The Games We Played – I

My 7 year old has recently been very interested in varied board games, and he also enjoys making up his own rules. I also like making up my own games, maybe it runs in the family. For this round I mostly made up the rules, with plenty of input from my son.

I just bought him a bunch of game markers so together with a chess board we can play pretty much whatever we can think of.

Our first attempt was a simple dice/strategy game. Each side gets 16 pieces, and the goal is to occupy all four center squares. We included his younger brother, who played the green pieces.

Each player has 16 pieces, set up in two rows of 8. A third player can play, with his pieces set up between the two rows of pieces, eight on each side.

The rules are quite simple. You throw two dice. One is the number of spaces you move your pieces, and one is the number of spaces you move your opponents pieces. While usually you will choose the higher number for moving your pieces, you are free to choose which number will be used for your pieces, and which for your opponent’s pieces. Pieces can be moved to any adjacent square, but not along diagonals.

You obviously cannot win simply by storming the center. In an ideal setup you will need a spin of four to occupy all four squares, if you managed to have a piece adjacent to each of the four centers squares. Usually even a spin of six would not be sufficient to occupy all four spaces in one turn.

The basic strategy is to slowly move up all your pieces, so that your opponent cannot easily move you off the center squares once you are there. We did not play long enough to see how you can counter this strategy, but I expect it might be necessary to try to first break up your opponents ranks and then try to take the center. Otherwise, you are likely to end up with a stalemate as each side has at least one center square, and they cannot be moved off because they are sufficiently backed up by the rest of their army.

As a variation, you can switch two adjacent piece, using one move for each piece. This would allow you to move an opponent’s piece off the center and immediately replace that square with your own piece. This way you can take him off the center square even when his piece is supported by back up soldiers, preventing you from pushing him off the center back towards his side. This variation would make it possible to take all four center squares with a throw of 4-4 or higher, as well as making it very easy to remove the opponent from the center, The primary strategy would therefore be to have as many soldiers as possible adjacent to the four center squares. If you can manage to have a soldier next to each of the four squares at the start of your turn, you have a decent chance at getting winning throw.


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