Circular Cruises/Dollar Draw

From Eccentric Flower

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"Dollar Draw" is a game I came up with one night out of the blue. Like most of the game ideas I come up with, it has not really been playtested other than a few solo attempts (it's hard to test a two-player game alone; you tend to anticipate the other player's strategy). One day I'll try to find someone to give it a more thorough look and see if it's feasible. Until then, play at your own risk.

Dollar Draw
(A mostly-pencil-and-paper game for two players)

22 July 2002


You'll need a token or pawn of some sort for each player - any two small movable objects you can tell apart easily; a nice sharp pencil for each player; and an ample supply of graph paper.

The graph paper supplies the playing field, or Grid. Depending on your graph paper's scale, you will probably want to mark off multiple-square units to form the Grid squares. (For example, I use graph paper with heavier lines for every five squares, and those heavy lines mark the Grid squares.) The Grid squares need to be large enough to contain the pawns. They will also contain several pencil marks in the course of the game.

The Grid can be any size you want. Five spaces long by five spaces wide is a nice small starter Grid. 10 x 10 is probably more realistic. A larger Grid doesn't make the game harder (or easier), just longer.


Each square of the Grid, during the course of play, can be in one of four conditions.

1. It can be blank - no pencil marks in it. All of the Grid except the starting spaces begins this way.

File:DD1.gif 2. It can have two vertical bars in it, indicating it is claimed by one player ...

File:DD2.gif 3. ... or it can have an S in it, indicating that it is claimed by the other player.

(Let's just call them the Bar player and the S player, shall we?)

File:DD3.gif 4. Or it can have both the vertical bars AND the S in it, indicating that it is claimed by both players.
This, you will note, makes a dollar sign. These Dollar squares can furthermore be either "captured" or uncaptured.

A Dollar which is captured (I'll explain all the moves in a minute) either gets
File:DD4.gif surrounded with a box (if the Bar player captured it)
File:DD5.gif or a circle (if the S player captured it).

Every move MUST in some way alter the Grid. That is, you will draw something new in a square once per move.

A move consists of either
1. CLAIMING a square that is blank;
2. RECLAIMING a square that has already been claimed by the other player, thereby making an uncaptured Dollar;
3. CAPTURING a Dollar.

Most of the rest of the rules concern when and how you are allowed to reclaim a square. The other two kinds of moves are pretty simple.

If you can't make a move that alters the Grid - i.e. where you are drawing something new in a square somewhere - you can't move. And if you can't make a move, the game ends. But that doesn't necessarily mean the other player won! The scoring of the game, which happens once it ends, is mostly independent of who made the final move.

The tokens are just to keep track of where you are. The real action is in the pencil marks. You can always only make changes in one of the four spaces orthogonally adjacent to where your token is. THEN, after making a change to the Grid in one of those four spaces (assuming you had a legal move), you move your token on top of the change you just made. Got that? Mark first, THEN move your token.


Any blank space can be claimed simply by making your mark (Bar or S) on a blank space orthogonal to your token. You then move your token onto that space.


Whether you can reclaim depends on what kind of marks surround your token. This is known as the Tally. The Tally is done BEFORE moving your token - that is, you are checking the spaces that surround your initial location, NOT the spaces that surround the place you're trying to move to.

Although you can only reclaim one of the four spaces orthogonal to you (all moves are orthogonal only), for purposes of the Tally you consider all eight spaces, orthogonal and diagonal, that surround the token.

The rule is simple: You can reclaim a space ONLY if your opponent has claimed MORE of the spaces around you than you have.

That is, there have to be more spaces with your opponent's mark around your token than there are with your mark.

If that's true, then you can pick any space orthogonal to you with your opponent's claim mark on it, add your mark to that space (making a Dollar), and move your token atop that Dollar.

In the images below, the S player (current location shown by the green tint) wants to reclaim one of the two Bar spaces available to her. She checks the eight spaces around her. (1) There are three S's adjacent, and four Bars, so she can do it. She decides to move west - she makes the appropriate space into a Dollar and moves onto it. (2)

(1) File:DD7.gif (2) File:DD8.gif

Some reclaiming fine points:

- Spaces with Dollars (whether captured or not) do not count in the Tally. Okay, well, actually, they count for BOTH players in the Tally. The square is still claimed by both players. But that's the same as leaving them out. Think about it.

- When Tallying for spaces on the edges of the board, you obviously won't have the full eight surrounding spaces to Tally. Just use the ones you've got. The Grid doesn't "wrap around" or do anything funky like that.

- Blank spaces, as you might guess, count for nothing.


