©Edward de Bono

How to play the L game


The Board is made up of 16 squares. Each player (only 2 can play) has an L piece which he must move when it is his turn.


The object of the game is to manoeuvre the other player into a position on the board where he cannot move his L piece.

Starting Position

Proceeding from the starting position, the first player (and each player on each move thereafter) must move the L piece first. When moving, a player may slide, turn or pick up and flip the L piece into any open position other than the one it occupied prior to the move. When the L piece has been moved, a player may move either one (but only one) of the neutral square pieces to any open square on the board. It is not required that the neutral piece be moved, this is up to the player!
A player wins the game when his opponent cannot move his L piece.


The game was designed because Edward de Bono enjoys playing games and yet hates to concentrate on a large number of pieces. The intention was to produce the simplest possible game that could be played with a high degree of skill. An attempt was made to fulfil the following conditions:

  1. A minimum number of playing pieces, preferably one each.
  2. The smallest possible board.
  3. A game with very few rules, one that would be very simple to learn and play.
  4. A game that could be played with a high degree of skill.
  5. A game that would not be determinate. A determinate game such as nim or noughts and crosses, is one in which the starting player could always win if he knew the strategy. An indeterminate game is one which two perfect players would play for ever.

The L game was the result. Each player has only one piece. The board is four squares by four squares. The game is easier to learn and play than noughts and crosses and yet can be played with a high degree of skill. Against opponents who knew the game Edward de Bono has played for over an hour. Skill is required because there are so many moves. There are over 18,000 positions for the pieces on the small board and at any moment there may be as many as 195 different moves of which only one is successful.

Edward de Bono uses the L game in his book The Five Day Course in Thinking within the context of Strategic Thinking.