Thinking in Circles

Release Date: 
Sunday, August 15, 2004
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Play Duration (new players): 
Play Duration (experienced): 
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by Jonathan Leistiko


Set three adjacent circles to your color, or to get three adjacent circles to match your secret shape sequence. You do this by outguessing what your opponent will play.

You Need

  • Five pennies
  • Six black beads
  • Six white beads
  • A Thinking In Circles board
  • A scrap of paper and a pencil for each player

Setting Up

Place the Thinking in Circles board in the center of the table.

Write down a sequence of three shapes. The only valid shapes are circle, triangle, square, and pentagon.

Choose black or white. Your opponent gets the other color and gets to go first.


On your turn, pick a circle to adjust. Secretly pick a number of beads and put them in your hand. The beads must all be the same color. You must select at least one bead. Your opponent does likewise.

Every white bead counts for one point. Every black bead counts for one negative point.

Reveal your beads simultaneously and add them up. This will give you a number from -6 to +6. Move the token in your chosen circle that many steps clockwise (for positive numbers) or counterclockwise (for negative numbers). If your total balanced out to zero, the token does not move.

Play passes to the left.


If tokens in three adjacent circles are resting on shapes that match one of your goals, you win. Note that the order must match also. If your goal is circle, square, pentagon then tokens resting on circle, pentagon, square don’t count. You may read the sequence forward or backward; square, square, circle is the same as circle, square, square.

You also win if tokens in three adjacent circles are resting on spaces that match your color.


Lockdown: You’ll need nickels to act as “Blocker” tokens. Each player starts the game with one Blocker token. If a token lands on a neutral space and it’s your turn, you get a Blocker token. Moving no spaces still counts as landing on a space. After your opponent selects a circle to adjust, but before you select hidden beads, you can spend a Blocker token to force your opponent to select a different circle.

Spin Cycle: For a faster game, let each player start with two or three secret goals instead of just one.

UnCloned: You can not choose a secret goal that has two identical shapes adjacent to each other.

Wild Cards If a token is on your color, you can count it as one of the shapes in your sequence. For example, pretend your color is black and your sequence is square, circle, pentagon. You would win if tokens were on square, black, pentagon. Black, circle, black would also win for you.

Origin and Credits

Thanks to Ben for playtesting this with me many, many months ago (in September of 2002) as we waited out a rainstorm.