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Welcome to the network Trax server. The rules of Trax are in the Trax FAQ below. The commands are the same for all pbmserv games.

TRAX  Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is copyright 1994-1998 by Donald Bailey. The rules are
copyright by David Smith, and are used here with permission. Any
suggestions, questions, or comments should be sent to Donald Bailey:

Last modified: 2 February 1999



  1. What is TRAX?
  2. What is required to play TRAX?
  3. Where can I obtain a set?
  4. What is the history of TRAX?


  1. How is TRAX played?
  2. What is SUPERTRAX?
  3. What happens if we both win on the same move?
  4. What is the precise definition of a "line" for win purposes?


  1. What is a "forced play"?
  2. What is a "loop attack"?
  3. What is a "corner"?
  4. What is a "connectable pair"?
  5. What is a "cave"?
  6. What is an "L threat"?
  7. What is an "edge threat"?


  1. How do I record a game (other than drawing the position each
  2. I have seen another notation system, how does it work?


  1. Which is more important, loops or lines?
  2. How can I tell who has the best position?
  3. If I don't know what to do, what is wrong with attacking?
  4. When should I attack?
  5. When should I start worrying about my opponent's lines?
  6. What are the typical stages of a TRAX game?
  7. What is the strategic significance of caves?
  8. Are there any general principles for how to play well?
  9. How can I find out more about TRAX strategy?


  1. TRAX server
  2. Mailing list
  3. Clubs
  4. Tournaments





A1) What is TRAX?

TRAX is a strategy game for two players, that relies on pure skill. It
is played with a set of identical tiles with sections of black and white
track on them. Players take turns at playing the tiles, with the purpose
of completing either a closed loop of their colour or continuous path
from one side to the other of the playing area (either horizontally or

While TRAX is a simple game to learn, there is plenty of scope for
strategic play. Like many other strategy games, TRAX can be played at a
range of levels. Learning to play TRAX is one thing, learning to play
well is another. That is why TRAX has often been called "The game for
those who love a challenge!"

A2) What is required to play TRAX?

                _____________     _____________
               |     | |     |   |     | |     |
               |     | |     |   |    / /      |
               |     | |     |   |___/ /       |
               |#############|   |____/    ####|
               |     | |     |   |      ####   |
               |     | |     |   |     ##      |
               |_____|_|_____|   |_____##______|

TRAX is a game played with a set of identical tiles. These tiles have
white and black straight sections on one side and white and black curved
sections on the other. Most commonly, tiles are red plastic measuring
31.5 mm square, 6.4 mm thick. The black and white paths are hand painted
in recesses 5.5 mm wide. A TRAX set usually contains 64 tiles.

In addition to the tiles, all you need is a flat surface on which to

A3) Where can I obtain a set?

Sets have been published in many countries around the world, in a
variety of styles of packaging. If you are unable to find a set in your
area, a list of mail order distributors may be found at:

A4) What is the history of TRAX?

TRAX was invented in New Zealand in 1980 by David Smith. It was first
published in New Zealand and the United States in 1982. It is now
published and played virtually worldwide. The first club was the
Canterbury TRAX Club formed in 1985 in Christchurch NZ.

TRAX was a Games 100 game from 1982 to 1986, and won the Parents' Choice
Magazine's Gold Seal Award in 1987.



B1) How is TRAX played?

Note: as TRAX is a proprietry game these rules are copyright by David
Smith. They have been reproduced here with permission.


1.  TRAX is played with identical square tiles on which sections of
    black and white track join adjacent edges on one side and opposite
    edges on the other side.
2.  Two players determine by prior agreement who shall be represented by
    each coloured track.
3.  THE GAME IS WON by the player whose track forms a LOOP or a LINE
    (a) during that player's completed turn or
    (b) during an opponent's completed turn in which the opponent's
    track does not also form a loop or a line.
4.  A LOOP is a continuous path of track that connects with itself.
                        | #   |  #  |   # |
                        ##   ooooooooo   ##
                        |   o |  #  | o   |
    A white loop:       +--o--+--#--+--o--+
                        |   o |  #  | o   |
                        ##   ooooooooo   ##
                        | #   |  #  |   # |
5.  A LINE is a continuous path of track that connects opposite and
    outermost edges of the tiles in play, over at least 8 rows of tiles,
    across or down.
                                   | #   |  #  |   # |   o |  #  |
                                   ##   ooooooooo   ###   oooooooo
                                   |   o |  #  | o   | #   |  #  |
                             | o   |   o |   # |   o |  #  |  #  |  #  |
   A horizontal white line:  oo   ###   ooo   ###   oooooooooooooooooooo
                             |   # | #   | o   | #   |  #  |  #  |  #  |
                       |  #  |  #  |  #  | o   | #   |
                       oooooooooooooooooooo   ###   oo
                       |  #  |  #  |  #  |   # |   o |

