Dots is a logic board game based on spatial thinking, strategic planning, tactical analysis and options calculation. It is played on a flat playing field lined with squares of the equal size. Players in turn put dots of two colors in the crossings of lines. The goal is to encircle the opponent’s dots and at the same time not to allow the opponent to encircle yours.
Dots seems to be a simple and straightforward game, but it has tremendous potential for combinations. For example, the number of possible positions for the field size of 30×30 squares is 10 in 270th degree. To estimate the scale of this number it’s enough to compare dots with chess, where the same characteristic stands at 10 in the 40th degree.
The main charm of dots lies in the fact that the game is not limited just to mathematical search of options. It is very important as far as the tactical component is concerned, but the outcome of the struggle is largely determined by the strategic spatial combat, wherein the same moves and combinations can have fundamentally different meanings depending on what part of the field and in what position they occur.
Dots is a dynamic, exciting, spectacular game. The balance in the game can repeatedly tilt in one direction or another. The loss of even a significant number of dots is often not fatal, since a large space of the playing field and equal importance of its areas allow players to recoup after a local failure. The current score is changing very often, and the final score may lie in a huge range. And games that are ended with the score 1:0 may be much more interesting than those in which one of the contestants won with a difference of one hundred dots.
The most critical elements in dots are attentiveness, slowness, memory (including visual memory), depth of moves calculation, quality of positional prediction and assessment of threats. You should focus on the active area of the field and simultaneously keep in mind the position on passive areas, so that you can properly and in time assess the actual and potential interconnections between different groups of dots, both your own and those of your rival. And during the game the demands for all of these skills and abilities are only increasing, because dots that were put on the field once, would remain there until the end of the game and the position, respectively, becomes more complicated constantly.
You can play dots almost anywhere. Inventory is very simple: a sheet of squared paper and two pencils of different colors. Due to this fact, as well as to the attractiveness of the competition in terms of psychology, dots are very popular among pupils and students. Most of the players make themselves familiar with dots in schools. Computer realization of the game is also quite simple in respect to user interface, it requires no graphic sophistication and significant server resources.
You can learn to play dots quite fast. Beginner, who has regular practice and can play with the strongest or even watch their games, can reach the average level in several months. About a year later it is already possible to estimate the limit of his capabilities in the game. The constant practice at dots is very important: long breaks in the game lead to serious degradation of your skills. Age and sex differences between players are not very important, although most of the strongest players are young men.
Artificial Intelligence in dots is weak compared to real players. There are many objective and subjective reasons for this. Objective reasons are rooted in the specifics of the game, which have already been mentioned above: a huge number of variations of positions and non-obvious nature of the threats that can come not only from the dots already present on the game field, but also from the blank areas, where dots can theoretically appear. Perhaps modern supercomputers would be able to cope with such puzzles, but here the subjective reasons take their effect. Dots has been the amateur game so far, so there is simply nobody to invest heavily in the development of efficient programs.
Dots is a young game, though it descends from the ancient Go. Nowadays, we are witnessing its formation. Yeah, there are no official structures, common rules and any professional component yet. But the community of players is forming, its heroes appear, friendly tournaments are being held and traditions are gradually accumulated. And game’s release to the Internet gave the good impulse for this process. If enthusiasts of dots overcome this difficult stage, if they can prove a self-worth and sports viability of the game despite of the logical skepticism of the representatives of traditional disciplines, so a favorite pastime of pupils and students will come out of classrooms and take its rightful place among other intellectual games.
The place that dots completely deserves.
Alexander Parfenov. October 11, 2015