Fanorona for Android: Help

By John Stracke.

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The board

Fanorona is a traditional game from Madagascar, played on a 9x5 board:

As you can see, it's not just a rectangular grid like chess; the spaces are connected by lines. Pieces may move only along the lines. Notice that not all spaces which seem to be adjacent diagonally are actually connected. This turns out to be important for strategy: a piece can, in essence, hide from another piece, yet stay nearby.

In Fanorona for Android, the human player's pieces are blue, and the computer's pieces are green. Empty spaces are white. Alternatively, you can choose colorblind mode in the settings (available in the menu, or via the gear icon on the board), in which case the human's pieces are white with a black circle, and the computer's are white with a black cross, and the board looks like this:

Unfortunately, once you've changed the colorblind setting, your change doesn't take effect until you either restart the app or rotate the device (you can then rotate it back).

The rules

Pieces may move only along the lines, one step at a time.

Capture is by approach or withdrawal. In other words, to capture a piece, you either move into place to be adjacent to it (i.e., so that, if you moved one more step in the same direction, you would be on top of it), or else start out adjacent to it and move away from it (so that, if you had moved in the opposite direction, you would be on top of it). A piece may not capture both by approach and by withdrawal in the same move; the player must choose.

When you capture, you're actually capturing a line of pieces, not just one: all the opponent pieces in the same direction, up until a blank space or one of your pieces. If you can make a capture, you must.

After each capture, if the same piece can make another capture, it must, provided it is changing direction, and provided it does not cross back on its path (within the same turn, that is). This is a standard rule of Fanorona; however, as of version 2.4, there is an option to allow players to end their turns early. When starting a game, you can set "Required continued captures?" to "No", and then, after making a capture, you can either press the "End turn" button (see right) or select "End turn" from the menu.

The game is over when all of one player's pieces are gone, or when one player cannot move.

The user interface


The human player always moves first. The pieces you can move are highlighted with question marks. Start by touching the piece you wish to move. The spaces you can move it to are now highlighted with question marks; touch one of them to move there. If you have a choice between capturing by approach or by withdrawal, the pieces you can capture will be highlighted with question marks; touch one of them to make your choice. Note that spaces where the piece you're moving has already been this turn will be marked with footprints, to remind you that you can't double back there.

If you can make another capture with the same piece, the process repeats. The spaces you can move to are highlighted; touch one to move; maybe touch an enemy piece to indicate capture by approach or by withdrawal.

Any touch can be undone; just choose Undo from the menu, or swipe left across the board. To redo, choose Redo from the menu, or swipe right across the board.

The leaderboard

The leaderboard is a service that keeps track of players' scores. Every time you win, Fanorona updates the leaderboard. Your score is the number of pieces you have left. To set the name you use on the leaderboard, go into Settings. Note that more than one person may be using the same name—when you view the leaderboard, your line will be highlighted, so you aren't left wondering if that's you or somebody else with the same name. (The leaderboard shows only the top 10; but, if you're not in the top 10, you'll be listed separately, so you can see how far you have to go.) You can change your name at any time; the leaderboard won't forget your old games.

The leaderboard is designed not to be a privacy risk, so it doesn't identify you by phone number. Instead it assigns you a random identifier, which the Fanorona app remembers.


Contact me


Thanks to my wife, Cynthia Virtue, who supports me in, well, everything. In this case, she gave good feedback, and let me use her phone to test this game.

Thanks, too, to my beta testers, Dick Stracke and John O'Laughlin, for important last-minute advice.

The sapphire and emerald images are derived from two images from Flickr user cliff1066, which were published under a Creative Commons BY license, which requires attribution, but permits commercial use and derived works. The sapphire is from a photo of the Logan Sapphire; the emerald is from a photo of the Maximilian Emerald Ring. Many thanks to cliff1066.


Most of the sound effects are taken from the free sound clip collection at, used under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license.

There's a clicking sound whenever a piece moves. For the human player, it's Click2, by Sebastian; for the AI player, it's the first part of Switch, by Mike Koenig.

When the human player wins, there's a celebratory sound, chosen at random. The possible sounds are:

Many thanks to Sebastian, Mike Koenig, and J. Anders.