Something Different: The Sugar Game

I am not a game designer.  I don’t have the creativity to come up with original ideas, nor do I have the patience to tweak rules endlessly.  I’m always impressed by people who can come up with a rule set that makes sense and becomes an enjoyable game.  I have tried a couple of times, but I can’t seem to come up with anything that isn’t completely random.  My favorite concept is The Blank Board Game, a white board with a preprinted track that people fill in as the game progresses.

That’s not to say that I don’t have fun thinking about how something might get turned into the game.  I like playing computer games (puzzle type things), and sometimes find myself thinking about how to turn something into an analog game.  As an example, here’s a link to Think Ahead.  In this game, which is an abstract strategy game with a ballooning theme, you’re collecting points from the board while trying to guide your opponent into taking negative points.  The game takes place on an 8×8 grid, with one person collecting numbers from a row that contained the number their opponent just took, and the opponent collecting numbers from the column that contained the number the first player took.  There are two rounds, each with the exact same set up to counter the advantage of starting first.

I’ve thought about how to make this into a board game (and I think it already might be, but I don’t know what it’s called…seems like I heard about it somewhere).  I’d probably put the numbers on tiles or round chips and keep score on a track, flipping each number as you take them.  This will make it possible to play again with the same set up.

A couple of nights ago, I was out at the Old Country Buffet with my wife and noticed the sugar packets.  We sometimes play with the sugar packets while waiting for our food – we’ve played football before and have tried to come up with other things – but this was the first time I thought about combining the sugar packets with Think Ahead.  I started thinking about point values and starting rules, but since it was the Old Country Buffet, we didn’t really have any wait time.

Tonight, I tried out my idea at Baker’s Square (free pie night!).  You take 11 white sugar packets, 7 pink sugar packets, 5 blue sugar packets, and 2 yellow sugar packets (or choose the distribution based on how many packets are available).  The whites are 1 point each; blue is 3 points; yellow is 5 points; and pink is -1 point.  Randomly distribute them into a 5×5 grid, making sure that the yellows aren’t in the same row or column.  One person takes a sugar from any row that does not contain a yellow.  The other player then takes a sugar from the column the first packet came from.  The first player then takes a sugar from that row, and so on.  The game continues until no more packets can be taken.  Add up your points, then play another round with the other player starting.  Whoever has the high score after two rounds wins.

I’ve only played one round with an opponent who was not feeling too well, so I don’t know how it will go over.  I will definitely be trying again.  If anyone else wants to give it a shot, let me know how it goes.

This was a little different from my usual format, but I’ll be back soon with another game I’m looking forward to.  Thanks for reading, and insert clever tagline here.



  1. Interesting idea for a game — it kind of reminds me of Kupferkessel Co., but that involves moving on a scoring track that goes around the outside of the board (and taking chits from the inside grid that both offer points and determine the size of your next move).

    I just came up with an idea yesterday for a new way to play with dominoes — one that offers more choices and strategic decisions. I’ll be posting it as a print-and-play soon. 🙂

  2. My wife and I tried the sugar game at The Cafe today, but we couldn’t remember the scoring so we said white was one, yellow was two, and blue was three. And we didn’t count the numbers of packets of each, but we laid them out in a 5×5 grid and made sure the total points were odd. Also fewer blue packets than yellow, and fewer yellow packets than white.

    It was interesting. We played three times. The first two times we stranded one or more packets, with no way to get to them, but the third time we got them all. I think that’s because we started paying more attention to the free moves — we played that if you took a packet and your opponent had no options in that (row/column), then you could take another packet in that same (column/row).

    The one thing I noticed was that the initial setup was crucial, but playing twice with the same setup would of course help that somewhat. I think you’d want to switch roles, too — so if player 1 played columns the first time, he/she should play rows the second time.

    It feels like the makings of an interesting game. Not quite there yet, somehow, but maybe with a twist or two it could be made into something very cool.

    One thought: have player A set up the board, player B choose the first packet, then player A choose either rows or columns. That would go a long way to evening things up a bit without the hassle of replicating the setup for a second game. (In a restaurant, you never know when your food will come. 🙂 )

    • Hey, that’s great! Glad you gave it a shot. The point system is not set in stone, you just need to make sure some of them are negative. Keeping the same setup is of course ideal, but hard to track with sugar packets. And you’re right, switching roles is crucial to evening things out. Your setup suggestion is interesting, I might give it a try. You’ve officially played the game more than I have 🙂

      Stranding packets is part of the game…sometimes it might be strategically viable to end the game with some points unclaimed, but I hadn’t thought about it granting a free turn. I’ll try that one too.

      Thanks for the comments!

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