If, on your turn, you are orthogonally adjacent to an uncaptured Dollar, you may capture it. Draw a box around it (if you are Bar) or a circle around it (if you are S) and put your token atop it. Voila.

Note: On your next turn, once you move off that captured Dollar, no one will ever ever ever move onto that space again. It's out of play. It's done. Finis. There are no further legal ways to alter that square, and each move must alter a square somehow, so no one can move there anymore.

(This is also, by the by, why it is not legal for you to move onto a space that has only your claim mark on it. You can't claim it twice, and if you can't draw something new on the square, you can't go there.)

Even when captured, a Dollar still counts for both sides (that is, for nobody) in a Tally.


To start the game, each player makes a claim mark in a diagonally opposite corner of the Grid and puts her token atop that mark.

Play proceeds, players alternating moves.

Both tokens can't occupy the same space. Yes, this does mean that sometimes you'll have to pass up the move you want because the other player is standing on top of it. This is deliberate and strategic, as you will see in the game sample below - it makes it a little harder to capture a Dollar the other player JUST made.

It also means it may be possible to run out of legal moves even though you actually have one left (i.e. if the other player's standing on top of your only legal move). Too bad. Them's the breaks.

Each player makes some sort of mark and moves their token, until one player is left with no legal moves. At that point the game ends and scoring begins.

There are three ways to score the game; three ways to win. Each of these rules has priority over the ones after it. That is, apply them in this order.

1. If there are any captured Dollars on the Grid, then the player who has captured the most Dollars wins.

2. If there are no captured Dollars, or if both players have captured the same number of Dollars, then the player who has claimed the most spaces on the Grid wins. (Dollars count as claims for both players, as usual, which means you don't need to count them.)

3. If neither of those two rules is sufficient to determine a winner (i.e. no captured Dollars and each player has claimed the same number of spaces) ... then, and only then, the player who made the last legal move wins.


In the images below, the red tint shows the current position of the Bar player and the green shows the current position of the S player.

1. We join this small game already in progress. Bar is moving aggressively toward S's corner of the board, and has reached S's current position. It's S's turn. She thinks, "Hmm, I had better not move to the west [the space with the big blue X, in the picture] ... because if I do that, he'll be adjacent to three of my claims vs. two of his own. If I leave his Tally it as is, he can't move south and make a Dollar."


2. Several moves later, S is not in a happy place. She only has one move available (to her west), and there is no way she can prevent Bar from making a number of Dollars.


3. S moves west and Bar moves south, making a Dollar. In the image below, it's S's turn again. She would dearly love to move east and capture that Dollar ... but she can't; Bar is still standing on it.


4. S moves north instead, hoping to sneak up behind Bar. Bar moves east and makes a second Dollar. S then moves east, reclaiming and making a Dollar of her own. Bar retraces his steps, moves west and captures the first Dollar he made. We now have the position shown in the image below.

The trick of making several Dollars and then backtracking to capture them is very useful. At this point it's S's move, but she is already behind, possibly unable to catch up. She has to move north; she'll make more Dollars, but she can't stop Bar from capturing the Dollar to his east ... or, worse, coming north and capturing the Dollar SHE just made. The nerve!



Capture as many Dollars as you can as quickly as you can, obviously. It is possible to win a game with a single captured Dollar if the circumstances are right. If you have just made a Dollar via reclaim, your first thought should be, "How can I get back to that Dollar as fast as possible so I can grab it?" (If you are the other player, your thought should be, "How do I keep him from getting back to that Dollar?")

Be assertive. There is such a thing as a game which plays out with no Dollars at all - where each player claims a portion of the board without ever crossing the other player's "property lines," so to speak. This makes a pretty boring game, and one that tends toward a near-tie most of the time. It may also give an advantage to the player who moves first. So try to avoid it.

Plan your reclaims. You made a Dollar, great, but where will you move from there? Do you have another move after that which is any good? Is your opponent going to follow your trail of reclaims, eating all those Dollars you went to such trouble to make?

Fencing yourself into a small chunk of the Grid with your own claim marks is a bad idea ... unless you know you are ahead in the scoring and you are trying to end the game quickly.

A closed-up, filled, solid chunk of claimed area is usually a bad idea if your opponent can get to it, because the Tally rules make it easy for him to "burrow" into that chunk of your turf.

I would be absolutely thrilled to hear any comments, suggestions, strategy, et cetera from people who have tried this game. (columbine at inu dot org) As you may not be aware, rules of games - that is, fundamental play mechanisms of games - cannot be copyrighted in this country. Only distinctive packaging and game art, design elements, game names, etc. can be copyrighted and/or trademarked. Nonetheless, if you spread these rules around, I would appreciate your giving credit for where you got them.

Copyright © July 2002. All rights reserved.

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