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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.

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
    • Line is forced to complete a box
      • obviously only useful to play after boxes are possible, and before boxes are inevitable

Any card which would cause a box to be completed (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, turns are as follows: each player draws a line (in accordance with any restrictions placed on them) and then plays none, one, two or three card from the table to act as a restriction on the next player. Remember - if the played restrictions cards requires the surrender of a box (either by playing a force-box card, or because the only available lines within the restrictions would require a completing 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.

Once the restriction card(s) are nominated, the player then moved one (and only one) card from their hand to the table (in this way there is a limit to the number of times a player may play two or three cards in a game to enhance restriction strength). Restriction cards that have been used are set aside into a discard pile once used.

If a set of restrictions have been played and through error, would limit the next player to complete a box but lacks the additional force card, then no restrictions apply and the cards move to discard without effect. Remember - make sure you know what you're limiting the next player to!

The next player then draws their line, and plays their restrictions...

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). Alternate sizes, and >2 players, have yet to be tested.


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")

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.

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