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  • 8x8 Playing board
  • 16 Dragon Towers
  • Two sets of octagonal 'sumo rings'
  • Rulebook

A playing board, divided into 64 squares in eight different colors.

The playing board is double-sided, one side being as shown below, while the reverse side has Chinese characters marked on each square.

This has been done to assist those suffering from color blindness, and also for those players who just think it looks better with the Chinese characters added!

So you can choose whichever side of the board you like. The game is just the same, but the 'look' is different!

Sixteen octagonal 'dragon tower' playing pieces. Of these, eight towers have a gold dragonscale motif on the top, while the other eight have a black dragonscale motif on the top.

There are two sets of octagonal 'sumo rings', one gold set and one black set. Each set contains:

  • 8 large-sized rings (worth 1 point)
  • 6 medium-sized rings (worth 2 points)
  • 2 small-sized rings (worth 4 points)


Place the board between the two players. The row nearest to each player is known as that player's 'home row'. If the board has been placed correctly, each player will have an orange square at the right-hand end of his/her home row (and a brown square at the left-hand end of his/her home row).

Note: The game works equally well with the board the other way around (with an orange square on the left and a brown square on the right)

The more experienced player takes the towers with the gold dragonscale motifs, while the other player takes those with the black dragonscale motifs.

In any match, the player who takes the gold dragon towers for the first round will continue to use the gold dragon towers for the entire match, while his/her opponent will retain the black dragon towers throughout the match.

Each player will now have one tower in each of the following colors: Brown, Green, Red, Yellow, Pink, Purple, Blue, Orange.

Both players now place all their dragon towers on their own 'home row'. For the initial round, each dragon tower is placed so that the color of the tower matches the color of the square it is placed on. So the brown tower is placed on the brown square, the green tower is placed on the green square etc., etc.

The start position for the initial round is shown below:

For subsequent rounds, the starting positions of the towers vary, and are determined by the relative positions of each player's towers at the end of the previous round. This will be dealt with later in the rules.

Object of the Game

The game is played in 'rounds'. Within each round, the object is to reach your opponent's 'home row' with one of your dragon towers (i.e. you must place one of your towers on one of the squares in your opponent's home row).

The player who manages to do this first scores one point (in later rounds, two, four or even eight points may be scored for winning a round - please see further on in the rules).

Before you start playing, decide which type of match you would like to play. You can choose from the following options:

  • Single Round (where the first player to score 1 point is the winner)
  • Standard Match (where the first player to score a total of 3 points is the winner)
  • Long Match (where the first player to score a total of 7 points is the winner)
  • Marathon Match (where the first player to score a total of 15 points is the winner)

To see the estimated duration for each of the types of match listed above, please refer to the beginning of these rules.

Special Features

The type of match you play will determine how many special features of Kamisado you will encounter.

A Single Round match, which ends as soon as one of the players has scored one point, involves only the basic rules of Kamisado, and you only need to read the section below on 'Method of Play (Single Round)' before you can start playing.

There are also separate sections below to describe each of the longer match formats (Standard, Long and Marathon).

These sections describe the additional special features which are associated with each match type, such as 'Sumo' dragon towers, and the enhanced scoring system which is used in the longer matches and the method used to set up the towers at the beginning of each new round.

Please note: Having the rules structured in this way means that you only have to read the rules up to and including the section describing the match format that you wish to play.

Method of Play - Single Round

During each round, the players take turns to move a dragon tower, each attempting to be the first to place a dragon tower on a square within their opponent's home row.

Which Tower?

Rules determining which tower a player moves:

Rule T1: For the first move only in any round, the player making this move can select any of his/her eight dragon towers as the one to be moved.

Rule T2: For all subsequent moves in that round (i.e. on any move except the first), each player must move the dragon tower that matches the color of the square on which their opponent's previous move finished.

Please note that this is a very important rule and it is vital that you understand it fully before you attempt to play Kamisado!

Valid Moves?

Rules determining how that tower can be moved:

  • Rule M1: A tower must be moved in a straight line, either directly forwards or diagonally forwards. No sideways or backwards moves are EVER allowed, except backwards moves made as a result of a 'Sumo push' (see later - not applicable to a Single Round match).

