A Layman’s Guide to Understanding Gomoku

Gomoku is a board game where the participants connect 5 stones in a row. In this article, we explain how to play Gomoku, and it’s strategies.


Tired of playing the same old tic-tac-toe? Are you up for a new board game that demands strategy and concentration? Your search ends here! We’ve found just the perfect board game for you, called Gomoku. How to play Gomoku?  

Learning this will be an excellent addition to your board games set! Most people often confuse Gomoku with tic-tac-toe or the other Japanese game Go. However, Gomoku is quite different. 

In this article, we will dissect this fascinating board game. We will discuss the meaning of Gomoku, how to play Gomoku, a few winning strategies, the best Gomoku apps, and how to play the game on iMessage. So, let’s get started!

Table of Contents

Why Are Board Games Important?

Monopoly, Jenga, UNO, Scrabble, Catan.

Do these games ring a bell? If you are anything like us, you probably have fond memories of playing indoor board games. These games offer it all – a way to unwind after school, bond with friends and family, or simply pass the time. 

All you require is a board or a pack of cards, and you are good to go! This post will tell you everything you need to know about the game Gomoku and how to play Gomoku.

Thanks to modern technology, it is common to assume that board games are a thing of the past. With the proliferation of gaming apps and social media, who really has the time for board games?

However, data says otherwise. According to market value data for Board Games on Statista, the Global Board Games market is set to rise to $12 million in 2023.

But, don’t just take our word for it. Listen to what science has to say about board games. 

For one, board games help us reduce our screen time. The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that kids spend approximately seven hours on electronic devices. This heavy reliance on technology could have devastating implications for our well-being. 

Secondly, board games promote healthy emotional well-being and mental acuity. According to Business Insider, playing board games makes kids smarter and happier. In fact, it even changes our brains structurally and promotes neuroplasticity.

Finally, board games are a great way to learn stress management! According to research, playing board games could teach healthy ways to cope with stress and anxiety in the real world.

how to play gomoku
Benefits of Playing Board Games

What is Gomoku?

If you’re familiar with the nature of Tic-Tac-Toe, you’ll have no problem getting the hang of Gomoku! Evidently, the game is more than 4,000 years old.

Moreover, the word  Gomoku comes from Japan. In fact, 18th-century Japanese people were quite familiar with Gomoku rules. 

The term is an abbreviation for the Japanese word ‘Gomokunarabe.’ We can break down the word into three parts to understand its meaning. ‘Go’ means five, ‘moku’ stands for pieces, and ‘narabe’ means the line-up.

In short, it is an abstract strategy board game where the first player who forms an unbroken lineup of five stones wins. These stones are also called Go pieces. They are black and white stones that each player gets at the start of the game.

If we dig a bit into the history of Gomoku, we’ll find traces of this game in China, Ancient Greece, and even America. Additionally, Great Britain got a taste of this game in the 19th century. 

Alternatively, Gomoku is also known by different names. It is called Wuziqi in China, Omok in Korea, and Go Bang in 19th-century Britain. However, you will most commonly hear Gomoku being referred to as ‘Five in a Row.’

gomoku rules

Where Can We Trace The Origin of Gomoku?

The word Gomoku finds its origin in Japan, but the exact origin of the game remains unclear. Even though many ancient civilizations have had a brush with Gomoku, it is widely believed to have its roots in Ancient China.

Eventually, Gomoku found its way to Japan in 270 BC. Initially called Kakugo, i.e., five steps, it soon became the go-to board game in Japan.

Finally, the 18th and 19th centuries saw Gomoku being introduced to European countries.

history of Gomoku

What Is the Nature of Gomoku?

Now, let’s briefly understand the nature of the game. Firstly, Gomoku is a two-player game where players are given Go pieces or stones of a particular color.

One player gets the white stones, while the other receives the black stones. The player with the black stones makes the first move.

