What it is: A quiet, two-person game played on paper.

Best for: 2 players.

What you need: Paper to write on and two pens (sometimes it’s fun if you use different colored ones).

How to play: First, set up the playing space by making a grid of dots on the paper, like this:

You can make it as big as you want. I think we usually did grids of about 10 by 10, unless we wanted a really epic game and made a grid to take up the whole page (and I guess that happened quite a bit, too).

Anyway, now you’re ready to start. Let’s say Chris and Meg are playing. Meg starts by drawing a horizontal or vertical line between any two adjacent dots, like this:

Then it’s Chris’s turn. He also makes a horizontal or vertical line between any two adjacent dots:

And then it’s Meg’s turn again. Play continues back and forth until the grid looks something like this…

And then something like this:

And then the game starts getting exciting. See, the point of the game is to form squares—for every square you form, you get a point. So as you’ll notice on the above grid, Chris and Meg very carefully avoided adding a third side to any set of dots on the grid, because that would allow the other player to form a square and get a point.

So now it’s Chris’s turn. But now the only moves left on the gird are ones that would allow Meg to get a point. But Chris has no choice. So he draws a line in the bottom corner, and then Meg can form a square and writes her initial inside the box to mark it as her point:

But the rule is, if you get a point, you get to go again. Now Meg is forced to let Chris get a square somewhere. So then it becomes a game of letting your opponent score as few points as possible. Chris was smart because he picked a move that only gave Meg one square. Meg also finds a smart move that only gives Chris two:

And, shown above, Chris now has to go again and gives Meg three squares. So all clear? That’s how the game is played, until the grid looks something like this:

And then you count up each player’s squares and declare a winner. In this game, Meg had 11 while Chris had 14, so he’s the winner.

Strategies: If you’re playing with a large enough grid and you’re sneaky enough, sometimes you can make a three-sided almost-square while your opponent’s not looking. Then they’ll never find it and draw a line somewhere else, and you can close up your own square for a point. That’s always fun. And the grid above is pretty simple; if you’re playing with a larger one, it’s more challenging because it’s possible to outsmart your opponent by finding good moves later in the game.

Printables: Don’t want to draw bajillions of dots? Click the links to download a printout of four small grids or a printout of one large grid. Enjoy!


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