  • Rule M2: A tower can be moved any number of squares, but may not pass through any square that already contains a tower (either belonging to the player making the move, or to his/her opponent).

    A tower can even be moved directly from a square in a player's own home row to an empty space in his/her opponent's home row, provided that this move is in a straight line and there are no towers on any of the squares the tower has to pass through.

  • Rule M3: A tower can only be moved to a square that was previously empty (i.e. no two towers may ever occupy the same space).

  • Rule M4: A tower is allowed to move diagonally between two dragon towers that occupy squares that touch corner-to-corner.

  • Rule M5: A tower must be moved at least one square if it is at all possible to do so.

  • Rule M6: If it is impossible to move the required tower in any way (i.e. if it is completely blocked from moving forwards or diagonally forwards), the player whose turn it is to move that tower has to miss that turn, and his/her opponent moves again immediately. For further detail see below.

  • Rule M7: The round finishes as soon as either player succeeds in moving one tower to any square within their opponent's 'home row'. That player has now 'won' that round.

  • Rule M8: It is possible, although extremely unlikely, to get a situation where both players have towers which are completely blocked so that they cannot be moved, and for these towers to interact to form a 'deadlock' situation where no further towers can be moved at all.

    In this situation, the player who made the last move prior to the occurrence of the deadlock situation (i.e. the player who 'caused' the deadlock) is considered to have lost the round, and his/her opponent is the winner of that round.

Opening Moves

In the example opening that follows, Alain is playing against Johan. Alain, being the more experienced player, takes the gold dragon towers. As Johan is the less experienced player, he uses the black dragon towers and has the first move of the round.

In the first round of any match, the player using the black dragon towers moves first.

In any round, the player that moves first is known as the Challenger. The other player is known as the Defender for that round. The player using the black dragon towers is always the Challenger in the first round of any match.

In subsequent rounds, the player who lost the previous round is always the Challenger and takes the first move, while the player who won the previous round is now the Defender.

You must move if you can

A tower must be moved at least one square if it is possible to do so (Rule M5).

What Happens if your Tower is Blocked

A player who finds that the tower he/she is supposed to be moving is completely blocked (i.e. this tower cannot be moved at all, either forwards or diagonally forwards) must forfeit his/her turn (Rule M6).

Although his/her tower remained on the same spot, it is considered that this dragon tower has made a (zero-length) move that finished on this square.

This means that this player's opponent will move again, using the tower whose color matches the square on which the blocked player's dragon tower was trapped.


It is possible to get situations where neither player can move any of his/her towers in a sequence of moves that repeat indefinitely (Rule M8). These are known as 'Deadlock' situations.

When a deadlock situation occurs, the last person to move a tower before the deadlock occurs loses that round! (i.e. the last player to have moved is adjudged to have 'caused' the deadlock - even if they were forced to do so).

Deadlock situations are extremely rare, partly because players are careful not to cause them. They can involve a 'perpetually repeating sequence' of two dragon towers (one belonging to each player), or four towers, or six, or more.

End of the Game

When you are playing up to one point (Single Round), the game is over as soon as one player moves a dragon tower to his/her opponent's 'home row'. This player will be the winner.

If you wish, you can play a series of single-round games (starting each time with each tower on the square that matches it). Score one point for each game, and take turns to play the first move.

Advanced Game Formats

However, if players have agreed to play up to 3, 7 or even 15 points, then play moves into a phase which goes beyond the 'Initial Round' as described above. In the rules that follow, each type of match is described separately, but the main new features that are introduced in matches are:

  • Advanced set-up positions
  • The concept of a 'Sumo' dragon tower
  • 'Sumo Push' moves
  • The scoring system for a Standard Match
  • The concept of a 'Double Sumo' dragon tower
  • 'Double Sumo Push' moves
  • The scoring system for a Long Match
  • The concept of a 'Triple Sumo' dragon tower
  • 'Triple Sumo Push' moves
  • The scoring system for a Marathon Match

These are described in full in the following sections:

Other Methods of Play

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