Secondly, players get alternate turns to place these Go pieces on a 15 X 15 board. The players aim to form an unbroken chain consisting of their set of colored stones. This chain can be placed horizontally, vertically, or even diagonally. 

You must form this chain before the other player interrupts and places their Go pieces next to yours. The first player to create a line of five Go pieces wins the game.

nature of gomoku

Are There Any Gomoku Variations?

Yes, most definitely! As we mentioned before, Tic-Tac-Toe is the younger brother of Gomoku, and it uses the same mechanics as Gomoku. However, Tic-Tac-Toe is much more straightforward. It is a 3 x 3 board game, and instead of stones, each player is assigned a symbol – noughts or crosses.

Apart from Tic-Tac-Toe, the well-known Gomoku variations are Freestyle Gomoku, Renju, Caro, Omok, Ninuki Renju, and Pente. Here is a brief overview of these games:-

  1. Freestyle Gomoku – As the name suggests, this Gomoku version places no restrictions on players. All you need to win is to form a line of five Go pieces before the other player does!
  1. Renju – As mentioned before, Gomoku gives a significant advantage to the first player who places their piece. Renju is a Gomoku version that tries to reduce this advantage and balance the game.

    To play Renju, you need a 15 x 15 board. Additionally, the player with the black Go pieces is bound by the rules of three and three, four and four, and overlines. Remember that open rows mean rows that are not blocked by the opponent on either end.

    i) The Three and Three Rule states that players cannot create two open rows consisting of three stones simultaneously.

    ii) The Four and Four Rule prohibits the player from creating two open rows consisting of four stones at the same time.

    iii) Overline Rule states that players cannot form an unbroken chain of more than five Go pieces.
  1. Caro – A balanced version of the Gomoku game that is popular in Vietnam is Caro. Here apart from forming an unbroken chain of five stones, players need to make sure of an additional rule. Either end of the chain should not be blocked by another color.
  1. Omok – Omok version is similar to freestyle Gomoku. However, the only difference is that we play it on a 19 x 19 board. Finally, it follows the three and three rules.
  1. Ninuki Renju or Wu – This Gomoku variation adds a capturing mechanism to the game. Here, an opponent player can capture or take  your pair of Go pieces. 

    The winner is the one who either forms a straight line of five Go pieces or captures five of the opponent’s Go pieces. It has the same rules as Renju, and it is played on a 15 x 15 board.
  1. Pente – Similar to its cousin Ninuki Renju, Pente has the same custodial capture method. However, we use a 19 x 19 board to play Pente. Also, it doesn’t employ the three and three, four and four, or overline rules.

How to Play Gomoku?

Now that we have a brief idea about Gomoku, let’s see how the game is played. We will try to understand this in four parts: Knowing the Rules, Setting the Game, Starting the Game, and Playing the Game.

Part I: Knowing the Rules

There are specific rules that you need to keep in mind before playing Gomoku. Here is a glimpse of those important Gomoku rules:

  1. Number of Players: In this board game, only two players can compete against each other.
  1. Board Size: To play Gomoku, you need a grid of squares. Though there is no hard and fast rule related to the board size, it is advisable not to get a board smaller than 15 x 15.
  1. Pieces: Both the players will get equal amounts of stones. These stones are either white or black.
  1. Setup: We start with an empty board. In traditional Gomoku, the player with the black Go Pieces or stones goes first. 
  1. Starting the Game: The first player who makes a move has to place the stone at the center of the board’s grid. Each player can place only one stone per turn. In freestyle Gomoku, players can start the game by placing the first stone anywhere on the grid.
  1. Goal of the Game: The goal is to line up five stones vertically, horizontally, or diagonally. The first player who manages to do this wins the game. You must keep an eye on your opponent’s moves and block their attempts to form an unbroken line.

