Ishido: The Way of Stones (stylized as Ishidō) is a tile-based puzzle game developed and published by Software Resources International (later as Publishing International) for Apple Macintosh computers in 1989. Originally released in limited quantities, it was later re-published by Accolade in 1990 (along with first-party ports for Amiga computers and MS-DOS PCs).
In Ishido, players are given an empty 96-tile (12×8) board and must place a series of tiles (or "stones") one-by-one in an attempt to have all 72 stones on the board, where each stone can only be placed based on the color and/or symbol of adjacent stones. Designed by Michael Feinberg, the game is notable for including graphical contributions by Brodie Lockard (the designer of the 1986 game Shanghai).
Similar to Shanghai and its derivatives, the game is heavily themed around the Ancient Orient. Themed on mysticism, one of its features is the "Oracle", which prompts players to pose a question to meditate on while playing and then receive an answer from the game, based on the ancient Chinese text I Ching, when a difficult "4-Way Match" is made. Its original limited-edition release was packaged in a hand-made Japanese-style walnut slip box.
Along with ports released by Accolade, the game received ports in 1990 and 1991 for the Game Boy (released by NEXOFT in North America and by ASCII in Japan), for the Atari Lynx (released by Atari in North America), for the Family Computer Disk System (released by Hiro in Japan only via Disk Writer kiosks), and for numerous Japanese computers (with an ASCII release for the NEC PC-8801, NEC PC-9801, MSX, and Sharp X68000 computers and a Fujitsu release for the FM Towns). The Macintosh version was re-published by MacPlay in 1995. It also received multiple clones after its original release, most notably the game Stones (included in the second installment of the Microsoft Entertainment Pack).
Accolade also released a Sega Genesis port in 1990, which is known for being the first unlicensed game for the system in North America. As it doesn't use documented code later used on the TradeMark Security System (or TMSS) feature in later system models, the game is only supported in early models of the original Sega Genesis.
The DOS and Mac versions of the game were later released for free on the website of Ian Gilman, the game's programmer.
In Ishido, players are given an empty 96-stone (12×8) board and a "pouch" of 72 stones (two of each of the 36 types of stones, where each type is a combination of one of six colors and one of six symbols). Six stones are automatically placed on the board (where each color and each symbol are present), and players must use those to place additional stones from the pouch in an attempt to empty the pouch.
Each stone order from the pouch is randomized (and can be peeked, although this will nullify the score) and players can only place stones adjacent to another under a certain criteria:
- Spaces where only one stone is adjacent (a "1-Way Match") can only be filled by those matching the adjacent stone's color or symbol.
- Spaces where two stones are adjacent (a "2-Way Match") can only be filled by those matching one adjacent stone's color and the other adjacent stone's symbol.
- Spaces where three stones are adjacent (a "3-Way Match") can only be filled by those matching either two adjacent stones of the same color and one other adjacent stone of the same symbol or one adjacent stone of the same color and two other adjacent stones of the same symbol.
- Spaces where all four stones are adjacent (a "4-Way Match") can only be filled by those matching two adjacent stones of the same color and two other adjacent stones of the same symbol. This is difficult to achieve and grants a higher score bonus.
When either the pouch is empty or the current drawn stone cannot be placed anywhere on the board, the game ends and players are scored.
The game includes four play modes:
- Solitaire - Standard one-player mode.
- Cooperative - Same as Solitaire, but players can choose to have a second computer-controlled player aid them by alternating turns with them.
- Tournament - Same as Solitaire, but each playthrough uses the same stone draw order. It is intended for multiple play sessions with different players, and players can optionally enable a timer that ends their playthrough once the timer elapses. It uses a separate high score table for each Tournament session.
- Challenge - Two-player mode where each player alternate turns and are scored separately. Optionally, a turn timer can be enabled that forces players to relinquish their turn if they stall for too long.
In the basic "Ancient" scoring, players are scored on two criteria: how many 4-Way Matches were made and how many stones remained in the pouch.
Ranking is first determined by those who successfully emptied the pouch, who are ranked at the top of the leaderboard in order by the number of 4-Way Matches made. For those who didn't empty the pouch, they are then ranked first by the number of 4-Way Matches made, then by the amount of stones remaining in the pouch (in order of least remaining).
In the advanced "Modern" scoring, players receive points for placing stones in the interior area of the game board, with bonus points received for certain criteria:
- For placing stones matching more than one surrounding stone (1 point for 2-Way Matches, 3 points for 3-Way Matches, and 7 points for 4-Way Matches).
- For each 4-Way Match made in the playthrough, with each amount significantly increasing the value (25, 50, 100, 200, 400, 600, 800, 1000, 5000, 10000, 25000, and 50000).
- For ending the game with less than three stones in the pouch, with less stones significantly increasing the value (100 points for two stones left, 500 points for one stone left, 1000 for an empty pouch).
The game has multiple tile themes (or "stonesets"). In most versions, these are customizable.
Macintosh / DOS
The DOS version of the game has three separate groups of stonesets, each corresponding to a particular video mode (VGA, EGA, and CGA).
- Ishido (All) - Default. Tiles have symbols based on spirituality (such as the "yin-yang symbol"). In the EGA and CGA versions, the tiles are rounded and both tiles and symbols have distinct color combinations (grey/red, grey/black, red/white, red/black, black/white, black/red). In the VGA version, the tiles are textures to resemble stones of different colors (including two grey, two tan, and two beige).
- Chung Fu (Mac) / Chungfu (VGA/EGA/CGA) - Tiles resemble mahjong tiles, with each symbol based on a mahjong honor tile (including the Wind tiles and the Red and Green dragons). In the EGA and CGA versions, the symbols are changed to Flower tiles (as well as the Red Dragon and One of Circles). In Color versions, the symbols have multiple colors rather than the tile.
- Gems (EGA) - Tiles resemble gemstones with multiple shapes and colors.
- Genesis (Mac) - Tiles have pieces broken off of them.
- Ginza (VGA) - Tiles have bright gradient colors, with each symbol based on haku katakana (tsu, mu, shi, su, mi, ho).
- Inner Shapes (All) - Tiles have simple shapes on them (square, circle, triangle, diamond, heart, and star). In the VGA version, the symbols are carved through the tile. In Color versions, the tiles have bright flat colors.
- Magica (Mac/EGA/CGA) - Tiles are oval and have different alchemical symbols on them. In Color versions, the symbols have multiple colors rather than the tiles.
- Ramses (Mac/EGA/CGA) / Egypt (VGA) - Tiles resemble different-shaped gemstones, with each symbol based on an Ancient Egyptian hieroglyph. In Monochrome versions, the tiles are oval.
- Runes (Mac/EGA/CGA)- Tiles have runic symbols on them, and have pieces broken off of the edges of them based on the symbol.
- Shaman (Mac/EGA/CGA) - In the EGA and CGA versions, the tiles are rounded and both tiles and symbols have distinct color combinations (cyan/brown, cyan/black, brown/yellow, brown/black, black/red, black/cyan).
- In the Macintosh version, only the background is changeable.
- In the DOS version under VGA, five themes are available: Wood, Marble, Ebony, Oriental, and Egyptian.
- In the DOS version under EGA, eight themes are available: Gems, Inner Shapes, Magica, Chungfu, Ishido, Ramses, Runes, and Shaman. All are based on their corresponding stonesets and have their own custom background.
- In the DOS version under CGA, two themes are available: Inner Shapes and Basic Board.