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Dots and boxes is an old established game:

Dots, Cards and Boxes is intended to extend it by addition of cards, providing elements of chance, and additional strategy.

Alternate title: A Boxes Cards Dots Excellent Fun Game (ABCDEFG)

The game area is the same - as dotgrid upon which players claim area to win. The winning condition is the same.

What is added are cards which allows each player to impose restrictions on their opponent.

Proposed restrictions are

There are two types of restrictions: limits, and forces:

  • Limits:
    • Line is limited to be within a certain side of the board (let's denote them by the cardinal directions for easy reference)
    • Line is limited to a certain alignment (horizontal (E-W) or vertical (N-S))
    • Line is limited to attach to a virgin dot (a dot with no other lines attached) on at least one end
  • Forces - just the one
    • Player is forced to draw a line which will surrender a box (ie, draw the third line around a square)
      • obviously only useful to play after boxes are possible (usually relatively early), and before boxes are inevitable (very late)

Any limit card which can only be satisfied by surrendering a box (which could be any of the above, depending on board and strategy) must be backed up with an additional "force box" card (this includes the 'force box' card - ie, it needs to be played in double to have effect outright).

Proposed gameplay

Players are dealt 10 cards. They then choose three to reveal on the table. It is only from these revealed cards that they may place restrictions, though when a second force card is required (to backup a limit, or double a force), that card may come from the hand. In this way, the table cards may be played as a bluff.

The three table cards per player are chosen without knowledge of the other players intended reveal, and all table cards are revealed simultaneously. Then players draw lines in turn (flip a coin or something to determine who goes first). Restrictions do not begin until the end of the first round (last player in the first round sets first restriction - ie, on the first player's second turn)

Once restrictions are enabled, a player may place restrictions on any other player at any time up to the start of that players turn. Restrictions cannot be taken back. If there are conflicting restrictions (eg: player1 restricts player3 to the north, and player2 restricts player3 to the south, and there are no available border lines to draw), then the restrictions cancel each other out. (Only the minimum set of nullifications apply - in this example, if there was ALSO a "vertical line" limit, then that would still apply).

After a player draws their line in accordance with the restrictions, those cards are discarded and no longer form part of the play, and trhey also refresh their table cards back to three from their hand.

Note that as soon as a player draws their line, it is the next players turn, and that player can have no new restrictions. Thus a players turn should be as follows:

  1. Consider the move they plan to make - in accordance with any restrictions placed upon them.
  2. Deal out any restrictions to other players - in accordance with tactics for the line they plan to draw
  3. Draw their line
  4. top up their table cards to three

Remember - if the restriction cards requires the surrender of a box (either by playing a force-box card, or because the only available lines within the limits would require surrendering a box), then the restriction must also be backed up with a 'force square' card - this additional force card may come from either from the table or the players hand, but must be supplied before the player begins their turn.

In a two player game, each player restricts the other. In a 3+ player game, each player can restrict any other, but cannot set restrictions on the player whose turn it currently is. (so whilst player 3 is considering, players 1 and 2 can set restrictions on each other.

Winner is the player with the most boxes at the end.

Game board

A 6x6 dotgrid (25 boxes) is a good size between two players (minimal playtesting).

A 9x9 dotdrid (8x8=64 boxes) was found in playtesting to work well for 3 players.

Border conditions

  • The vertical and horizontal center line (or line of boxes) of a board are considered to be parts of both north+south, and east+west. Thus for an odd numbered dot-grid, there are horizontal lines in both north+south, and vertical lines in both east+west. For an even-numbered dot-grid, it's vertical lines (that cross the border) that are both north+south, and horizontals that are both east+west.


A deck of 42 cards (minimally playtested to far)

  • Five limit cards (5 each of North, South, East, West, Horizontal, Vertical, Virgin dot)
  • Seven force cards (that is: 7 "force box surrender")

Unresolved questions

  • What is the scope of a restriction?
    • First line only? (any completed square allows for an extra line, which is unrestricted)
    • First and last line only (so: first line as per above, then complete a sequence of boxes without restriction, but then restriction is enforced again on the 'free move' last line after the available boxes are exhausted
    • All lines (may mean a sequence of available boxes can only be partially claimed!

Ideas for thought

  • Track ownership of each line, allowing this to become a factor in restrictions (eg, card which states "line must join to opponent line")
  • Allow sacrifice strategy (see wikipedia page), or set a rule that once a chain of boxes begins, they MUST be claimed.
    • My preference is that there is no sacrifice strategy, and that the game strategy instead is in clever board building, and then restrictions on opponents ability to surrender squares
  • It's mostly been built around the idea of a 2 players game, but there is no need for that to be the case. One option for >2 players may be to have 4 players as two teams sitting opposite each other, where teammates cannot communicate strategy, but have to infer it from the cards the other plays. Each player uses their opposite numbers cards to set restrictions. (this type of team without communication is similar to Bridge? Or 500?)

Final notes

As written, this has had very minimal playtesting and needs much more. My estimation is that the proportion of cards may be the thing needing most tuning. Of most concern to me is that the 'must surrender' cards will prove to be too powerful an imbalance, especially if (as is entirely possible), one player is dealt none whilst the other has some.

Playtesting notes

See Talk:DotsCardsBoxes

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