Tak (game)

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Game of Tak.jpg
Tak being played with a "Tavern" set
Designer(s)James Ernest
Patrick Rothfuss
Publisher(s)Cheapass Games
Genre(s)Board game
Abstract strategy game
Setup timeMinimal
Playing timeCasual: 10-30 minutes
Tournament: 30-90 minutes
Random chanceNone
Skill(s) requiredTactics, Strategy

Tak is a two-player abstract strategy game designed by James Ernest and Patrick Rothfuss and published by Cheapass Games in 2016. It was designed based on a description of a fictional game in Patrick Rothfuss' 2011 fantasy novel The Wise Man's Fear.[1]

The objective of Tak is to be the first player to connect any two opposite edges of the board with your pieces, called "stones", creating a road. To this end, players will take turns blocking and capturing their opponent's pieces while supporting and connecting their own pieces to build their road. When a player "captures" a stone, the stones stack on top of each other and this creates a three dimensional element to the game play.

Cheapass Games launched a Kickstarter campaign on April 19, 2016 with a goal of US$50,000 in order to bring the game to publication.[2] It ended on May 23, 2016 with 12,187 backers and US$1,351,142 pledged.


Tak has many terms to describe the different parts of the game or states of play. Many terms are technically unofficial because they have been proposed, accepted, and are commonly used among Tak players but were not coined by the original designers or publisher of the game. Much of the unofficial terminology has been inspired by the world of The Kingkiller Chronicle.

Official Terms[edit]

"Flat stones" or simply called "flats" are pieces that lay flat on the board, may stack on top of each other, and count as part of a player's "road".

"Standing stones" or more commonly called "walls" are flat stones placed to stand up on their narrowest side and therefore appear like a wall. Standing stones do not count as part of a player's road and are used to block another player's road. Walls can stack on top of flat stones and walls can be flattened or "crushed" into a flat stone by a "capstone".

"Capstones" are pieces that have a unique appearance (compared to a player's flat stones which are uniform in appearance) and nothing can be stacked on top of a capstone. Capstones have the power to flatten a standing stone into a flat stone by moving onto the standing stone's square.

Calling "Tak" is similar to calling "check" in chess which is a warning that the player is one move away from completing a road. Calling Tak is entirely optional and is encouraged when playing against beginners or mandatory when agreed upon beforehand.

Unofficial Terms[edit]

"Tinue" is a winning position where no matter what the opposing player does during their turn, the active player can complete a road on their next turn. Tinue is analogous to checkmate in chess. Tinue is most commonly a situation where one player can complete a road in two different ways and the opposing player can only block one of those during their turn.

"Gaelet", known in the official rules as a "flat win", is when either player places their last piece on the board or every square on the board is filled and the game ends without a completed road and the player who has the most flat stones on the board wins.

"Deputy Stack" is when a capstone is stacked on top of a flat stone that is the same color as the capstone. There can be additional stones of any color underneath what is the "deputy stone" (the stone immediately underneath the capstone of the same color).


As of March 9, 2016, the official rules for Tak are described by Cheapass Games on its website.[3]

Players have proposed numerous variations to the official rules and have developed unofficial terminology to describe these variations and the different states of game play.[4]


Tak can be played on several sizes of boards. Depending on the size, players will use the appropriate number of stones. All Tak games start with an empty board.

Board size 3x3 4x4 5x5 6x6 7x7 8x8
Normal pieces 10 15 21 30 40 50
Capstone 0 0 1 1 1-2 2

Tak, similar to Chess and Checkers, can be played on a square checkered gameboard with alternating "light" and "dark" squares. In addition, Cheapass Games released a specialized hybrid board to provide a single surface for 6x6, 5x5, 4x4, and 3x3 games. For even-sized games, pieces are played on the squares (similar to a Chess board.) Odd-sized games are played on the small diamonds located at the corners and intersections of the squares (similar to a Go board.) If there is no board available, players may use an object or a temporary marker to designate the center of the board.[5] Players must imagine the rest of the board until there are enough pieces in play to define it. The object or marker may then be removed.

Also similar to the conventions of chess, checkers, and Go, Tak game pieces, commonly referred to as "stones", are divided into white and black sets and players are often referred to as "White" and "Black" respectively. Tak sets, however, can come in a variety of colors and styles. The capstone can be of any shape, and the stones should be simple, stackable pieces in a matching style.

For a game played on a 7x7 board, the number of capstones is determined by player agreement.

First turn[edit]

On each player's first turn, they must place one of their opponent's pieces on any empty space on the board. The piece must be a flat stone of their opponent's color. Play then proceeds normally with players controlling their own pieces.

Players determine randomly who starts the first game, and alternate the first move for future games. In competitive play, white plays first.

Each turn[edit]

After the first turn, players may make the choice during their turn to either place a stone or move stones under their control. There is no option to pass a turn.


During their turn, players may place one stone from their reserve onto an empty spot on the board. There are three stone types that may be placed:

  • Flat stone: Normal stones played flat. Flat stones can be stacked upon, and they count as part of a road.
  • Standing stone: Normal stones played on their edge. Nothing can be stacked upon a standing stone, but they do not count as part of a road. Also commonly called a "wall".
  • Capstone: The most powerful piece, as they count towards a road and cannot be stacked upon. The capstone also has the ability to move by itself onto a standing stone and flatten the standing stone into a flat stone. An opponent's standing stones and a player's own standing stones can be flattened in this manner.


