Our theme this week was making squares. Appropriate then that our first game was Squares (Waddingtons, 1982). This is a three dimensional version of the game sometimes called Dots and Boxes which is played on paper. The grid is 4 x 5, giving a total of 20 squares. Initial set-up has all the blocks turned to red on one side, and white on the other side. The player who is looking at red has to make a white square, and vice versa. Players take it in turns to swivel one block. Whoever swivels the last block to make a square claims it with a peg of their colour. The winner is the first to make 11 squares ((20 ÷ 2) + 1): sorry could not resist a bit of maths. As there are 20 squares in the grid this game could end in a draw. The strategy is to avoid turning two blocks into three blocks, or the next player will turn three blocks into four blocks and make a square. As with so many of these abstract strategy games it is about being able to anticipate how your next move will change the game board, and stop yourself from making that move if it is not to your advantage!
Our second game this week was Territorie (Invicta, 1979). (Aside: Invicta made Mastermind, Anna’s favourite game and one the children really enjoyed last year). (Second aside: am I alone in being bothered by the spelling of this game with an ‘ie’ at the end and not a ‘y’?). Back to the game: in Dots and Boxes and Squares, a fence/block is permanent once played. In Territorie a player has two options: either add a new fence to the 8 x 8 grid, or swing an existing fence in any direction. When a player encloses a square with a fence on all four sides they claim it with their own colour peg.
Part way through this game there was a contagious outbreak of giggling, cause unknown. Around the same time one child noticed that the grid had started to resemble towns and villages and they started naming places on the Isle of Wight. This, combined with the giggling, unleashed an outburst of creativity and cooperation. The children decided to work together to link up the towns and villages. They got as far north as Edinburgh before our time was up. If we had longer I am sure they would have got to the north pole, and possibly off into space, such was their enthusiasm.