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Subject: Expanding on "Dots and Boxes" rss

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David Low
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The "Magpie" Wall Game (part of a Thames TV series from the 1970's), given to me by an English uncle about thirty years ago, was my first introduction to math-type games. Even if I didn't realise it at the time . I've always had a soft spot for it, and it's just about time to introduce my own kids to it. The purpose of this review is to give the game concept an airing.

The Basics
Each player (max 4) has a stack of 20 wall tiles, five of each value [0,1,2,3]. The game board has 20 squares: picture a rectangle, six squares by four squares, with the four corner squares removed. The squares are marked by slots that the wall tiles fit into. Each of the 20 squares also has a central diagonal slot, which is only used to mark who "owns" each square.

The Play
In turn, each player places a wall tile of their choice in a slot. If a player completes a square (by placing the fourth wall), they claim it by placing one of their tiles in the central diagonal slot. Play always passes to the next player after a wall placement (no "double moves", as there are in some dots-and-boxes variants).

Scoring
Total the sides of every square you own (not including the central diagonal "claim" tile). Highest score wins!

Strategy
This game does have some depth: even if just in the use of the "0" value wall tiles. Obviously they are good to use for "claiming" purposes; but they also minimise the value of boxes that, later in the game, you are forced to give an opponent.

Summary
Sure, it's no Hex: but as a child I was fascinated with the way it extended "dots and boxes". And as a kids game (or one for mathematicians, same story...!), if it makes 'em think, it's worth doing.
 
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