The best future for Dots-and-Boxes...? Dots and Boxes

8 replies. Last post: 2015-02-05

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The best future for Dots-and-Boxes...?
  • Sean_Hettenbach at 2015-02-03

         Let me set the scene for all you Dots-and-Boxes advocates. The year is 2020. Dots-and-Boxes has gained its recognition and popularity. There are tournaments held all around the world for the game. The game has it’s very own ELO based rating system. People who play the game at the highest levels have sponsors, contracts, and carry the pride of their home country on their backs. They make a living playing the game that they grew to love. There is a world championship every year, in which the winner of the last championship fights to defend their title. There are schools, and clubs found all around the globe for the simple pen and paper game, that almost anyone can learn. The game has built a flourishing Industry... But how did it get here?  What were the steps taken in order to achieve this high level of popularity and enticing action? What rules were set as the base of this structure. What was the board size decided upon? How could a game as simple as Dots-and-Boxes, become so renown? These are the questions I’d like to discuss relating to this topic. I would hope to only get positive and encouraging feedback, but, let your minds go wild and crazy on this. I want to hear everything that you have to say, expressing your hopes for the game, of what it could be... No... Of what it can be... What it will be! Lets get down to it, and have fun!:)

  • Dryad at 2015-02-04

    Ok, i started criticizing this, but idk if one should overstate this problem of 5x5 being too small... I know that flipster and FairyTail got bored of 5x5 too and maybe there’s others but that’s just a handful players (although it’s the players I value especially high). With a playerbase this slim one might as well keep using 5x5 since there isn’t much development going on, it’s just that for those few people it won’t be much fun anymore, the majority is hardly anywhere near mastering 5x5 though and 7x7 is probably much more unfriendly to beginners than 5x5.

    Well, on to the scenario at hand: There’s no way 5x5 would stay default if DnB became as popular as chess, but I’m going even further and say that even 7x7 might not suffice if it came to that. Let me provide some historical background as to how 5x5 became as “solved” as it is right now. I’d say there was like 3 major metagame-periods on littlegolem: The first one didn’t really have anything like opening theory, it was mostly just figuring out how the game works and the player michael did very well there. Then the second one was a huge flipster hype who came up with 1.f3 2.h9 and the strategys surrounding it and that was a thing until very recently with sghsal at it’s peak. Okay, and then 7ics appeared out of nowhere who was pretty strong but learned an entirely different metagame somewhere else and he was convincing others that 1.f3 was actually a pretty bad move all along and that’s where we’re now. So instead of 1.f3, 1.f5 is now the move that has gained increasing popularity, but there’s an issue with 1.f5: it’s too strong. The 1.f3 2.h9 period was really great since the second player had really good chances there and the first player advantage seemed very unimportant so it was a lot fun playing, but 1.f5 doesn’t have that. Well, on with the main point... just a few strong players managed to break 5x5 down to what it is now. But all these players who explored it put together wouldn’t even matter in a community as big as the one for chess. There would be several thousands of players stronger than I and they would destroy 5x5 during the blink of an eye.

    Alright, on with 7x7. That board looks ridiculously huge compared to 5x5 when you take a look at it at first, but I mentioned that even 7x7 might be too small for a community with thousands of strong players and I’m saying so for a reason. Let me show you one game:
    This is my last game I’ve played on lg and the point where I thought I was winning for sure was no later than move 20. There is on 5x5 positions with 20 lines played where you just can’t tell who’s winning. Games on 5x5 that decide around move 15 are in fact not a rare occurrence, so there’s maybe like a 5 move difference between the decisive point of 5x5 and 7x7. Alright, and then there was this issue about the first moves on 7x7 being random. I want you to take another look at that 7x7 game and compare the position from move 20 with the position from move 8. The thing is that this structure from move 20 where I knew that I was winning was already predetermined at move 8, the whole structure it all exists in move 8 already: The bottom right part that is cut off, the top and bottom left corners looking similar and the center part that is cut in two at move 20 but was already expected to be cut in move 8. This is showing that early setups are possible on 7x7. Now let’s go back even further and take a look at move 7. Move 7 was cutting the right and then move 8 was saying “no, don't do that”. Now the question is: Did anything change from move 6 to move 8? Some might find themselves answering “no” so one could argue that the position in move 20 was a natural result of the position in move 6. Move 6 is seriously early as hell, but I’m saying the structure for the entire game was already there, but now I’m saying that the structural concept from the position after move 6 was intentionally build by me as well, starting with move 2. Nothing is random about the early moves in 7x7 and I’m sure that a huge community would be able to grasp the 7x7 openings just like we managed to understand 5x5 so even 7x7 might not last very long in a chess-like community.