Rules of Play

1.  Commencing with the White player, each player at each turn places a
    tile, either side up, on any flat surface.
2.  After the first turn, each tile must be placed EDGE TO EDGE
    alongside any tile or tiles already in play so as to ALWAYS JOIN
    sections of same coloured track to each other. eg
           +--o--+      +--o--+          +--o--+--o--+
           | o   |      |  o  |          | o   |  o  |
           oo   ##  <=  ###o###  giving  oo   ####o###
           |   # |      |  o  |          |   # |  o  |
           +--#--+      +--o--+          +--#--+--o--+
3.  Each player may join track of EITHER OR BOTH colours in any turn.
4.  FORCED PLAYS- If a tile played in any turn forms an adjacent space
    or spaces into which SAME COLOURED TRACK enters from TWO EDGES, that
    same player MUST PLAY a further tile into each such space so as to
    JOIN UP the same coloured track, be it white or black, as part of
    that turn.
    A forced play may itself require further forced plays to be made. A
    turn is not complete until the only remaining spaces are either
    single edged spaces or two edged spaces entered by track of BOTH
   eg playing this     forces this         then this        giving this
   +--o--+ +--#--+    +--o--+--#--+      +--o--+--#--+     +--o--+--#--+
   |   o | |   # |    |   o |   # |      |   o |   # |     |   o |   # |
   ##   oo<oo   ##    ##   ooo   ##      ##   ooo   ##     ##   ooo   ##
   | #   | | o   |    | #   | o   |      | #   | o   |     | #   | o   |
   +--#--+ +--o--+    +--#--+--o--+      +--#--+--o--+     +--#--+--o--+
   |  #  |            |  #  | +--o--+    |  #  | o   |     |  #  | o   |
   ooooooo            ooooooo | o   |    oooooooo   ##     oooooooo   ##
   |  #  |            |  #  | oo   ##    |  #  |   # |     |  #  |   # |
   +--#--+            +--#--+ |   # |    +--#--+--#--+     +--#--+--#--+
   |   # |            |   # | +--#--+    |   # | +--#--+   |   # | #   |
   oo   ##            oo   ##            oo   ## | #   |   oo   ###   oo
   | o   |            | o   |            | o   | ##   oo   | o   |   o |
   +--o--+            +--o--+            +--o--+ |   o |   +--o--+--o--+
5.  ILLEGAL TURN- If a forced play forms an adjacent space into which
    same coloured track enters from MORE THAN TWO EDGES, that whole turn
    is ILLEGAL and uncomplete and must be replayed.

    By prior agreement, a version of TRAX may be played which is limited
    to 8 rows across and down. As these limits are reached, tiles must
    be played into remaining spaces until a win is  achieved or all
    tiles that can be legally played have been played, in which case
    the game is DRAWN.

Copyright (c) 1996 David L Smith, 18 Roscrea Place, Ohoka, NZ

B2) What is SUPERTRAX?

SUPERTRAX is the name that used to distinguish what is now simply called
TRAX from the short 8x8 version. TRAX is thus the standard game and is
used for all tournament and serious play. Being played to a finish,
draws are not possible. 8x8 TRAX is more of a friendly game, and can be

B3) What happens if we both win on the same move?

This is a win for the player who made the move (see rule 3). Some
older sets contain rules for 8x8 TRAX which say that this is a draw.
There has been a rule change since these rules were printed to make 8x8
TRAX consistent with TRAX.

B4) What is the precise definition of a "line" for win purposes?

A line is a single path of track that joins the outermost opposite edges
of the playing area across at least 8 rows or columns. The line does not
have be a straight path, it may be as convoluted as you like, as long as
it reaches the outermost opposite edges of the playing area. The two
ends of the line do not even need to be directly opposite, as long as
they come out somewhere on the opposite sides. In other words one end of
a horizontal line must come out on the left hand side of the leftmost
tile in the playing area, and the other end must come out on the right
hand side of the rightmost tile in the playing area. Similarly for
vertical lines. (See rule 5).



