European countries, the pairing is popular South of the Equator, especially Argentina).

Any other Advanced Rules may be applied either with both players' agreement, or at the Knowledgeable Observer's discretion, but any player who tries to play Turner's Follow-Through immediately after a Housemaid's Excuse-me will deserve everything that happens to him...

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    49 Discussions


    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    If you understand Calvinball or Mornington Crescent, you should have no trouble understanding The Game of Moves. It used to be very popular in British universities.


    Reply 4 years ago

    My issue with this, seeing as I have never heard of it and therefore don't know the rules, is that you did not indicate what legitimate moves are or what the end goal of the game is. In other words, this looks like a serious explanation of a joke to play on someone.


    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    And the penny drops!

    Did you not notice that it's classed under "pranks and humour"?


    Reply 3 years ago

    the keen observer mutters 'pah' frowns and walks to the opposite side of the pub dismayed at the disgraceful show of disregard for a well written and blatantly brilliant ible.


    3 years ago

    you sir are certifiable... of what you certified we know not but you are. I feel I shall once again take up the mantle of head and only member of the local MC club (MT SWales chapter "Go Paladins") and therefore never play again in any official way not having nor allowing a second nor third member to join. Tis a ploy like no other butt we hold the record for least loses to any member having never played. thanks again for all the free funny ?

    1 reply