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Dots and Boxes: 25+ Interesting Facts (History, Inventor, Math,…)

Last Updated on January 25, 2024 by Gamesver Team and JC Franco

Dots and boxes; a game of mathematical combination and computational puzzles. Sit tight, for the game’s history is about to be told. 

Dots and boxes game, or “La Pipopipette” as it was originally called when it was first created, dates to the nineteenth century. This game has gone through several name variations throughout history. The 2-player combinational strategy game, first presented at a University Symposium, has been played for over a century and is still played today.

These are 25+ facts about Dots and Boxes:

1. It has Adopted several Names Over the Years

Dots and Boxes began with “La Pipopipette,” dubbed the “original game of combination” in French, and has since gone by a variety of names, including “Dots to Dots,” “Box It,” “Squares,” “Dotted Boxes,” “Stake Your Claim,” and many others. It outgrew all previous names, but “Dots and Boxes” has stuck.

2. The Game was Introduced as a form of Recreational Mathematics

Eduoard Lucas, a French Arithmetician, first invented the game in the 19th century. He wrote extensively on arithmetic and its applications, and while studying, he developed the game as a form of recreational mathematics.

3. The Game was Originally Written in French

Eduoard first introduced the game with rules and instructions written in French. It was accompanied by symbols and French transcriptions at the time, but it has since been transcribed into many languages.

4. Edouard Lucas dedicated the Game to his Students

In the game’s original French manual, Eduoard Lucas stated that the game was imagined at the Ecole Polytechnique by several of his favorite students, and he’s excited to dedicate the game to them, which they’ll acclaim when they see it, “Ah! Saperlipopette! Beautiful Pipopipette!”

5. Elwyn Berlekamp First Presented at the University of Calgary Symposium

Elwyn Berlekamp, a Mathematics Professor and ardent supporter of Combinatorial Game Theory, significantly influenced the growth of Dots and Boxes. He first presented the game’s theorems at the University of Calgary Symposium, which launched it into the limelight.

6. The strategies of the Game can be Applied to a Variety of Puzzle Games 

Puzzle games such as Strings and Coins, Sudoku, and Nimstring use dot and box strategies to solve some of these games. If you or your child are good at this game, you could be equally good at any of the other common puzzle games.

7. The Sprague-Grundy Theory can be Applied to Decipher the Game Positions

This is a fascinating fact about this game for Math Gurus. The positions of this game can be deciphered using the Sprague-grundy or nim-value theorem. A unique natural number corresponds to a game position and vice versa. It is useful for solving advanced Dots and Boxes arrays.

8. The Game Imitated a Modified Version of the Chessboard Notation

The game’s line notation has no standard convention; hence the game’s line arrangement is based on a modified version of the chessboard. This, however, is limited to rectangular arrays and may differ from other game arrays.

9. The Best Strategy of the Game is to Defend the Symmetrical Moves of the First Player

Attack is the best form of defense in Dots and Boxes. Although it requires calculated moves, the best strategy is to guard your opponent’s symmetrical moves to prevent them from completing their boxes. You want to be ahead of their moves at all times.

10. It can Simply be Played with a Pencil and Paper

The simplest way to play this game is to draw lines with a pen on paper (or a crayon for children) in any arrays or dimensions. It’s similar to the traditional X’s and O’s game, in which two players draw out the game with a pen and writing paper and simply enjoy it.

11. The Game can be Played by Two or More Players

Dots and Boxes was originally designed for two players, but it is not restricted to that number. With a large number of arrays and dimensions, it can be played by four players or more.

12. It Might Not Be An Easy Game to Understand and Master

At first glance, for many, the game might be difficult to master. The essential aspects that govern the game’s operations elude basic analysis, so one must continue playing different game levels to comprehend fully.

13. Military Heads use the Game’s Format in their War strategies

This game, like other combinatorial game theories, is used in military tactics. The conflict between two or more players is analyzed as a game to predict the outcome and rational decisions that will provide them with the highest possible payoff.

14. The Game can be Played on Multi-Gridded Shapes 

The typical game setting is a 4 by 4 square grid shaped with defined lines and boxes; however, other grids such as rectangular, triangular, or hexagonal grids can construct the game to any desired output.

15. The Game is not Time-Dependent

Dots and Boxes is a free-thinking, time-independent game. Although players can set the time limit for making moves at their discretion, this is not part of the game’s official rules.

16. The Game Obeys the Long Chain Theorem

The Long Chain Theorem comes in handy when trying to understand this game. Successive chains can form three or more boxes, and in some cases, positions can be replaced with long chains.

17. You Discover New Things as you Progress Through the Game

This game has different levels of difficulty. Berlekamp noted that when a new level is introduced, players at a higher level can defeat players at a lower level because they understand a theorem that lower-level players have yet to discover.

18. It has a Dual Graph Form Called Strings and Coins

This game can also be played on a chain of coin-strings connection, with players at random cutting the strings in the shape of coins on an arbitrary graph. The player with the most coins formed is the winner.

19. The Game is Available on Online Apps and Mobile Phones

Although it’s known as a paper-and-pencil game, Dots and Boxes can be played on your mobile devices. 

20. The Game Ends when no Boxes can be made Again

The goal of the game is to have more boxes than your opponent. The game is over when no more boxes can be made, and the player with the most boxes is declared the winner.

21. It is a Classic and Popular Children’s Game

Dots and Boxes is a popular children’s game that helps them develop their spatial reasoning and logical deduction skills. Adults play it for logical cognition, but it is also a popular fun game for children.

22. The Last Player’s Moves do not Decide the Game

This is not a puzzle game where the last move determines the winner. The game is won when no boxes can be made, not who makes the last move. The player with the most boxes wins.

23. The Game has Unique Variants

The game takes on various forms with different rules in different countries. In Poland, a Variant Krokpi allows a user to claim a square region of close boundaries; on a Swedish board, the game begins with the outer lines already drawn, while the typical American board begins with the board completely blank, and so on.

24. The Minimax Algorithm is used to Predict the Positions of the Game

The minimax theory is useful when determining your opponent’s best moves. It is used in the game to improve decision-making. This technique will be familiar to Combinatorial Gamers.

25. Advanced Mathematical Insights are Applied In the Game

This is a fact on which we can all agree. For younger children, the math comes when they begin to decipher the safest moves to form quick boxes. Combinatorial game theory like this requires advanced mathematical knowledge for adults.

26. It is a Game of Dots and Boxes

Finally, no matter how the game is interpreted or analyzed, it is a game of Dots and Boxes. You cross out dots and lines to create new lines, dots, and box chains.

All in All

After perusing these different facts about this game, it is clear that Dots and Boxes is more than just a puzzle game; it is an abstract brain teaser and a useful game supplement for both children and adults.

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This article was co-authored by our team of in-house and freelance writers, and reviewed by our editors, who enjoy sharing their knowledge about their favorite games with others!

JC Franco
Editor | + posts

JC Franco serves as a New York-based editor for Gamesver. His interest for board games centers around chess, a pursuit he began in elementary school at the age of 9. Holding a Bachelor’s degree in Business from Mercyhurst University, JC brings a blend of business acumen and creative insight to his role. Beyond his editorial endeavors, he is a certified USPTA professional, imparting his knowledge in tennis to enthusiasts across the New York City Metropolitan area.