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EL

Designer: Larry Levy
Players: 2
Equipment: Paper, two coloured pens.

Equipment: The playing field is a square board of six squares on a side drawn on a piece of paper. Give each player a different colored pen to mark the board. Choose one player to go first. If one of the players is better or more experienced, he should go last, as the first player has an advantage.

The Play: Each player in her turn chooses one of the squares of the board and writes a number from 1 to 6 in the square with her colored pen. Only empty squares can be chosen. Otherwise, there is no restriction on which square is picked. For example, the chosen square need not touch any other marked squares. Similarly, there is no restriction on which of the six numbers are placed in the square, nor is there any limit on how many times a number can be used in a game. Once a square is written in, the number cannot be moved, changed, or erased. Each player continues writing in one square a turn until one of the players wins or until all 36 squares contain numbers.

Objective: Each player is trying to make an "EL". An EL is a collection of six squares that meet the following requirements:

  1. The six squares must be touching orthogonally (i.e., must touch on their sides) and must either be in a line or have at most one right angle turn;
  2. The six squares must have the numbers "1" through "6" written in them, although the numbers can appear in any order.
  3. At least four of the six numbers must be of the player's own color.

If either player completes what would be an EL but which has three numbers of each color, it does not count as an EL for either player and the game continues. If a player places a number which completes a winning EL for himself and for his opponent, it counts as a win for the active player.

Examples:

A winning EL for blue. This is a winning EL for Blue.

Not a winning position. This is not a winning position, since all six numbers are not included in the six squares.

Not a winning position. This is also not a winning position, since the touching squares have more than one right angle turn.

Winning the Game: If, after a player's turn, she can make an EL on her next turn, she must announce "Threat" and show all the ways she can win on her next turn. A player can only make an EL by choosing one of the squares she indicated was a threat on her previous turn. If a player neglects to announce a particular play as a threat, she may make that play on her turn, but this does not constitute a win and the game continues. However, if because of a play her opponent has just made, a player now has an opportunity to make an EL, she may make the move and win the game, even though she did not declare it as a threat on her previous turn.

The first player to make an EL wins the game. If all 36 squares are filled in and neither player has succeeded in making an EL, the game is a draw.

This is a position from an actual game. Red has just marked the "2" on the far left. He announces "Threat", showing that he can win by placing a 4 in either of the squares marked with an asterisk. Blue cannot stop both threats and cannot win on her next turn. Red has won the game.

As players become more experienced, they will probably find that the first player has a significant advantage. To overcome this, the following additional rule is recommended: the first player must use the same number for his first two moves.

Variants: The basic game system is flexible enough to permit many variations. Here are some examples:

  • Play with more numbers on a larger board. For example, you can play with the numbers 1 through 8, with an EL requiring eight squares, on an 8x8 board. You should always use an even number of squares for an EL, with the requirement that more than half of the numbers must be of the player's color for the combination to be an EL.
  • Have an EL require fewer numbers than can be chosen from. For example, you might allow the numbers 1 through 8 to be used, but only require that an EL consist of six squares. The EL would have to consist of six consecutive numbers (i.e., 1-6, 2-7, or 3-8). A 7x7 board might work well for this variant.
  • Try a three player game. One way to do this would be to use the numbers 1 through 6, with an EL requiring six squares, on an 8x8 board. In order to win, a player would have to have more numbers in her color than either of her opponents. You might want to waive the threat announcement rule for this variation.
  • For more than three players, you might want to try this variant. The squares in a winning combination can have more than one right angle turn. The squares must all be connected orthogonally and must include exactly one copy of every number. Try this variation with four players, with the numbers 1 through 8, on an 8x8 board, with an eight square winning combination requirement.
  • If you find that the first player still has too much of an advantage in a two player game, you can play that if the board is completely filled and neither player has made an EL, the second player wins rather than the game being a draw.

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