Introduction: Variations on a Classic: Dots and Squares
The classic game of dots and squares can keep you occupied for hours in class, or in a waiting room, but it can get boring... Here are some variations on the game that take it to a new level of strategy and thought, while still keeping the same classic style of fun that makes this game a favorite when sitting through particularly boring lessons. Because of the way this game can be played, on grid paper, it will appear as if you are taking notes or otherwise occupied in studious activities in class. It is fun, easy to set up, and infinitely expandable for hours of enjoyment.
Step 1: The Basic Board
The basic board of the game is generally a rectangle, within which may be drawn dots to create a grid. It is recommended however to use grid paper, as this is much more convenient, and saves time for setup of the board. You can use any size paper for this really, but I've found that a standard school grid notebook works best. Ideally, for a pocket-sized game, look for a small compact notebook. For a 10-15 minute game, the rectangle should be somewhere around 8 x 8. When you've got the hang of a simple rectangular board, you can try experimenting with different shapes (more on that later.)
Step 2: Moving
The point of the game is to acquire as many squares as possible. Each player takes turns to draw a line, from one grid point to an adjacent grid point (no diagonals). The walls of the board count as lines already drawn. A player may capture a square, by completing the four walls of it with one move. If a player captures a square, he receives another move. This extra move is mandatory, not optional. You can move anywhere on the board, except on a space where there is already a line. Your line does not have to be adjacent to any others. You must mark the squares you capture with a symbol, initial, or a color. Note, in more complicated versions of this game, it may be useful to mark the captured square with a different color for each player, and in pen or pencil write in the value of that square, making it easier to count up the score at the end of the game. This only applies to games with coordinate grids.
Step 3: Variations: Coordinates
In the classic version of the game, the end score is calculated by adding all of each player's respective territory of squares. The player with the higher number of squares wins. However, to make the game more interesting and strategic, a coordinate system can be used, to assign different values to different squares, thus forcing players to make moves that will value 'heavier' squares over ones with less value. A coordinate system can be used in two ways. 1) Two sets of numbers on both the horizontal and vertical walls of the board. The square's value is calculated by multiplying the numbers on its horizontal and vertical axis. 2) There is only one axis of numbers along the side; along the other are letters, to make it easier to call out squares if need be. In this system, each square in a row has the value of the number on it.
Note: This game is also a good way to practice your multiplication if you feel the need.
Step 4: Variations: Powerups
Also, powerups can be added to the board, drawn before the game, to add another interesting element to it. Bonuses are most easily drawn with dotted lines, and their value in the center of the square. Again, any value can be chosen, and the powerups can be placed anywhere, but keep in mind that with powerups that are worth too much, the game can end up to be more of a game of luck, rather than strategy. The "+" symbols drawn in the diagram are a different kind of powerup. They can have a standard bonus value, like normal powerups (you decide what this value would be) but more interestingly, if a player is able to connect 2 or more of these together, his final score will be multiplied. I have found that the following system works best (if the "+" are spaced out enough throughout the board): 2 "+" connected = no multiplication bonus, 3 +" connected = x 2, 4 "+" connected = x 4, 5 "+" connected = x 8, and so on...
Here are some other ideas for powerups:
"Arrows"- If two arrow powerups on the same row are occupied by a player, than the entire row becomes his territory.
"Mines"- If forced to captured, these subtract points from your final score, or destroy adjacent squares, making them not count into final score.
Step 5: A More Interesting Board
For more interesting game play, try changing the shape of the board. As long as you keep it along horizontal and vertical axes, then the game will be fine. Avoid creating parts of the board that take up 3 sides of a square before the game has even started.
Step 6: Final Product
Once you've mastered the basics of the game, try experimenting with different board sizes and shapes, making new kinds of powerups, and using more complicated systems of calculating value. You can even decorate your boards if you like. The sky's the limit, when it comes to wasting time in class. Here some examples of boards:
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