Here’s a quick rundown on the rules of Gomoku –


One of my favorite games in my childhood! Have you ever played Gomuko? #gomuko #boardgame #wuziqi #playgame #chinesegame #fyp

♬ original sound – Tshow

Part II: Setting the Game

To play Gomoku, you must place the board in front of you and your opponent. Next, divide the stones equally between both of you. One player gets all the black stones, while the other receives the white ones.

Part III: Starting the Game

To begin the game, the player with the black stones goes first. This player has to place one black stone on the intersecting grid lines of the board and remember to put it at the intersection of lines on the board. Players get confused and place the Go pieces within the board’s squares. 

Once you have placed your Go piece, you cannot move it anywhere else for the remaining part of the game. It stays right there!

Part IV: Playing the Game

After starting the game, players take alternating turns to make their moves. At each turn, a player is allowed to play only one Go piece. The player who makes the first line of five Go pieces wins the game. As we mentioned, this line can be diagonal, horizontal, or vertical.

However, standard Gomoku states explicitly that the unbroken chain of Go pieces should not have overlines or more than five stones. In Gomoku Championships, players get 10 minutes for every Gomoku game.

Here’s a visual guide to learning the ins and outs of Gomoku:

how to play gomoku

Additionally, here’s a simple video explanation on Gomoku by WikiHow.

Read More: Read this article to learn more about the Ultimate Guide To Cleansing Crystals. 

What are the Names Given To Different Tactics in Gomoku?

You’ll see a few terms thrown around while referring to certain moves in Gomoku. Here is a handy theoretical guide to knowing what each word means! 

Remember that players do not use any of these tactics in isolation. They chart or place their stones at every alternating turn using a combination of these moves to win the game: –

  1. Open Four – An Open Four usually means a soon-to-be win for the player who forms the unbroken sequence. 

    It is considered an immediate win because the opponent player can only place one stone at either end of the sequence to block it. The other player still has a chance to form five series on the other end of the chain.
  1. Four – A Four is the same as an Open Four. However, the opponent has already blocked it by placing their piece on either end of the sequence.
  1. Three or Open Three – When a player can get three Go pieces in a row, it is called Three. Additionally, if the three is not blocked on either end by the opponent, it is called an Open Three. 

    The minute players see the formation of three or four Go pieces in a row, they need to block it!
  1. Split Three – Another form of Three is the Split Three. Here, the player places two stones in a row, and the third stone is placed after an empty gap. Once again, the opponent needs to block this move! The player could quickly form a four by using the open gap on the board.
  1. Five – A Five means that one of the players was able to create an unbroken chain of Five Go pieces. This signifies that they have won the game.

Here’s an infographic explaining the different tactics in Gomoku: 

different tactics in gomoku

How Can You Get Good at Gomoku?

Source: Giphy

At the outset, Gomoku looks relatively easy. But don’t be fooled! It takes quite an effort to master this seemingly simple game. If you’re asking yourself, ‘how to win Gomoku?’ 

We have a few generic tricks and Gomoku strategy patterns that could help you beat your opponent in Gomoku.

I. General Tips to Get Good At Gomoku:

  1. Pay close attention to your opponent’s strategy– An essential skill that you require while playing Gomoku is concentration and attention. 

    Try to pay close attention to how your opponent places their Go pieces. This could help you get a hint about their strategy and help you plan your next move accordingly.
  1. Practice, Practice, Practice – Like any other skill, getting good at Gomoku takes patience and lots of practice! Try playing Gomoku with different people to get a general idea about your opponent’s moves and practice tactics that could help you win.
  1. Never Play In Haste – A vital tip while playing Gomoku is to take your time to make your move. While your opponent places their Go pieces, think about all the possible placements for your Go pieces and the consequences for each one of them.
  1. The first 10 Moves –  When you are a newbie at the Gomoku game, you might mindlessly place your Go pieces during the initial few rounds. This is a huge mistake! The first 10 Moves on the board can make or break your game. Hence, paying close attention could help you in winning the game.
  1. Break The Chain – Remember that the player who forms an unbroken chain of 4 Go pieces wins the game. As an amateur, your best bet to win is to adopt an attack-based gaming style. This means paying close attention to your opponent’s moves and blocking all their attempts at forming an unbroken chain.
  1. Learn From Professional Players – If you wish to improve at Gomoku, watch YouTube or other tutorial videos of professional Gomoku players. 

