Othello vs. Reversi: Are They the Same?

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Othello and Reversi are both very popular games that thousands and thousands of people across the world play. Now, the main problem with both of these games is that people confuse them for one another. Based on what we just said, you can probably guess what the answer to the question of the day is.

There is a reason why these two games have different names, and it’s not just a funny prank to try and confuse people.

Is Reversi Just a Different Name for Othello?

The short answer to this question is that no, Reversi and Othello are not the same games. It’s not just two different names for the same thing. While both games look more or less the same, and although both share the same style of play, they are actually quite different. Reversi is a strategy game that was invented in the early 1880s. Othello on the other hand was not created until 1971, and although it is a variant of Reversi, technically speaking, the two are not the same.

Othello vs. Reversi

Similarities of Othello and Reversi

Now that we have established that Othello and Reversi are not the same games, let’s first take a look at what makes these two board games similar to each other.

#1: The Same Number of Players

One of the most basic similarities that these two games share is the fact that both are strictly two-player games. Playing alone is nearly impossible and playing in teams of two makes things pretty hard as well.

#2: The Same Type of Game

Another similarity shared by these games is what the theme is and what the overall gameplay is like. Both Othello and Reversi have the same types of boards, the same looks to them, both have chips or discs that are placed in squares on the board, and the aim of both games is to use strategy to end up being the player with the most pieces on the board.

This is why people think that they are the same games, because they definitely appear to be the same, and more or less have the same endgame too, but there are some major differences that you need to know about.

#3: The Same Game Board

Although the older Reversi game board does have some stuff written on it, the boards for both Reversi and Othello feature the same design. In other words, both boards feature a grid of eight-by-eight squares. Yes, this is one of the main reasons why people confuse the two, because if you just look at the boards, they are virtually identical, especially the modern ones.

#4: The Same Way to Win (Kind of)

Although there are some different rules in terms of winning the game, the main point of both games is to fill up as many squares with your pieces as possible. The player who has the most pieces on the board at the end of the game is the winner. However, how the game ends may differ, which we will explain in our first point below.


Differences Between Othello and Reversi

Now that we know what makes Reversi and Othello similar, let’s figure out what makes them different from each other, and yes, there are quite a few differences.

#1: The End of Play and Passing Turns

Perhaps the biggest difference between these two games is that while they do both see the person with more discs on the playing field being the winner, in Othello, if a player cannot go, their turn is skipped until they can play, or in other words, the game ends when all 64 spaces have discs on them. On the other hand, in Reversi, a player cannot skip a turn, and if one player cannot go, then the game is over.

#2: Disc Distribution Pre-Gameplay

Another difference between Othello and Reversi is how the discs are distributed at the beginning of the game. In Reversi, both players get a total of 32 discs, and may only play those 32 discs, thus sticking in line with the previous difference that we talked about.

On the other hand, in Othello, the discs come from a shared pool, and players just take one from that shared pool when it is their turn. In Othello, all of the pieces equally belong to both players.

#3: The Starting Disc Orientation

In Othello, four discs are put in the middle four squares of the board in an alternating pattern, or in other words, the top two middle squares have a black piece and then a white piece, and the bottom two squares in the middle have a white piece and then a black piece. These discs are put in place before the game starts. Reversi on the other hand does not start like this.

In Reversi, players are obligated to fill those four squares first, but players do this themselves, and who gets what square is decided on a first come first serve basis.

#4: One is Patented, the Other Is Not

A fairly big difference between the two, although not relevant to gameplay in any way, is that Othello is a patented game, whereas Reversi is not.

#5: Disc Appearance

Although not a major difference, it is still worth noting that in Othello, the discs are always black on one side and white on the other, whereas in Reversi, the discs come in many different color variations. It makes no difference to gameplay, but it is a difference nonetheless.

#6: Boards May Differ in Appearance

Although Othello boards and Reversi boards do now often look the same, a couple of decades ago, Othello boards were only green, and Reversi boards were generally dull in color (and even had circles instead of squares). However, newer boards have been made for both games. Sometimes they are the same and sometimes not.


Othello vs. Reversi: Which Game to Choose?

Deciding which of these games to get, due to their inherent similarities, can be a challenge. The only real difference that we could base this choice on is that most people would agree that Othello is the more challenging of the two games, so which one you choose really depends on how much of a challenge you want to be faced with.


The bottom line here is that Othello is a newer, slightly different, and patented version of Reversi, but no, they are absolutely not the same game.