How to Play Reversi: Basics & Best Strategies

Maddy Marcus / July 15, 2020

You've played chess, you've played checkers -- heck, you may have even played Go. But have you ever played Reversi?

Since you're here, trying to learn how to play Reversi, we'll go ahead and assume the answer is 'no'.

Reversi, sometimes known by its similar counterpart Othello, dates back all the way to 1883. It was invented in England by either Lewis Waterman or John Mollett, both of whom denounce the other as a fraud for making the claim. Either way, Reversi is a fantastic game of strategy and skill that anyone can easily learn.

Keep reading for a reversi how to play.

The Goal of Reversi

The goal of reversi is simple.

To win, you need to have more pieces on the board than your opponent by the end of the game. Like checkers or chess, game pieces are either black or white. When the game ends, each player counts their pieces left on the board to determine the winner.

But how do you get to this point?

How to Play Reversi

If you're playing with a friend, first decide who plays which color. When playing against the computer, you'll always be the black discs.

To start the game, each player must put two of their pieces in the middle four squares on the board. Usually, the pieces are placed diagonally from each other. Each player may make one move per turn after set-up begins, and black typically goes first.

Each turn, you put one new piece onto the board. The chosen square is where that piece stays -- you cannot move squares like in chess.

Each piece you place must capture an opponent's piece. That means you have to place your pieces adjacent to one of the opponent's pieces. You can't put your piece in a square that doesn't lead to a capture.

Capturing a piece is simple -- when you put your piece beside the opponent piece in any position, that piece and all adjacent pieces become yours. You can put your piece beside the opponent's, as well as diagonally. Both options lead to captures.

Flanking the Opponent

A key strategy in reversi is flanking your opponent's pieces.

If you can get a piece at each end of a row or column (straight or diagonally) then every piece in the row between your two pieces is captured. By mastering flanking, you can take multiple rows of pieces per turn.

Ending the Game

Gameplay continues like this until the board is full and no pieces can be captured. If players end up with the same number of pieces each on the board, the game is a draw.

Reversi Strategy: Tips and Tricks

Reversi is easy to learn, but is ultimately a game of strategy. Each piece you place is important to the overall outcome of the game. Here are some strategies to keep in mind to help you win every time.

Control the Corners

If you can place one of your pieces in a corner square, you absolutely should.

Controlling the corners is an easy way to flank your opponent's pieces. The corner will almost always give you a diagonal, column, or both worth of pieces to take. Once this happens, it's impossible for the other player to take the corner piece.

In this way, the corners are the most powerful squares in the game. Oftentimes if you can get the corners, you will win the game. The more corners, the higher your chances of success.

Considering this, it's also important to keep your opponent from taking the corners. Don't let your piece fall in any of the three squares surrounding the corner. If this happens, the opponent can place their piece into the corner adjacent to your piece.

Once moves start running out, someone will eventually have to make a move into the corner-adjacent spaces. Hold out until the opponent has to do so.

Pay Attention to the Edges

Beyond the corners, the edges are the most important squares to pay attention to.

Controlling the edges can lead to some big flanks. You want to keep the edges balanced, and make sure you don't have too many of your pieces lined up across them. If the opponent captures both corners, they flip all your pieces along the edge, leading to a big loss.

One strategy sees a player give their opponent one corner so they can take the other corner, thus disabling the opponent from flanking your edge pieces. This takes a good amount of skill, but is a great strategy.

Always keep a close eye on what's happening at the edges of the board!

Play Carefully

It might seem like you should take as many pieces as possible at the start of the game. This, however, is a dangerous strategy.

At the start of the game, try flipping only a few pieces at a time. The more pieces you flip, the more options the opponent has. It opens up the board for them to flank further pieces, leading to a quick loss for you.

Generally speaking, the fewer pieces you control at the start of the game, the better off you'll be later on.

Stay Centered

If you can, try to stay in the center of the board, with your pieces surrounded by the opponents.

This opens up a lot more possibilities for captures as the game goes on. Center pieces are easier to flank, meaning a lot more flips as the game goes on.

Become a Reversi Champion

Now that you know how to play reversi, it's time to test your skills. Learn the strategies above and practice up to become a true reversi master!

You can play reversi right from your computer on Coolmath Games! Click here to play reversi, and check out the rest of our game selection while you're at it.