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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    13 Discussions

    the poodleo

    7 years ago on Introduction

    that's pretty cool. yo should try doing something like this for other games, like battleship or something. id love to see that.


    8 years ago on Step 6

    great drawings dude! love it man.

    Wow, this is great! I personally was never much for D&B until now. Very well written 'ible.



    10 years ago on Introduction

    Another tip on wasting time in class: Draw the following: Draw cubes. Race your friends, see wo can draw the most cubes in the classs period, 15 minutes, get to 100, 200, etc. Draw parabolas. Lest you'll be doing something related to math and science... or just not paying attention... Draw fractals. Make chainmaille. No joke, I actually got away with spending a whole hour, connecting all of the spare minutes in the day. After large tests, this is great. Make penguns. Shoot thy friends, and they shall be friends no more. :) Sketch. Alot. Create plans to get away from zombies? There are millions of things you can do with the good old pen and paper. "Whoever said the pen is mightier than the sword has obviously never encountered automatic weapons." -PKT


    10 years ago on Step 6

    Wow. You can sketch pretty well.... *points to two grids on last step...*


    10 years ago on Introduction

    they should ttly have an online game like this. I used to play with my sister but not shes in college :( that how i though of the idea. I think we should all try to thing of powerups.

    1 reply

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    I'm considering making the game in Flash Actionscript and posting it to my blog:
    I totally agree, please, any suggestions you have I will consider and incorporate if I think they are good. This will be an ongoing project, an 'open-source' squares game if you will, so by all means, I encourage participation.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    this game has became a trend with my friends.thx a lot


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Im leaving for a long road trip tomorrow... i'm totally gonna play this. thanks!


    10 years ago on Introduction

    I like the idea of powerups added to the game. That looks like it would be much more interesting.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    thanks, if anyone has any questions or suggestions,or if something is unclear, please speak up.