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!
This is one of my favorite games ever! We used to play it all the time in church! Great blog!
Lindsey. Have you played Trxilt ? This
game combines some elements of Dots and Boxes with some elements of Chess.
No, I haven’t. It sounds fun, though. I’ll have to check it out!
Thanks! Yeah, we used to play it in church all the time, too. I guess it’s perfect for keeping kids busy and quiet!
Church is exactly where my mom taught me this game too! And I thought she was so creative…:)