    Watch, pause, and think about the placement of their Go pieces. This could help you develop unique strategies for your games as well.
  1. Adopt An Aggressive Strategy – A little creativity could go a long way in Gomoku, especially when starting. If your opponent can dodge your moves at blocking their Go pieces, you could try adopting an aggressive strategy. This means strategically placing your Go pieces in a way that allows you to form an unbroken chain on the board quickly.

The points mentioned above are just a few general rules you need to remember. Let’s move on to see a few winning strategies that you could use while playing Gomoku:

II. Gomoku Strategy

When you are just starting, relying on these Gomoku strategy points could be pretty helpful. However, over time, you’ll be able to devise your unique method to get the upper hand over your opponents. 

Here are a few strategies to keep in mind while playing Gomoku.

  1. Defense Against Black Go Pieces – Usually, the player who gets the black Go pieces has an advantage in the game. Since the player with these stones starts the game, they can employ aggressive strategies to win it. 

    If you end up with white Go Pieces, your best strategy is to play defense against your opponent. Ask yourself the question, “What could threaten the opponent’s last move?” Your goal will be to neutralize all threats made by the opponent and aim to arrive at a draw.
  1. Enemy Stone Knots – Keep an eye on your opponent’s Go pieces. Especially when you notice two rows of stones about to intersect each other, these places on the board are called knots that help create winning sequences. 

    Your aim is to try and block these knots from arising. Alternatively, you could also try to win the game by creating knot spots on the board with your pieces.
  1. Check The Opponent – Always watch out for your opponent’s last move. You might get so wrapped in trying to create a winning sequence for yourself that you forget to see what your opponent is doing. 

    Remember that your opponent could create winning sequences much faster than you.
  1. The Sequence of Threes and Fours – As we mentioned, do not let your opponent go beyond a sequence of three or four Go pieces. Try and block these attempts as fast as you can.
  1. Don’t Let Your Pieces Get Enclosed – A common strategy that your opponent will use is to block your stones on either end of your line. Once your opponent encloses your pieces, it is tough to get back into attack mode. So, keep an eye on where your opponent is placing their pieces!
  1. Gomoku Patterns – A winning strategy while playing Gomoku is to create a shape of 43 with your Go pieces. You need to form this pattern in a way that goes unnoticed by your opponent. Essentially, construct a 43 Pattern diagonally on the board. Alternatively, creating 44 is another winning strategy for Gomoku.

Here are two infographics to help you get good at Gomoku:

how to get good at gomoku
how to get good at gomoku

Which Are the Best Gomoku Apps Available Online?

If you don’t have the time to buy actual board and Go pieces, you could try playing the Gomoku game online! We’ve rounded up the best Gomoku games available on android, iOS, and web devices.

I. Gomoku Games For Android users

Our Top Three Gomoku Games on Android are Gomoku Clan, Gomoku (Gobang), and Dr. Gomoku

  1. Gomoku Clan – artisticode.dev

Gomoku Clan has more than 100k downloads on the Play Store. The app uses a soft green palette for its graphic design and has a user-friendly UI. 

It allows you to compete with other players or duel against an AI. There are weekly championships held on the App, and you can raise your rank by competing with other players!

  1. Gomoku (Gobang) – Cross Field Inc.

This Gomoku game by Cross Field Inc. comes with beautiful effects, has more than 1000 stages, and provides a Performance analysis function to know your gaming style. Apart from Simple Gomoku, the App also has the option to play with Renju rules.

