Dots and Boxes is a fun game with a simple goal: to get more ‘boxes’ than the other player. The modern version of the game was created by the French mathematician Édouard Lucas; as with other games invented by mathematicians, there are lots of strategies to use.  In this post, we will tell you the rules of the game and how to play! We then give a suggestion of a strategy you can use to defeat your opponent.

Step 1

The first step, of course, is to set up the game. We have a downloadable and printable dots and boxes template for you if you want to use it, but it’s fairly easy to do on your own! Simply lay out a grid of dots like you see in the image. They should be evenly spaced and neat so you can draw clear lines between each dot.

To download the above template as a PDF, click here.

Step 2

The first player draws a line vertically or horizontally between two of the dots. The second player follows, doing the same thing. (In some versions, every line has to connect to a previous one. In other versions, every player can draw a line anywhere on the grid.)

To download the above image as a PDF, click here.

Step 3

This process continues until one of the players completes a box. They then will mark their initial (or here, their number) in the box. In most versions of the game, completing a box will allow the player to get an extra turn.

To download the above image as a PDF, click here.

Step 4

The game continues to follow this process until the entire grid is completed or the players decide they are finished. Then they count up the number of boxes for each player and whoever has more wins the game!

To download the above image as a PDF, click here.


The most basic strategy is to try to avoid giving the other player an opportunity to finish a box. Novice players will follow this strategy and play defensively the whole game.

A better way to play is to try to force your opponent to give up boxes, by starting to make chains (1 box wide) or four-box squares as shown in the below diagram. If you manage to create a chain of spaces that allow you to take advantage of the extra turn rule, it drastically increases your chance of winning. Just be sure not to give your opponent any!

If you need more templates to play dots and boxes with, check out our dot grids here and here.