A player may move a single piece or a stack of pieces they control. The stone on top of a stack determines which player has control of that entire stack. All stones move in a straight line on the board. There is no diagonal movement, and all stones must proceed forward across the board.

Moving stones is the only way to make stacks. As a stack moves, the player has the option of breaking the stack, covering any existing flat stones along the way. Each space must have one or more stones placed on each space as it moves, but a player has the option to leave zero or more pieces on the starting space. There is no height limit for stacks, but all stacks must be below the carry limit set by the board size in order to leave no stones on the starting space. For example, if the stack was on a 5x5, the carry limit of a stack is 5.

Standing stones and capstones cannot have any stone stack on top of it. Any move that would place a stone atop a standing stone or capstone is not legal. The only exception to this is when a capstone moves by itself onto a standing stone, flattening it. A capstone may make a longer move with a taller stack to flatten a standing stone, but it must be the only piece that moves onto the standing stone.

End of game[edit]

The primary goal of Tak is to build a road from one opposite end of the board to the other. Only flat stones and capstones can contribute to a road, while standing stones do not. As soon as the road is built, the player who built it wins. This is called a "road win". Roads do not have to be in a straight line, but stones can only connect when they are adjacent to one another. Stones cannot connect diagonally.

If a player makes a move that results in a winning road for both players, the active player wins.

If a road is not built by either player, a player can also win by controlling the most spaces with flat stones on the board. The game will end when a player places their last piece, or when all spaces on the board are covered. The player with the most flat stones wins. Standing stones and capstones do not count. Stones captured by other pieces also do not count, only the flat stone on top.


Tak has a small online community of players who play, discuss, and promote the game.

It is very common among the Tak community for players to custom create their own board and game pieces and share their creation with others online.[6][7]

US Tak Association[edit]

In 2016, Tak players founded the US Tak Association (USTA),[8] a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting and promoting the game of Tak in the United States and worldwide. USTA has two primary goals: to educate the public about the game of Tak, and to provide opportunities for fair and competitive play to its members.[9] Players can pay to join and become a member of USTA.[10] USTA hosts online tournaments[11] and promotes Tak through tabletop game conventions, such as Gen Con.[12]

Online Gameplay[edit]

Before Tak was commercially produced through a successful Kickstarter campaign, Tak was available to play for free online through Playtak.com. Players can play Tak against other players online or against AI players (commonly called "bots").


In 2017, the first ever Tak strategy book was published called Mastering Tak: Level I: A foundation for success (Volume 1) written by Bill Leighton.[13]

Many players discuss and propose ideas to Tak strategy through online communities, blogs, and publishing YouTube videos.[14]


Tak was originally introduced in the fantasy novel The Wise Man's Fear written by Patrick Rothfuss and published in 2011. The protagonist of the novel, a young student and musician named Kvothe, travels to a foreign city and takes up residence in the mansion and court of a powerful noble. While there, a nobleman named Bredon introduces Kvothe to the game of Tak. The novel does not describe the specifics or rules of the game, but Tak plays an important part in the development of Kvothe as a character.

Throughout the novel, Tak is described as "simple in its rules, complex in its strategy" and is analogized to "a dance" where a "well-played game of tak reveals the moving of a mind." The goal of Tak is not necessarily to "win" but to play "a beautiful game".

Elements of this philosophical approach from the novel have been incorporated into the game play of Tak where players distinguish between different styles of play, one that focuses on playing a "beautiful game" and others more competitive in nature.


  1. ^ "Kickstarting Tak, a new Cheapass Game based on Patrick Rothfuss's "Wise Man's Fear"". Boing Boing. Retrieved 23 January 2019.
  2. ^ "Tak: A Beautiful Game". Kickstarter. Cheapass Games. Retrieved 5 July 2016.
  3. ^ "Tak: Abstract Strategy Game". Cheapass Games. Retrieved 5 July 2016.
  4. ^ "r/Tak - Rule Variations". reddit. Retrieved 2019-03-31.
  5. ^ "Tak: Collector Coin". Worldbuilders Market. Retrieved 2019-03-31.
  6. ^ "r/Tak - My Tak game box!". reddit. Retrieved 2019-03-31.
  7. ^ "r/Tak - Another very special Tak set I'm pleased to share with the community". reddit. Retrieved 2019-03-31.
  8. ^ "US Tak Association" (PDF). cheapass.com. Retrieved 2019-03-31.
  9. ^ "US Tak Association: About Us".
  10. ^ "Become a Member". USTak.org. Retrieved 2019-03-31.
  11. ^ "Tournaments". USTak.org. Retrieved 2019-03-31.
  12. ^ "USTA News 2018 GenCon Recap".
  13. ^ Leighton, Bill (2017-06-22). "Tak Thoughts: Mastering Tak: Level I -- It's Here!!!". Tak Thoughts. Retrieved 2019-03-31.
  14. ^ "Tak Strategy". YouTube. Retrieved 2019-03-31.

External links[edit]

  • Playtak, a free, fanmade, browser-based Tak-playing site
  • USTA – US Tak Association