Nim Place: China

Form of organisation: Teams

Materials: stones of platelets

Description of the game:


The Nim game originates from China and the Orient and is also known under the name Fan-Tan or three-heaps-game. This game is thousands of years old and is played still following the same rules as before, in Chinese tea houses and on the oriental bazaars. These rules are not complicated, but it requires a lot of tactical skill to be a good Nim player: Three heaps are formed from twelve stones, of which each of the two players now may take away any number of stones. In each heat, the players may only take stones form just one pile so they cannot simply take away all stones except one, in order to conclude the game at once. The difficulty of the game is the fact, that each player takes away as many pieces, so that only one single stone is left for the opponent at his last attempt. This last stone is then possessed by the other player who therefore wins this game.

This is the most played variant of Nim, i.e. two players with twelve stones. Since some “mathematical geniuses” racked their brains on play solutions, regularities and winning systems, there are also many other variations. For example, on could use more stones: 14 stones for the first, ten for the second and six stones for the third heap. Or one could limit the number of stones that may be taken per heat. In some parts of China, the game is played with two or four stone heaps or with three players. Another option is to allow players to put stones back again in the third heat or simply that the player, who takes the last stone, wins. Since these small changes change the character and the course of the game significantly, each requires a different tactic. Thus, the strategy of “amateur mathematicians” is scotched and the game stays exciting.