Ishido: The Way of Stones

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Ishido The Way of Stones Cover.jpg
Developer(s) Publishing International
Publisher(s) Accolade
Producer(s) Brad Fregger
Designer(s) Michael Feinberg
Programmer(s) Ian Gilman and Mike Sandige
Composer(s) Ed Bogas (FM Towns)
Masaharu Iwata (Famicom) [1]
Platform(s) Macintosh, MS-DOS, Sega Genesis, Atari Lynx, Game Boy, Amiga, Famicom Disk System, FM Towns, MSX2, NEC PC-8801, NEC PC-9801, Sharp X68000
Genre(s) Puzzle
Mode(s) Single-player

Ishido: The Way of Stones is a puzzle video game released in 1990 by Accolade and developed by Publishing International. It was designed by Michael Feinberg and programmed by Ian Gilman and Michael Sandige. The game's producer was Brad Fregger, and Brodie Lockard (the designer of the Shanghai computer game) contributed with graphics.



Ishido is a puzzle board game consisting of a set of 72 stones and a game board of 96 squares.

Every stone has two attributes: a color and a symbol. There are six colors and six symbols in each stone set, thus creating 36 unique stones. Since each stone comes in a pair, there are therefore 72 stones in each stone set.

The primary objective of Ishido is to place all 72 stones onto the board of 96 squares. The challenge arises because stones must be placed adjacent to others that they match, either by color or symbol. When the board begins to fill up, this objective is not so easily accomplished.

A valuable move is the 4-way, in which a stone is placed in the midst of four others, two of which are matched by color, and two which are matched by symbol.

Ishido comes with 6 differently themed stone sets, 5 different game boards, and a variety of Oriental chimes and sound effects.

Ports and adaptations

Ishido was originally released for the Macintosh in 1990, with ports to MS-DOS, Amiga, Game Boy and Sega Genesis in the same year. The Atari Lynx and Famicom Disk System versions were published in 1991. The Microsoft Entertainment Pack contained an adaptation of Ishido called Stones.

The Genesis port of the game was involved in the copyright trial, Sega v. Accolade.

An actual physical board game version of Ishido was published in Japan by ASCII in 1992.


Review score
GamePro GB: 18/25 [2]

Compute! called the Macintosh version of Ishido "addictive ... a peaceful encounter with an Oriental flavor". [3] The New York Times wrote that it "is one of those deceptively simple games, like Go, that gradually reveal their subtleties ... most engrossing". [4] Computer Gaming World called the game "a remarkably complex entertainment resource, with some pleasant surprises". The magazine liked Ishido's VGA graphics, and concluded that it would please both novice and experienced strategy game players. [5] The Atari Lynx version of the game was reviewed in 1992 in Dragon #181 by Hartley, Patricia, and Kirk Lesser in "The Role of Computers" column. The reviewers gave the game 5 out of 5 stars. [6] Entertainment Weekly gave the game a B+. [7]

Ishido was rated 'Five Mice' by MacUser ,[ citation needed ] and entered into the MacUser Game Hall of Fame.[ citation needed ] It also won PC Magazine 's Best Strategy Game of the Year Award in 1990.[ citation needed ] Reviewing Ishido's re-release in 1995, MacUser gave it 4 out of 5 mice. [8] Macworld named the Macintosh version of Ishido: The Way of Stones the Best Brain Teaser game of 1990, complimenting its need for strategy and "entrancing" graphics, alongside the feature of being able to create custom gamepieces; Macworld put Ishido into their Macintosh Game Hall of Fame. [9]

Oracle and legend

Integrated into Ishido is an oracle, a way to ask questions of the ancient Chinese Book of Changes, the I Ching .

First the user poses a question. Then they meditate upon it while playing the game. When they attain a '4-way' match, Ishido, utilizing the same algorithm as the authentic yarrow stalk method of consulting the oracle, obtains an answer.

An original translation of the I Ching, which used the Wilhelm/Baynes and Anthony translations as primary sources, was written for the game by Michael Feinberg.

The original Ishido game was published by Publishing International in a limited edition in a hand-made walnut slip box. Then the following year, 1990, Accolade published the first mass-market version.

Ishido came with a 20-page booklet, "The Legend of Ishido". It began:

One misty spring morning in 1989, in the remote mountains of China's Han Shan province, a Mendicant monk of the Northern School of the White Crane branch of Taoism, walked silently out through the front gates of the Heavenly Peak Temple

The monk carried a stone board, a set of seventy-two carved stone pieces, and an ancient scroll inscribed with brush and ink in elegant calligraphic script.

He also carried with him a secret which had lain cloistered and hidden for thousands of years.

The story was fictional and written by Michael Feinberg. Nevertheless, many believed that Ishido actually was an ancient game, recently re-discovered. [10]

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