Introduction: PAPER GAMING: Sprouts

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Sprouts is a pencil-and-paper game of logic and strategy. Great fun for long car/bus/plane rides, and is easy once you get the hang of it (I, personally, have had a ton of practice playing this, and currently hold the prestigious "Beat Dad at a non-video game" award, a honor of the highest covet in my household)

To play you will need:

@ Pencil, pen, marker, urine (kidding)

@ Something to write on

@ Someone to play with

(This is a picture of a completed game. There is a play-by-play on step 3.

Step 1: Getting Started

Alright, grab your paper, and draw three small circles (you can draw more, but you should save that for when you get more experience and time)

A warning, though: This game is not for the faint of heart. It can be utterly baffling at times, and again and again I have been beat when victory appeared to be in my grasp. It is, however, extremely addicting. You have been warned :).

Step 2: Playing

Rock-paper-scissors to see who goes first. That person then draws a line between two of the circles, in any direction or orientation, as long as it doesn't go through a circle (this is called sprouting). The player then draws another circle on that line (see picture 1). Player's take turns drawing lines.

@ A circle cannot have more than three lines attached to it (if the circle in question is on a line, it is considered to have two lines).

@ lines cannot cross (fun optional rule: if either player accidentally crosses a line, they automatically lose).

@ A circle can also be connected to itself.

This continues until one player is unable to make a move (this is easier explained in the play by play on the next step), and the last move-maker is the winner.

Step 3: A Sample Game

A short, three circle game showing how things might play out.

1: Player one draws a line between 1 and 2, making 4.

2: Player two connects 1 to itself, making 5, and oversprouting it (as you can see, this game can get messy fast).

3: Player one draws a line between 4 and 5, and oversprouting it (seeing the strategy here?) and making 6.

4: Player two connects 2 to itself, oversprouting it and making 7.

5: Player one draws a line between 7 and 3, oversprouting it and making 8.

6: Player two draws a line between 8 and 3, making 9.

7: Player one draws a line between 9 and 3, oversprouting both of them and making 10. Now no more lines can be drawn, so player one is the winner!


Step 4: End

That's it! The rules may seem a bit complicated now, but after a few games, they start to come to you naturally. This is an amazing time killer (I was once on a three hour flight with my father. Two-thirds of this time was spent him creaming me at sprouts).

Thank you to Kiteman for giving me the idea for me first instructable. Rate and comment, but please don't splatter my little noobie hopes and dreams, m'kay?



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    That is brain-plaiting stuff on first run-through, but it really works as a game.

    Beats noughts and crosses into a cocked hat!

    6 replies

     Noughts and crosses?  Similar to our (US) tic-tac-toe?

    Sprouts only for two players?  I reread the instructions but  still not sure. 

    I do not know why I seem to have started speaking in telegraph sentences.  Not as annoying as text speak but in the same neighborhood!

    tic-tac-toe? Is that like our Xs and Os?


     They are exactly the same, trust me...

    Anyhow, nice game, a real challenger. ^^

    Yes, it is mainly for two players, although I suppose it could work as a three player game. Never tried it.

    As near as I can tell, Noughts and Crosses and Tic-Tac-Toe are one and the same.





    Yeah, it took me a while to learn the rules, but it comes easier with time. Noughts and crosses tends to get very boring after you realize that as long as noone makes a mistake, it will always end in a tie. I believe there's a game-theory term for that *assumes thinking face*

    I remember playing four-circle and even five-circle sprouts with my dad. He was the grand master of strategy :).

    The core strategy to the game then is to control the "board" (paper) so that there is either an even or odd number of moves depending on if you are player one or player two. I wonder if there is a way to make this playable by any number of players?

    2 replies

    I think that would be a good strategy except that it requires knowing exactly the number of moves left. I don't see why there couldn't be more than two players, although a four or five dot board would probably make it last longer and more even play. -Y

    Right, each player has the ability to change the total number of moves from even to odd or vise versa. The last few moves is what decide the game. The big trick is recognizing that before it's too late. As for more than two players, I'm not sure what that would do to play or strategy. It might be okay but I think it would be really hard to win by skill instead of chance. In a way it's all skill but with three, control of the game is out of your hands for longer and someone could win and you wouldn't have any say in the matter. I dunno, it would have to be play tested.

     very fun game, could be more complicated, maybe by adding a color factor, ie: blue circles can only be connected to blue circles, or possibly two sets of circles and the first one to oversprout their entire set wins... but overall very fun and very addicting.

    1 reply

    Me and my friends love this game, especially during math class, where we get 45 minutes for a 5 question test. I noticed something, however. Often, the 10th move is impossible. Is that a set thing or just something random.

    1 reply

    It might be a set thing, I'm not sure. Interesting though!

    I remember this game being played in a sci-fi book.  Can anyone recall what it was?

    1 reply

     The book was called Macroscope by Piers Anthony. Fantastic book, that.

    I am a "hard dude", but hard of brain. So, pardon my foolishness.

    Step 3-7 says "Now no more lines can be drawn..."; Wy can't draw lines connecting 6 and 10?

    What rule I did not understand?

    2 replies

    " lines cannot cross"

    Thanks, I understand!

    Heh, the rules of sprouts are high-magery indeed.