How To Play Go - Part 1

Basics of Go from GoCaine Board Game Inventor

Richard Nguyen-Marshall

19 May 2022


In the board game, GoCaine, your challenge is to set up the most lucrative cocaine trafficking network.  To do this well, you will need to have cells in various zones, ideally from south to north, so that you can buy your product at a low price, then move it through the transit zones into the northern markets where you can sell it at a good profit.

You will be competing against other players to expand your territory and to defend the territory that you have.  The mechanics through which this battle is fought have their origins in the game of Go.


“Go” or “Igo” is the Japanese name given to the ancient game of surrounding stones.  In many areas of the world, the game is known by the Japanese name, Go.  In Korea, the same game is called Baduk, and in China it is known as Weiqi.  The game originated in China over 2,500 years ago.  There are written references about the game going back as far as the 4th century BCE.


Traditional Go is usually played on a wooden board with a 19x19 grid consisting of intersecting black lines.  While 19x19 has come to be the standard, Go is also played on 17x17 grids as well as smaller ones for faster games or for training purposes.

Traditionally, one player has white stones and one player has black stones.  Play alternates between the players, each taking their turn to place a stone on an intersection.  Here is photo of a typical board with Go stones in play.

Gocaine Board Game


Now, here is a photo of a game of GoCaine about to get underway.

Gocaine Board Game

 As you can see, the grid on the GoCaine board is much smaller than on a traditional Go board.  It is only 10 lines x 12 lines.  Let’s zoom in further to look at the grid part of the board.

Gocaine Board Game

In­ an upcoming post, I’ll teach you how to play multiplayer Go and how to play GoCaine.  First though, you have to learn the basic mechanics and rules of Go.


If you have never played Go, do not despair!  The rules are very simple.  Simple rules, but the strategic options are endless.  Go is very much a game that takes only minutes to learn but a lifetime to master!

I have also provided videos on our GoCaine website explaining the basics of Go.  Depending on your learning preferences, you may find those helpful.  And if you have any questions, please feel free to email me:


On your turn you place a cell on an intersection.  Let’s say you are the Yellow player and on your turn you place a cell on this intersection in the Caribbean (Diagram 1). 

Gocaine Board Game - Diagram 1

Notice that with the exception of edge and corner intersections, every intersection is surrounded by four adjoining intersections (see the red circles in diagram 2).  

When empty, these intersections are called liberties.  I find it helpful to think of them as breathing holes.

As long as your cell has at least one liberty (i.e. one empty intersection connected to it), then your cell stays alive.   Presently, in the situation in Diagram 2, the Yellow cell has four liberties.

Gocaine Board Game - Diagram 2

Diagram 3 shows a situation where the Yellow cell is threatened by three Green cells.  These three Green cells are occupying three of Yellow’s four liberties.

Gocaine Board Game - Diagram 3

Let’s assume that it is now Green’s turn.  Green puts a cell on Yellow’s remaining liberty. The result is that Yellow is now surrounded and must be removed from the board (Diagrams 4 & 5).

Gocaine Board Game - Diagram 4

Gocaine Board Game - Diagram 5

Note: in traditional Go, you get 1 point for each stone you capture, and you get 1 point for every empty intersection that you control.  However, in GoCaine, you don’t get points per se.  The captured stones are removed from the board and the area that you have captured provides you the benefit of being able to expand your supply and distribution network.


When you place a cell in a corner, notice that it has only two liberties.  This is the situation facing the Red cell in Diagram 6.

A cell on an edge intersection has three liberties.  This is the situation facing the Blue cell in Diagram 6.

Gocaine Board Game - Diagram 6

Diagram 7 shows a situation in which the Red corner cell has lost both its liberties to White cells and so it must be removed. Similarly, Black cells have surrounded the Blue cell on the edge.  The Blue cell’s liberties are all now occupied and therefore it must be removed.

Gocaine Board Game - Diagram 7

Diagram 8 shows the situation after Red has removed their captured corner cell and Blue has removed their captured edge cell.

Gocaine Board Game - Diagram 8


Cells of the same color adjacent to each other form a group.  In effect, when you have cells next to each other, joined by one of the horizontal or vertical lines (i.e. not diagonally), they form one larger living organism.  To capture such a group, opponents must occupy all the liberties of the group.