C1) What is a "forced play"?

A forced play is the playing of a tile into any space formed played tile
in any turn into which same coloured track enters from two edges (see
rule 4).

Note: Computer programs such as WinTRAX and Doby make these forced
plays automatically as required. Only in across the table must you and
your opponent play them for yourselves.

C2) What is a "loop attack"?

A loop attack is any path which may be made into a loop in a single turn.
An attack by your opponent must be defended immediately, otherwise you
will lose the game. There are two sorts of loop attacks:
        +--o--+--o--+              +--o--+--#--+--o--+
        |   o | o   |              |   o |  #  | o   |
narrow  ##   ooo   ##    and wide  ##   ooooooooo   ##
        | #   |   # |              | #   |  #  |   # |
        +--#--+--#--+              +--#--+--#--+--#--+
The narrow loop attack is closed by turning either end of the attack
toward the other. The wide attack is closed by playig a straight in the

C3) What is a "corner"?

A corner is any single path that may be formed into a loop attack in a
single turn. The simplest type of corner is a single curve. Corners are
important in TRAX because they represent attacking potential. Examples of
white corners:
        +--o--+--#--+           +--o--+--#--+--#--+--#--+--o--+
        |   o |  #  |           |   o |  #  |  #  |  #  | o   |
        ##   oooooooo           ##   ooooooooooooooooooooo   ##
        | #   |  #  |           | #   |  #  |  #  |  #  |   # |
        +--#--+--#--+           +--#--+--#--+--#--+--#--+--#--+
Note that a corner can be made into an attack in two ways, by turning
either end around toward the other.

C4) What is a "connectable pair"?

A connectable pair is a pair of adjacent paths, which when linked at
either end, will result in a loop attack at the other end. Connectable
pairs and corners are of similar importance in terms of potential.
                           |   o |   # |  o  |
A white connectable pair:  ##   ooo   ####o###
                           | #   | o   |  o  |

C5) What is a "cave"?

A cave is an empty region of the playing area which has tile on three or
four sides. An example of a cave:
                +--#--+           +--#--+
                | #   |           |   # |
                ##   oo           oo   ##
                |   o |           | o   |
                | o   | #   |  #  | o   |
                oo   ###   ooooooooo   ##
                |   # |   o |  #  |   # |

C6) What is an "L threat"?

An L is a special case of a 2-stage threat where 2 simultaneous attacks
may be made by playing into an L shaped region. The simplest L is as
                            | o   |
                            oo   ##
                            |   # |
                | o   | #   |  #  |
                oo   ###   oooooooo
                |   # |   o |  #  |

By playing a tile curves upwards into the space at the top of the L so
as to form a loop attack (A1\), the forced play that results also forms
forms a second loop attack in the SAME TURN.

C7) What is a "edge threat"?

An edge threat is a special case of a 3-stage threat where a loop attack
can be made at one end of the edge at the same time as forming an L
threat at the other end. Since the other player must defend the attack,
on the next turn the attacking player can use the L. The basic edge
threat is:
                | o   | #   |   # |   o |
                oo   ###         ###   oo
                |   #               #   |
                +--                   --+

By playing a tile curves upward into the space at one end of the edge
so as to form a loop attack to the right end, the forced play forms an
L threat at the back of it on the left end.



D1) How do I record a game (other than drawing the position each turn)?

  1. For notation purposes, the orientation of the playing area is
     determined by the orientation of the first tile played in the game:
                        Top                                 Top
                      +--o--+                             +--o--+
                      | o   |                             |  o  |
     If curves:  Left oo   ## Right   If straights:  Left ####### Right
                      |   # |                             |  o  |
                      +--#--+                             +--o--+
                      Bottom                              Bottom
  2. Only the first tile in played in each turn is recorded as the
     forced plays are self evident. The location and orientation of the
     tile is recorded using a three part code in the form:
  3. <column> is the column in which the tile is played, counting from
     the left of the overall position. Use @ for the leftmost empty
     column followed by A to Z, AA to AZ, BA etc.
  4. <row> is the row in which the tile is played, counting from the top
     of the overall position. Use 0 for the topmost empty row, followed
     by 1, 2, 3, etc.
  5. <tile> is the tile that is played. Use "+" for a straight tile, and
     either "/" or "\" for curves according to the orientation of the
     curved paths on the tile.
                        +--o--+    +--#--+               +--#--+    +--o--+
                        | o   |    | #   |               |   # |    |   o |
     ie "/" is used for oo   ## or ##   oo  and "\" for  oo   ## or ##   oo
                        |   # |    |   o |               | o   |    | #   |
                        +--#--+    +--o--+               +--o--+    +--#--+
  6. The first move of the game is either @0/ or @0+
  7. Moves are numbered consecutively, with White playing the odd
     numbered moves, and Black playing the even numbered moves.

