Nine holes is a 3 in a row game for kids. It had been widely played in England since the middle ages. It is traditionally played with holes (hence the name) and pegs, but my kids and I fashioned an easy DIY paper and token version of this simple abstract strategy game.
Nine holes is a precursor to the popular Nine Men's Morris (there are also Three and Six Men's Morris versions), but is much simpler and thus very easy for young children to learn. Even preschoolers can play, although their strategy skills may still need some encouragement and refinement!
Nine holes is a great alternative to tic tac toe when you are on the go with the kids. Pull out a pen, paper and six coins and you have an instant boredom buster and brain builder. Plus, surprise, surprise, playing games like this can help kids build a strong foundation for learning future skills like coding and mathematics.
How to play Nine Holes
- Game board with a three by three grid. (see photo) The dots at each intersection represent the "holes".
- 6 tokens, 3 each of two types. We used chips and pegs. You could use two different kinds of coins, or buttons, etc.
- 2 enthusiastic players.
To be the first player to make a row with 3 tokens. Diagonal rows are not allowed.
Players alternate placing their tokens on the game board. Once all tokens have been placed on a "hole", players take turns moving tokens, one at a time, along the lines (from "hole" to "hole") in an attempt to get three in a row.
Watch the video to see it in action:
More to explore:
- Tapatan: a three in a row game from the Philippines.
- Dara: three in a row with a twist! From Nigeria.
- Len Choa: a leopard hunt game from Thailand.
- Peg solitaire
- All our game posts!
Have you considered the game Chung Toi? It's literally tic-tac-toe with a twist. Each player has only three pieces, each piece has a cross on it with arrow points on the arm ends of the arrows. The objective is to get 3 of one's own pieces in a row exactly as in tic-tac-toe. The game begins with an empty board. The first player paces one of their pieces on the board, then the second player plays. When it's your turn, you move one piece in the direction one of its arrows is pointing, then you have the option of rotating the piece 45 degrees. As stated, you win when your move gives you 3 in a row. Chung Toi came out in 1994 and is a Mensa Select game. (Also, Chúng tôi is Vietnamese for "We (not including the person spoken to); Chúng ta means "we (including the person spoken to)).
I'm told Chung Toi is a solved game, meaning that it is know which player will win with perfect play from both players. I have no idea which player that is, though, and it's really a great little game.
Another fun game is Pentago, where you get 5 in a row across four 3x3 boards. The twist in this game is another literal twist. After playing your piece, you have the option to rotate one of the four 3x3 boards. Some people play that the rotation move is mandatory.
Thanks you for the suggestion! I will look into it!
What happens in nine hole is one player is trapped into a corner? Start over?
Yes, that would be a draw.
I love the games that you share with us. I was wondering if there is a video for this game. It says watch the video, but I didn't see one. Our question is about the placement of tokens at the beginning. Do we randomly choose positions or line them up on opposite sides?
Thank you, Liz
Hi Liz, there is a video in the post. I noticed that there was an ad unit right before the video player that may have interfered with your ability to see the video. So I tweaked the layout so that doesn't happen. If you are still having trouble, you can view the video on youtube here: https://youtu.be/CGxGOXatAnA