For example, Diagram 9 shows a situation in which two Red cells form a group.  Notice they are in a vulnerable position in the corner and have only three liberties.

Gocaine Board Game - Diagram 9

In Diagram 10, Blue cells have occupied Red’s three liberties and so the Red cells must be removed. 

Gocaine Board Game - Diagram 10

Diagram 11 shows the board after these two Red cells have been removed.

Gocaine Board Game -Diagram 11

Diagram 12 shows a group of four Red cells.  This group has eight liberties, shown by the small Red circles.

Gocaine Board Game - Diagram 12

In Diagram 13, Blue has occupied all of the Red group’s liberties and so now the Red cells must be removed.

Gocaine Board Game - Diagram 13


Internal liberties are called eyes.  For defensive purposes you want to build a cell group with two eyes.  As you will see, two-eyed structures are very valuable because they cannot be killed.  It is impossible for opponents to surround such structures because they cannot fill two eyes at the same time.

A structure with only one eye can still be captured because the rule in Go is that the only time you can place a cell into a position where it is automatically surrounded (i.e. into a position that has no liberties) is when, by placing it there, you are taking up the last liberty of an opponent’s group and therefore are capturing your opponent’s cells.


Diagram 14 shows a group of Red cells that has 11 liberties on the exterior and one internal liberty (the one labelled “eye”).

If someone wants to capture this group, they must first occupy all the external liberties and then lastly place a cell on the eye.  If they try to deploy a cell into the eye before the rest of the liberties are occupied, it would just be a suicide move because whatever cell they place there is immediately surrounded and removed from the game.  Such a suicide move is not allowed.  Remember, the only time you can place a cell into an eye is if it results in the immediate capture of the group that would otherwise be surrounding it.

Gocaine Board Game - Diagram 14

In Diagram 15, if Blue were to try to place a cell into Red’s eye before the rest of the liberties are occupied, the Blue cell is instantaneously surrounded and would have to be removed.  That type of suicide move is not allowed. Blue can only deploy a cell into that eye after the other liberties are occupied.

Gocaine Board Game - Diagram 15

In Diagram 16, the Red cells are certainly doomed, but Blue still cannot yet deploy a cell into Red’s eye.  There is still one remaining external liberty that must be occupied.

Gocaine Board Game - Diagram 16

So, Blue places cell B1 (Diagram 17).  Then when Blue’s turn comes by again, Blue deploys B2 into Red’s last liberty, its eye.  In so doing, the Red cells are now immediately surrounded and must be removed. 

Gocaine Board Game - Diagram 17

The Blue cell at B2 stays there and the Red cells come off (Diagram 18).

Gocaine Board Game - Diagram 18


In Diagram 19 the Red cells have formed a group with two eyes.  Structures with two or more eyes cannot be captured.  Even if you occupy all of the external liberties, you can never capture the group because if you try to place a cell into one of the eyes, the other is still free and in that case the cell you place into the first eye would be immediately killed and removed.  You would just be wasting your cell for no gain at all.

Gocaine Board Game - Diagram 19

Such is the case in Diagram 20.  If Blue deploys a cell into one of Red’s eyes, the other eye is still open, so Blue’s cell would be destroyed the moment it is placed. Again, just to reiterate, this would be a nonsensical suicidal move on Blue’s part and is not allowed.

Gocaine Board Game - Diagram 20

Hence, no matter what Blue or any of the other players do, unless Red mistakenly fills one of its two eyes, this group cannot be captured and will therefore survive until the end of the game (Diagram 21).

Gocaine Board Game - Diagram 21

Building group structures with two or more eyes is crucial to your defense.  Without such structures, your cells will eventually be surrounded, lose all their liberties/breathing holes and be removed from the game.

So, those are the main rules to Go.  As I mentioned above, these diagrams are utilizing the game board for GoCaine, the multiplayer Go board game where 2-6 players compete to build the most lucrative cocaine trafficking network. 

For playing traditional Go, you should learn a bit more about how points are scored for territory.  There are plenty of good online videos teaching that.

What I want to do next is introduce you to the concept of multiplayer Go.  GoCaine is a multiplayer Go game, so to play GoCaine you need to learn some essential rules for multiplayer Go.  For that, please check out Part 2 of our How To Play Go post.