I originally read this story well over 20 years ago, in a collection that I can no longer recall any details of. The story in question centered in some way on a board game that I somehow recall having the impression is something like Go, except that it's played with bicolored pieces like Reversi. There was a passage about a game being played by a master, and the move that the master made was to play the piece as the opponent's color, thus showing his status as a grand master because he gave as his reason for doing so something to the effect of "I could not spoil that perfect pattern".

I do also recall that it was a galactic society, not strictly based on Earth. It was classed as SF rather than fantasy, and was by an author whose name I'd recognize, but can't recall at the moment.

What story am I thinking of, and is it available in an in-print form?

  • This reminds me of The Final Reflection, a Star Trek novel. This is not the book you are looking for, but it contains a game called "klin zha" which is the Klingon "chess;" but klin zha is more of a game genre, which includes "living pieces," where the game is played with actual gladiators that combat each other (and sometimes kill each other!), requiring great tactical acumen from the player, and the "Reflective game" which your story reminded me of, where both players play with a single set of pieces; one must prepare the board without sacrificing their own interests.
    – Zoey Green
    Jan 19, 2017 at 22:26
  • @ZoeyBoles - indeed, TFR is not the book I'm thinking of; I have a copy of it, and have enjoyed it - it provides some interesting, if non-canonical, insights into Klingon culture. Jan 20, 2017 at 12:26

2 Answers 2


It seems that the story I was thinking of is "Out There Where the Big Ships Go", by Richard Cowper, and it's appeared in several anthologies, including one by the same title. The game in question, if anyone is interested, was called "kalire", or just "The Game".

The first story is also the title of the collection, and the cover illustrates it well. A young boy unknowingly turns out to be the generational catalyst for mankind on our evolutionary path to the stars, based on one chosen leader’s proficiency in The Game, designed by an alien race to determine whether or not we are ready.


This sounds like it could be The Last Hawk, published in 1997, by Catherine Asaro.

The game that plays a prominent role in the story is Quis. Quis is a deep strategy game, like Go, where a Master can create patterns to overcome their opponents' patterns. It is used to determine outcomes of important decisions in the world, Coba, where the main character, Kelric, crash lands on. The pieces are described as colored dice.

The unviverse the story takes place in has a Galactic Society where there are two main powers: The Skolian Empire, whose rulers are from the Ruby Dynasty, are empathic and the Eubian Traders, whose ruling elite psychically feed on strong emotions.

I almost forgot to mention, that yes, Catherine Asaro's books are still available in both print and e-book formats.

  • Definitely not; I'm familiar with her Ruby Empire series, and the story I'm looking for isn't part of it. The game in question was definitely more like Go or Reversi than it was like Quis, and was definitely played with counters, not dice. Jan 20, 2017 at 12:28

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