  1. Dr.Gomoku – SUD Inc.

Dr. Gomoku is perhaps the most popular Gomoku game on Play Store. It has over 5 million downloads and a rating of 4.0 on the Play Store. You can play Gomoku with real-time users on the app. Moreover, the game follows the official Renju Rules. Finally, do note that this Gomoku game allows overlines. This means that users who form an uninterrupted chain of 6 or more Go pieces are declared winners.

II. Gomoku Games For iOS users

Our Top Three Gomoku Games on Apple are Gomoku, Gomoku 5, and Dr. Gomoku

  1. Gomoku – VM Mobile Team

This App allows you to play Gomoku with friends and family. You can even challenge their AI tool. Moreover, the app has four varying difficulty levels and follows the freestyle Gomoku variation. 

Other features on the app include the option to undo, save an unfinished game, and zoom in or zoom out. Finally, all games on this app are time-based.

  1. Gomoku 5 – 春 李

This Gomoku game has five levels of varying difficulty. It supports both human vs. human and human vs. computer mode. Additionally, you can also play this game on iMessage with your friends. 

Apart from Gomoku, the app also has the Tic-Tac-Toe game. Finally, this app is compatible with all iOS devices.

  1. Gomoku Online – Rhonda Logan

If you are a Gomoku newbie, this app is perfect for you. You can challenge the AI tool and build your confidence in Gomoku with the first four elementary levels. Do note that the app is designed for iPad users.

Many users have said that the game gets quite tough from level 5 onwards, and they fail to cross it! Try your hand and see how far you go!

III. Gomoku Games For Web Users

If you are constantly on your computer or laptop, you might want to download or play Gomoku on your large-screen device. Here are three Gomoku Games that web users will love!

  1. Gomoku (Let’s Go) – Studio Amateur

This Gomoku program developed by Studio Amateur is a visual treat! It provides users with a soothing zen-styled environment to play Gomoku. 

The developer states that their world-class AI tool is suitable for players of all levels. There are 8 levels in this game, and it allows the option of either standard Gomoku or Renju Rules.

A standout feature of the program is that it includes historic Gomoku games that allow you to explore and watch techniques used by professional players. If you are serious about Gomoku, then this program is a must!

  1. Gomoku Online – Gomokuonlince.com

If you are simply curious about Gomoku, this site called Gomoku Online is the perfect option. Users compete with the computer to get five Go pieces in a row. The site has a simple interface and a board with grid lines sitting right in the middle. Do note that only the player who wins the previous rounds can start the game in the next round.

  1. Gomoku – PaperGames.io

If you are looking for a simple Gomoku tool online that lets you play the game with a human, then give this site a try! You can choose to match up with another player online or can even challenge your friend for a game. 

Read More: How to Shrink a Shirt? Read this guide to learn more.

How to Play Gomoku on imessage?

If you’re an Apple user, then you are in for a treat! Apple Users can play Gomoku with their friends on iMessage. 

If you have never played games on iMessage, don’t worry! It is quite simple to learn how to play Gomoku on iMessage. Just follow these two steps that we’ve mentioned below, and you’re good to go!

Step I: How To Launch Gomoku on iMessage

  1. Firstly, go to iMessage and open any conversation chat or thread. You’ll see the ‘App Drawer’ icon on the left side of your text box.
  1. Next, you must tap the App Drawer icon to access the App Store.
  1. After this, a pop-up of the App Store will appear. On the right side, you’ll see a search icon. Simply tap on the search icon and type GamePigeon. GamePigeon is an extension of Apple’s instant messaging service called iMessage, consisting of a collection of 2-player games for iOS users.
  1. Once the search results display GamePigeon, tap on the ‘GET’ option to add GamePigeon to your set of iMessage apps.