    Sean, you asked me if something could bring back the excitement for me. I see multiple options here: 1.Modifing 5x5 maybe with something like the swap rule in order to increase the chances for the second player, that however would turn the 5x5 game even shorter and might only satisfy temporarily. 2.Moving to a different board size (7x7), however that may be problem for those trying to learn the game and I mentioned that it might not be worth it doing so for the sake of just a handful players.

  • The_Burglar at 2015-02-04

    jazz it up  random sizes eg 6x7 7x8 5x9  black holes, to prevent draws  triangles, hexagons

  • Austral at 2015-02-04

    Wierd sizes seem good !When i was à kid we drawed an iregular ground before playing...

  • Dryad at 2015-02-04

    diego44 pointed out to me that I wasn’t very clear when I said the swap-rule would turn the game even shorter. I was referring to an implementation of the swap-rule where you could place more than one line at move one which would mean that multiple lines would be played in one turn making the game shorter overall.

  • diego44 at 2015-02-05

    @Sean: That’s some visionary words. The last time I heard something similar was many years ago, from myself. It’s cool to know that Dryad and me are not the only ones sharing this dream. Having said this, there is no chance this might happen in the near future. Every year the strategy board game fan base loses more people, even those of popular games not to mention games like Dots and Boxes where the players can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Yes, littlegolem is the place where those fans gather and they keep disappearing even here.

    @TheBurglar & austral: Any particular reason why those sizes / variants are a good idea other than “played as a kid”? Of course there is no real difference between nxn and nxm but the former is more catchy. Black holes to prevent draws? Seriously, on 5x5 a draw is not possible. If a specific variant does not add anything to the game, why not choose the most simple one? Triangles and Hexagons? There is a reason we use squares, regarding triangles boxes are vulnerable too early, for n-gons with n>4 the game loses much of its dynamics because it will take too long to influence anything with the moves. Dryad and me once tried 3D Dots, that is, playing on a 2x2x2 grid of cubes, playing the edges whereas the cubes' faces were boxes. The most crucial part of this game was to recognize built chains at all. Multidimensional grids lack clarity.

    @Dryad: Interesting essay on history. I partly agree with you, but I don’t think 5x5 is fully explored, even by the very best. Redundance in games on high level occur due to the unfortunate fact that there are no more than two top players actively playing during one era.

    Also, regarding the actual size discussion, let’s stay with 5x5 for now and enjoy as long as possible. If the community somehow manages to grow to a large extent 7x7 will be necessary to satisfy the competetive players but even as for spectating a board like 5x5 is probably more suitable.

  • Sean_Hettenbach at 2015-02-05

    @Diego44: You said “Every year the strategy board game fan base loses more people...” Why do you think that is, and how can we prevent this pattern from continuing. I’d very much like to know the history behind dots and boxes. I just stumbled upon the yahoo dots game and took interest in it. When I found out there was a strategy behind it, I just wanted to get better and better. No one really knows the game of Dots-and-Boxes. It’s a classic pencil and paper game, yet most people I ask to play a game with, haven’t ever played it... So I’m just trying to introduce the game to people in hopes that I can maybe get people playing it here and there, and start a Dots-and-Boxes club at the local library, and I hope that brings some people to the site, and help increase the population. Once I’ve done that, I hope to train people on getting better and better, and before you know it, we could have some good competition again. Because in my eyes, competition is what makes games fun. Playing people better than you, and wanting to better yourself to get to their level. In hopes that you will eventually be a match for them, and they can then have a good game that’s entertaining for them.

  • Sean_Hettenbach at 2015-02-05

    That’s my point on it anyways. I’m a competitor. Good competition is what fuels me. Competing is how I have fun, and just testing my abilities. Improving myself constantly even if I become the strongest player, always look for ways to improve. But that’s me. People get their kicks in different ways. It’s hard to find competition these days. It’s almost like no one cares about someone being better than them. That’s why I love the Chickenlord123 persona haha. So awesome, he just didn’t get the human challenge he was looking for here. And when no one can match you in skill, it kinda just gets boring. So I’m here to get better for the top players. And on my way there, contribute anything I can to someone else’s development in the game. There’s a saying “Quality over Quantit” I’d rather have a small quantity of Dots-and-Boxes players with a High Quality of play strength, rather than a high quantity of Dots-and-Boxes players with mostly low quality play strength. Yes you’d still be able to play the best players with a large community of people, but the competition just disappears with the game and you get ‘trolls’ who are just looking for a good time, and messing around on sites like this that try to promote the progress of games like these. I’d like a small community of just all excellent players. So that it didn’t matter who I played, I knew I was going to have a great match. And a great post-game analysis and just share ideas and perspectives on certain situations. That’s what I want to be a part of. The big stuff can come later.:)

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