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YP cadets Erica Kwan and Joy Pamnani
YP cadets Erica Kwan and Joy Pamnani |

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Let's be honest. When boredom creeps up on us during never-ending train rides, or long queues for food, swiping our iPhone screens is the ultimate "no-brainer" to pass the time. So, if someone suggested some interesting alternatives, you might have laughed - then continued playing with your Puzzles and Dragons conquest. Yet (surprise, surprise!) this idea is true. You can be entertained without using electronic gadgets.

We asked two YP cadets, Erica Kwan and Joy Pamnani, to test this age-old theory. They discovered that if you care to pick up a paper and pencil, you really will be amazed at all the things that are available to keep you and your family and friends amused. From territory games to number challenges, there's enough to keep everyone happy.

All you need is paper, pencil - and a crafty mind.


This guessing game dates back to the first world war, when officers played it before the fighting began. It was one of the earliest games on computers and released online.

Two players must guess where an opponents' ships are on a grid, and sink them. Players draw ships on a 10 by 10 grid of squares. Horizontal rows of squares are listed from the top down with numbers 1 to 10, and vertical rows left to right with letters A to J.

Each player's grid must have a battleship (of four squares long), two cruisers (three squares), three destroyers (two squares) and four submarines (one square). Ships must be straight and sit horizontally or vertically, not diagonally. They must not touch each other - horizontally, vertically or diagonally.

Each time a player has three guesses to name the square with a rival's hidden ship. If the guess is correct, the opponent must say "Hit"; if it's wrong the reply is "Miss". To win, a player must "hit" all the squares with an opponent's ships.

Tips Don't make it easy for opponents by crowding your ships in one area. Space them out!

Pigs in a Pen

Pigs in a Pen, also known as Dot Boxing, is a simple paper-and-pencil game invented in the 1880s. At least two people must play, but more can join in, too.

Draw an empty grid of dots. One player adds a line (either vertically or horizontally) on the grid between two dots. The other player does the same. Players take turns to try to complete the fourth side of a 1 x 1-line square to score one point. The game ends when no more lines can be drawn; the winner is the player with the most points.

Tips Avoid drawing the third line of any box as it means your opponent will score!

Mad Libs

Mad Libs, derived from the Latin word "ad lib", which means saying something you've not prepared, is a popular "retro" paper-and-pencil game. Invented in the 1950s, many Mad Libs stories have been published in books. The game combines creativity and silliness to give you a ludicrous story you can share with your friends.

As the internet expanded, online versions appeared as well. So now people don't need friends to play; they can play when and where they like.

First, a player writes a story, while leaving blank spaces for some words. The player should draw the blanks that are to be filled in, including parts of speech in brackets, on a separate piece of paper.

A second player must then fill in these blanks with the craziest words they can think of, and later place them in the story. In the end, both players can enjoy a hilarious story to laugh about.

Tips This game is pure silliness. The best thing to do? Be silly!

Word Ladders

Also called Doublets, or World Links, this was invented by Lewis Carroll - author of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - on Christmas Day in 1877. It gained popularity quickly after being published in the magazine Vanity Fair.

This game involves two players. One chooses the start word, while the other chooses an end word with the same number of letters. To win the game, a player must change the start word into the end word progressively - only one letter at a time - and each time creating a real word. The player who uses the fewest number of steps to reach the end word wins.

Example Cold > Cord > Word > Worm > Warm

Tips When you are stuck, try solving the word ladder from the bottom to the top. This gives you a new perspective and you'll be able to solve it in no time!

Our verdict:

Joy: Of all the games, I enjoyed the dots and boxes game the best. You need to be extremely careful about each and every move you make. One wrong move can really cost you a lot of boxes. Near the end, you need to be sharp, and decide which section of boxes to sacrifice to your opponent, so overall, you get more boxes and will win.

Erica: For me, Battleships was the most enjoyable and challenging game. You need a strategy when organising your fleet of ships. Randomly placing your ships pretty much guarantees instant failure. Also, you need to stay alert and work out the rival fleet's location without wasting shots. It certainly beats any mobile apps!

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