Nits & Naughts

Fancy a game?

Ayntip was quite a legend in these parts for awhile. Had all the local folk thinkin he was some kinda savant. Then me made the mistake of playin Nits & Naughts in fronta them. And they quickly realized he had the mental chops of a lubeworm.
Var Jondah, Phonaecian scaler, 2186 AoR
N
its & Naughts is a two-player board game that is popular throughout many casterway societies. It has been given different names in different regions, and some of the finer details of the game mechanics can vary from one culture to another. But the basic rules and objectives remain the same across the world.
 
Setup
It is played on a large, round board - usually, at least a meter in diameter - that is intricately carved in concentric circles. Each circle contains depressions designed to hold spherical playing pieces. When the game begins, all of the pieces, for both players, reside in the outer circle and the goal is to get all of your remaining pieces to the board's innermost circle before your opponent.   All of the pieces are identical, other than the different coloring used to distinguish one player's pieces from the other's. However, the ways in which those pieces can move, and their abilities to capture opposing pieces, are determined by their current position on the board. So, for example, a given piece might move in one manner and be unable to capture foreign pieces when it resides in one ring, but it may move in an entirely different manner - and possibly hold the ability to capture foreign pieces - when it resides in another ring.
 
Game Play
Play proceeds back-and-forth, with each player moving a single piece per turn until the game is over. The player with the black (or darker) pieces always gets to move first. The game uses no clock, although organized tournaments will often force the players to use an hourglass to ensure that neither player thinks for hours on a single move. A game between mismatched opponents can be over in minutes. But contests between equal opponents, where both is intent on always finding the best-possible move, can last many hours, even stretching for an entire day.

Mental Assessment
T
he game is incredibly simple to learn. Most school children will have memorized the basic movements within an afternoon of instruction. But mastering the game is a far greater challenge. Although the basic machinations of the game are quite simple, the strategy required to ensure victory can be maddeningly complex. There are well-beyond trillions of positions that can theoretically be reached on the board. And there are no attainable positions that would leave the board in a deadlocked, or drawn, state. So negotiated draws, in which the players simply agree to call it a tie, are usually forbidden.
 
IQ Test
These qualities have contributed to the frequent use of Nits & Naughts as a kind of shorthand intelligence test. When a need arises to assess someone's mental acuity, and that person is not already well-known, and has no one to vouch for their level of education, it's not uncommon to ask that person to play several matches against opponents of varying strength. In theory, this allows the observer to "slot" the person's intelligence according to the weaker players they could beat and the stronger players they could not. Of course, it's acknowledged that, to some extent, such a trial is doing more to test someone's skill at playing Nits & Naughts rather than their overall ability to think and reason. But in those cases where a thorough mental examination is neither desired, nor practical, a handful of Nits & Naughts matches can go a long way toward verifying someone's intelligence.
 
Folk Tales
In rare cases, matches have even been used to settle disputes, or as an "entrance exam" to certain klysters. Folklore is also replete with heroes who found themselves in a Nits & Naughts match against a demon, or some other form of impish opponent, with death or great loss hanging upon the game's outcome.

Pronunciation NITTS ENN NAWTS

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