Step II: How To Use GamePigeon on iMessage

  1. Once you’ve installed the GamePigeon app for iMessage, you can close the App Store.
  1. Go back to iMessage and, once again, open any conversation thread. Tap on the ‘App Drawer’ icon. In the roster of apps displayed, you’ll see the GamePigeon icon.
  1. Proceed to tap the GamePigeon icon, to see all the available multiplayer games. You’ll notice Gomoku in this list. All you have to do is tap the thumbnail for Gomoku.
  1. After this, the game will automatically load into your textbox. You must hit the send button to invite any of your friends to play the game.
  1. If your friend accepts the invite, they get to play the first turn. Once you start the game, all you have to do is take alternate turns. 

You can place your stone and change its position as many times as you want before you hit the send button. Once you’ve hit send, there is no going back!

The first player to get an unbroken chain of 5 Go pieces wins the game!

Here’s a visual guide for playing Gomoku on iMessage: 

how to play gomoku on imessage
how to play gomoku on imessage

A significant advantage of playing Gomoku on iMessage is its flexibility. Your friends don’t have to be online to play the game! In short, the invite and the game is sent as a message to the other player. They can choose to make their move whenever they have free time.

Moreover, iMessage sends every player a message after a turn is played. So, the other player can open the chat at their convenience, see their opponent’s move, play their turn, and hit the send button. This gives iMessage an edge over other traditional multiplayer apps and web games.


We’ve covered everything that there is to know about how to play Gomoku! By now, you know the ins and outs of the game. 

As we mentioned, board games play a huge role in promoting mental and emotional well-being. Gomoku is a game that combines the addictiveness of Tic-Tac-Toe with the strategic quality of chess.

Apart from having a good time, Gomoku game gives you the chance to think logically, visualize your moves way ahead of time, and helps in increasing your concentration levels.

Frequently Asked Questions about Gomoku

What is the goal of Gomoku?

Gomoku is an abstract strategy board game for two players. The objective of Gomoku is to win against your opponent by forming an unbroken chain of five Go pieces. 
These pieces will be of the same color. Finally, you can form a chain in any direction – horizontally, vertically, or diagonally.

How do I play Gomoku on GamePigeon?

If you want to play Gomoku on your iOS Device, you can download the game using GamePigeon. GamePigeon is an extension for Apple’s instant messaging service called iMessage, and it consists of a collection of 2-player games for iOS users.

To play Gomoku using GamePigeon, open the conversation thread on iMessage and tap the ‘App Store’ icon right above the text field. Within the App Store icon, you can search for GamePigeon and tap the ‘GET’ option to add it to the set of apps available on your iMessage.

Once added, go back to the conversation thread on iMessage and open the GamePigeon icon. Under GamePigeon, you’ll see the Gomoku game along with others; tap on it, and it will appear on the text field.

How do you play Gounki?

Developed by Christopher Malavasi in 1997, Gounki is an abstract strategy game that is played on a 8 x 8 board. 
This game is played by two players, and each gets a set of square and round pieces. Here, round pieces can move diagonally forward, and square pieces can move either forward or sideways. 

The aim of each player is to get their pieces to the opposite side of the board as quickly as possible. 

Is Gomoku a solved game?

Yes, Gomoku is a solved game. Under freestyle Gomoku, Victor Allis has proven that the game is usually a win for those who make the first move on the board. This was a computer search-based result that showed that players could use specific opening strategies that guarantee a win to the black Go pieces.

Is Gomoku hard?

Though Gomoku is somewhat similar to Tic-Tac-Toe, it might take some time to get the hang of it. It is easy to understand the game’s rules, but it is pretty hard to master. 

How to play the Gomoku Game Pigeon?

After you’ve installed GamePigeon, go back to any of your conversation threads on iMessage. Below, you’ll see the ‘App Drawer’ icon. Once you tap on it, a roster of apps will be displayed. 

Among these apps, you’ll see the GamePigeon icon. Next, you need to select the GamePigeon icon, to see the list of available multiplayer games. 

Select the Gomoku game from the list, which will automatically load into your textbox. Once you hit the send button, your friends will receive a game invitation via iMessage. If your friend accepts the invite, they get to play the first turn!

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