Saturday, October 12, 2013

Napoleon Tic Tac Toe: A new mobile and web based board game

Tic-tac-toe (or Noughts and crosses, Xs and Os) is a paper-and-pencil game for two players, who take turns marking the spaces in a 3×3 grid. The player who succeeds in placing three respective marks in a horizontal, vertical, or diagonal row wins the game.  An early variant of Tic-tac-toe was played in the Roman Empire, around the first century BC. It was called Terni Lapilli and instead of having any number of pieces, each player only had three, thus they had to move them around to empty spaces to keep playing. The game's grid markings have been found chalked all over Rome. Other sources state that tic-tac-toe could originate back to ancient Egypt. During the years, the original 3X3 tic-tac-toe evolved into more complex and challenging variations, such as Gomoku and Renju.

A renju board
Gomoku is a more complicated version of tic-tac-toe: also called Gobang or Five in a Row, it is traditionally played with Go pieces (black and white stones) on a go board with 19x19 intersections; however, because once placed, pieces are not moved or removed from the board, gomoku may also be played as a paper and pencil game. This game is known in several countries under different names. Black plays first, and players alternate in placing a stone of their color on an empty intersection. The winner is the first player to get an unbroken row of five stones horizontally, vertically, or diagonally.  

Renju is the professional variant of Gomoku, a strategy board game originating in Japan from the Heian period. It was named Renju by Japanese journalist Ruikou Kuroiwa on December 6, 1899 in a Japanese newspaper Yorozu chouhou. The game is played with black and white stones on a 15×15 gridded Go board. Renju eliminates the "Perfect Win" situation in Gomoku by adding special conditions for the first player - it is actually a Gomoku with extra regulations and winning conditions / apart from just making five-in-a-row.

The Napoleon Tic-Tac-Toe game
This year, a team and company of friends in Greece, designed and launced the Napoleon Tic-Tac-Toe game.  Napoleon can be seen as a Gomoku enhancement with a simple rule: the game does not end when a player makes 5-in-a-row but continues until the board is covered, scoring several points for 3-in-a-row, 4-in-a-row, 5-in-a-row and so on.  This way, the winner is the one with the most points.  Then, the game can be played in 9x9, 19X19 or other dimensions of boards, resulting in infinite complexity variations.

I first played this "n-tic-tac-toe" variation with paper and pencil, several years ago and realised the intellectual challenge that it poses, turning an "instant kill" game like Gomoku into a game of "deeper strategy", especially in larger boards.  So, I enjoyed playing the electronic, well-designed, version for web browsers and mobile phones.  If one tries the professional 19X19 version against the computer, she will realise that Napoleon can be very demanding and fun.

You can play the Napoleon game for free at:  

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