D2) I have seen another notation system, how does it work?

Prior to the end of 1997, a variation of the above notation was used.

   * A letter is used to denote the column played reading left to right
     after the tile is played.
   * A number is used to denote the row played reading top to bottom
     after  the tile is played.
   * The third symbol is a letter indicates the tile played:
     S is used whenever straights are played
     C is used whenever curves is played as the first tile or against 2
     edges otherwise U, D, L or R are used when the track extended is
     turned up, down, left or right respectively.
     In the rare circumstance when a curve is played across the mouth of
     a cave and the symbol C is ambiguous, the direction that the white
     track is extended should be specified.

The order of the first two symbols is reversed to distinguish a tile
played above rather than to the left of the top left corner.
                           A1  |  |  B1
For notational purposes, the first tile must be played with the white
line vertical (if straights) or between the top and left corners (if
curves) ie
                +--o--+         +--o--+
                |  o  |         | o   |
        either  ###o###    or   oo   ##
                |  o  |         |   # |
                +--o--+         +--#--+

Note that this notation is not incompatible with the new notation.



E1) Which is more important, loops or lines?

They are both equally important. TRAX is all about a balance in between
the two. Defending loops tends to straighten them into lines, while
defending lines tends to bend them into loops.

This said, loops are faster to make since any corner can be made into an
attack. They are also easier to defend (usually). Lines take several
turns to build, and are more obviously threatening because you can see
them grow. They are also harder to defend, often requiring several turns.

E2) How can I tell who has the best position?

This is a difficult question. The most straight forward approach is to
look at attacking potential. The number of corners and connectable pairs
that a player has gives an indication of the attacking potential of that
player. Corners and connectable pairs form part of more complex multiple
stage threats such as Ls and edges. If there are strong line
possibilities, then these should be counted as well.

Note that the approach of counting corners does not take into account
their position relative to the rest of the playing area. It is possible
to have only a single corner and be able to win the game, or have many
corners yet have a relatively weak position. The strength of a position
also depends on who has the initiative. A more detailed analysis is
beyond the scope here. Having said this, corner counting does provide a
useful FIRST ESTIMATE of the strength of a position.

E3) If I don't know what to do, what is wrong with attacking?

This is one of the most common strategic errors of new TRAX players.
Corners represent attacking potential. However, by making an attack
prematurely, you actually weaken your position. The reason for this is
twofold. First, when you attack, you use up a corner, reducing your
potential. Second, when your opponent defends, they can usually do so in
a way that gains them a corner. So, in general, you not only weaken your
own position, but also strengthen your opponent.

If you don't know what to do, don't attack. Kill one of your opponent's
corners instead.

E4) When should I attack?

Given that attacking without purpose more often than not harms a
position, the best time to attack is when it helps the position. There
are three circumstances where this is the case:

  1. When you can force a win.
  2. When your opponent has several independent threats (which cannot be
     defended simultaneously).
  3. If after the attack or attack sequence is over, your position has
     improved regardless of what defences your opponent makes.

Care needs to be taken with case 1 since it is very easy to overlook a
counterattack, which can be fatal. If there are corners around that will
cause counterattack problems, it is usually better to defend the
potential counterattacks before starting the attack sequence.

E5) When should I start worrying about my opponent's lines?

There is no easy answer to this. Probably as soon as you recognise them!
Lines can be a problem from about 3 tiles long if that is all there is.
ie if the playing area is only 3 tiles wide and the line is the same
length, it could easily become a serious threat. Also, segments which are
on their own on one side of the playing area (without any other lines of
the same colour) can also be dangerous since they can easily grow very
quickly. Some hints for defending lines:

  1. Start early! A line threat can take several turns to defend
  2. Turn lines toward your own corners to slow them down.
  3. The best way of defending a line is to link it back to a parallel
  4. Be careful when turning a line back that you don't give your
     opponent a loop threat.

E6) What are the typical stages of a TRAX game?

