In the 1970s prolific American game creator Sid Sackson produced a series of books each detailing six or seven pencil-and-paper games of his invention which could be played with coloured pencils on the preprinted sheets included in the book. In the U.S. these were published by Pantheon under the titles Beyond Tic-Tac-Toe, Beyond Solitaire, Beyond Words, Beyond Competition and Calculate!. However, when they were published in the U.K., the titles were changed. The first three mentioned books were brought out by Penguin under the names Penguin Colourgrams 1, 2 and 3 respectively. I do not know whether the remaining two books were ever published by Penguin.

As the original American titles make clearer, each book has a slightly different focus. In the introduction to Beyond Tic-Tac-Toe, the first book, Sackson explains his objectives as (i) to create more interesting pencil-and-paper games than tic-tac-toe for 2–4 players, and (ii) for the games to create striking visual patterns during play. Thus the preprinted sheets take the form of outlines inspired by modern art, of which most commonly players take turns to colour a section and score according to some combinatorial criteria. The games are named after the artist which inspired each board: Vasarely, Miro, Mondrian, Arp, Delauney, Klee, Springer.

Beyond Solitaire aims to do something similar for one-player games. Here Sackson introduces dice cards, being cut-out cards included with the book featuring spot counts from 1 to 6 so that players lacking dice have a random number generator. (You are instructed not to reshuffle the cards until they run out, so the probabilities are in fact not the same as if you substitute dice.) However, two games—Four Color and No Way—use random numbers only to choose from a small number of initial configurations, so they're more like parametrized puzzles; and another, Profit & Loss, seems to be almost entirely random, so only the remaining three, Pinball, Mountains & Valleys and Buried Treasure make interesting algorithm/control problems.

Beyond Words is the tribute to writers that Tic-Tac-Toe was to artists. Again 2–4 players are required, but these are (surprise, surprise) word games. Each game is named after a famous author—Tolstoy, Joyce, Dickens, Poe, Carroll, O. Henry—but the link between each game and the man seems somewhat tenuous. One or two of the games (Joyce comes to mind) aren't really multiplayer games but one-player games being played competitively (you know, like darts or bowling). Nevertheless there are some good games in here: if you like any pencil-and-paper word games I see no reason why you shouldn't like these.

The premise in Beyond Competition is a little unusual: these are multiplayer games for which either all players win or all players lose. The dice cards make another appearance; this time it is impractical to substitute dice since more emphasis is laid on ideas like dealing a “hand” to each player from which they can choose which “move” to play and discard. (Something like this did happen in Solitaire's game Treasure Hunt, but in this case it sufficed to have three dice and choose which to reroll after each move.) The all-players-win-together idea didn't really work for me, but it might for you. The games are Space Explorer, Resources, Rescue, Peace Conference, Search, and Round 'N' Round.

I don't know, and haven't been able to find out, much about Calculate!, the last book in the series. Apparently the idea was that you should use your new-fangled pocket calculator (this was 1979, remember) to play the games: Run For President, Target Number, Invasion, Away Across, Travels, and High Finance.

I would recommend these books if you find them at bargain basement prices in your local second-hand bookshop. I would just as surely not recommend paying the price it would take to get a book dealer to locate a copy for you. Board Game Geek has some pictures (see references below) of the playsheets from Beyond Competition; they're pretty representative of the other books too.


  • “Beyond Tic-Tac-Toe”, “Beyond Solitaire”, “Beyond Words”, “Beyond Competition”, “Calculate!”, by Sid Sackson. Pantheon Books, 1975–9.
  • “The Great Games of Sid Sackson” by Bob Claster.
  • “Beyond Competition” at Board Game Geek.
  • post 1999/05/14 by Wei-Hwa Huang. (Google cache)

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