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Dots and Boxes: 16 Potential Drawbacks / Disadvantages of this Paper-and-Pencil Game

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

Looking for drawbacks and disadvantages that trail the game of dots and boxes? Then you are in the right spot. You’d find here 16 drawbacks and disadvantages of playing dots and boxes.

Out of the several cons of the dots and boxes game, we realize that the need for two or more players to keep the game going can border on the addictive line because of the need to gain more points and win. Also, this game does not boost technological advancement since all that the players require is a pencil and paper. 

1. It Cannot Be Played Alone 

The goal of dots and boxes is to acquire as many boxes as against another player. Without another person to play with, the game becomes uninteresting, and there would be no point in even playing at all. This is because it makes no sense to play against yourself. 

2. The Problem of Addiction

People can get addicted to the dots and boxes game as with every other game. This is because people love to win; when they find out they are on a winning streak, the desire to continue playing the game arises.

Also, if the player is on a losing streak, they can be tempted to continue playing with the hope that they have a chance at winning. This need to win or keep winning is a problem as people tend to forget other important things and focus on the game alone.

3. Does not Foster Technological Growth

The dots and boxes game has done very little to move technology forward. This is majorly because it is a pen and paper game. Also, the absence of forward-thinking moves that can help boost technology means it is dragging us backward.

4. It Doesn’t Cover the Numerical Section of Mathematics 

While the geometry aspect of mathematics is covered, this game has not done so much for the numerical aspect. 

Players are only familiar with the dots, lines, and boxes. They don’t get the chance to explore the numerical elements in mathematics. It is mostly focused on the shapes, and counting the points is the most basic form of mathematics.

5. Your strategy can be Hijacked

The rule of the game is that whoever draws the fourth line possesses the box. This rule does not consider a player who has strategized and has three lines drawn already, only to lose the fourth to an opponent. This rule might be unfair to the player that has already planned their strategy in their head.

6. The Fourth Line Advantage

This advantage comes at the cost of the opponent. When one player draws the fourth line, they get to take another turn, which can also be another fourth line, and keep going. This factor can create an unfair advantage for the opponent.

7. It is not a Free-Thinking game

Playing games should exercise the brain and stretch the brain’s thinking capacity, but there are other times when you only need a game to pass the time or have fun. Dots and boxes require seriousness and strategic thinking. You can’t just draw any line; it must be calculative and strategic.

8. Dots and Boxes is Hard to Master

The game might be easy to learn, but it is hard to master. It is easy to understand how the game works and the game’s rules, but it is harder to master the strategic aspect of the game. It sometimes involves mathematical theories that the player may not be familiar with.

9. Kids Might Lose Focus

Due to the benefits of the game, players, especially children, might tend to abandon their actual learning in school and focus on the game since it also has mathematical advantages, forgetting that it is not everything educational the game will cover.

10. It can Keep People From Actual Social Interactions

The game is a multiplayer game, but it limits the players’ ability to interact in a social setting when it is played continuously. They become so engrossed with the game and even amongst themselves that they only have discussions about the game.

11. Prolonged Playing can Lead to Stress

When playing against a more experienced opponent, the chances that you will lose many games to the opponent is very high. And because you would be struggling to at least win one or two games, you can get very frustrated, and this will lead to stress. So instead of the game reducing stress, if you play for too long can cause stress.

12. It Tends to Limit Academic Progress

As with other games like dots and boxes, there should be a limit to playing dots and boxes, especially with children who adapt easily. Parents should watch how often their children play the game, so their academic progress does not suffer because they need to win a game.

13. This Game can Cause a Dopamine Problem

The reason it’s exciting when you win a game of dots and boxes is caused by the release of dopamine in the brain. The more you play with dots and boxes, the more dopamine is released. It can get to a stage where you’re doing anything that is not exciting and become uninterested in doing that activity.

14. Lack of Motivation

Lack of motivation is a general problem with gaming. It is easy to get lost in gaming and forget there are other things to do. You lose the motivation to go out, spend time with loved ones, and live life because you have a goal you are trying to beat. This problem is a major drawback for the game of dots and boxes.

15. You can Lose Touch with Reality

Everything in life follows rules that guide how events should operate. These rules are essential to maintain order, but not every rule works universally. The game of dots and boxes rules is to get as many boxes as possible to win. A player of dots and boxes can apply this to reality, which does not always work. 

It is easy to forget that players can not apply the simple rules we use in games to reality because reality is more complex than games, so we must know how to separate them.

16. It can Cause Stress

Continuously playing the game of dots and boxes can have negative effects and can cause your body system to fight back. Losing track of time because you are trying to win and forgetting to eat at the appropriate time can cause a player to get weak and even sick.

It can also lead to carpal tunnel syndrome if players often forget to stretch their hands. It is accompanied by weak hands, a tingling feeling in the wrist, and numbness. 

Alternatives to the Dots and Boxes Game

You’d find two alternatives to the dots and boxes in this section. Don’t fret. Like the dots and boxes game, all you require is a pencil and your paper for these games.

Tic Tac Toe

Tic Tac Toe, also known as the game of Xs and Os, is a two-player game where each player takes either X or O. 

The game begins by drawing two parallel vertical lines across 2 parallel horizontal ones. The first player draws their chosen letter in one of the formed squares, and the other player follows. This continues until one player gets three Xs or Os in a row, column, or diagonally.

However, if all boxes are filled, and there are no more rows or columns to fill, the game is a draw.


Here is yet another two-player pencil and paper alternative to the game of dots and boxes. Here the aim is to make the opponent form a colored triangle before you. The first player to form a colored triangle loses. 

To start the game, draw 6 dots to form a hexagon. There are no draws in this game, as the game can’t end without one player forming a colored triangle.

Final Thoughts

The problems with dots and boxes are dominantly caused by overdoing it. There should be a limit to everything, including gaming. While it has benefits and is enjoyable, these drawbacks, from overindulging in the game, might defeat the game’s purpose.

JC Franco

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.