A typical game goes through at least three stages:

  1. the opening, where players are jostling for initial advantage. Any
     mistakes at this stage usually result in loop wins.
  2. the growing stage, as the position approaches and passes through the
     8x8 threshold. Often lines, if there are any present, can become
     critical during this stage. Losses here can be either loops or
  3. after the position becomes much bigger, line threats usually lose
     their significance, and loop threats tend to predominate. As the
     position gets larger it tends to become more and more unstable,
     until one player gradually loses the advantage and loses.

E7) What is the strategic significance of caves?

Playing in caves generally results in more forced moves than playing
elsewhere on the playing area. This can make it harder to see what is
going to happen as a result of the move. This is made worse by some moves
in caves being illegal. For these reasons, most players do not like caves
and tend to fill them at the earliest opportunity. However, in spite of
their difficulties, caves have two aspects that make them important.

Certain attacks into caves are not able to be defended. Therefore cave
attacks provide an alternative to Ls and other multiple loop threats for
forcing a win.

The second significance of caves is that it is possible to have caves in
which there are no legal moves. Such "dead" caves can provide an
extremely strong defensive element since any lines entering the cave can
no longer be used in a win as they cannot be joined. Lines and loop
threats may be defended permanently by linking them to a path going into
a dead cave.

E8) Are there any general principles for how to play well?

Detailed long term strategies are very hard to form. Most threats tend to
be fairly localised so the game tends to progress from one hot spot to
another. TRAX is more of a waiting game - playing for long term advantage
in terms of potential, while seizing whatever opportunities your opponent
gives you. Several general principles that I have found helpful:

  1. Kill your opponent's corners, replacing them with your own.
  2. Keep your options open. If a path can be used for either a loop or a
     line, don't commit it either way. Work on something else and wait
     for your opponent to make the move for you. That way you gain a
  3. Do not make pointless attacks or even pointless Ls. You lose
     attacking potential when your opponent defends them.
  4. Where possible, try to make your move do more than one thing. Don't
     just defend, but defend and set up a threat for yourself at the same
  5. Play in such a way as to limit the number of safe moves your
     opponent has. Your opponent is then more likely to make a mistake
     and give you the game.
  6. Use sacrifice to good advantage. If you can set up something obvious
     (such as an L or an edge) at the same time as setting up something
     more subtle, most players will see the obvious threat, and fall for
     the subtle. In other words you can sacrifice some corners or even a
     strong line to improve your overall position.

E9) How can I find out more about TRAX strategy?

An excellent introduction to TRAX strategy can be found in

"TRAX Strategy for Beginners", by Donald G Bailey.
Published by D.G. Bailey, 1 Salisbury Ave, Palmerston North, New Zealand.
(1992) ISBN 0-473-01592-7

E-mail or look at for more information.

The other approach is to download the set of commented games found in the
resource index at



F1) TRAX server

An automated e-mail server has been set up to moderate TRAX (and many
other) games.

The server address is: Send a mail message to the
server with help in the subject line to get information on how to use the
server. Note that all commands to the server must be sent in the subject

Contact Richard Rognlie at if you have problems
with the server.

F2) Mailing list

There are 3 TRAX related mailing lists:


This is a TRAX specific mailing list. This may be used for any communication
or discussion on TRAX. To subscribe to this mailing list, send e-mail to with subscribe trax in the body of your message.

Contact Richard Rognlie at if you have problems.


May be used to request challenges on the server. You automatically
subscribe to this mailing list when you sign on to the server.


Send information or questions to the International Trax Association

F3) Clubs

There are several TRAX clubs in various countries around the world,
and many other games clubs where TRAX is played regularly. For a
list of known TRAX clubs, refer to

F4) Tournaments

Many of the clubs listed above have annual tournaments.

An annual e-mail tournaments is also held on the TRAX server. This
tournament is announced on the pbmserv mailing list and in the and newsgroups.

The world TRAX championship is held every two years on even years. This
consists of a series of regional qualifier tournaments, the winners of
which proceed to the Candidate's tournament. The winner of the
Candidate's tournament challenges the incumbent champion in the Challenge

For a list of ITA organised tournaments, refer to


Particular thanks go to David Smith, the inventor and owner of the rights
of TRAX, for his permission to include the rules, and support for the

Many thanks to the many people who have asked questions, without which we
wouldn't have a FAQ sheet, and for people's helpful suggestions regarding
the arrangement of material presented here.


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