is a simple combinatory game with finite possibilities.
But unlike tic-tac-toe, that other game of limited possibilities,
there is tremendous variety in both Nim's conception and
implementation. The theory of the Nim game was discovered
by mathematics professor Charles Bouton at Harvard University
in 1901. In fact, Bouton, who wanted to use the game to
demonstrate the advantage of the binary number system,
found a simple
formula, with which, from the state of play, players
can determine correct moves immediately.
is said to have originated in China (where it wasn't called Fan
Tan as many assert! But Tsyanshidzi [Jian-shizi?], "picking
stones game"), but the origin remains uncertain and
the current name of this game is a loan word from the German
verb nimm (meaning "take!"). Nim-type
games have existed for centuries around the world, and
the first European references date from the 15th century.
There is also an African variant of the game called tiouk
tiouk. Nim was evidently played with what ever
counters were at hand and can be played with from one to
at least a dozen rows, and the number of counters in a
row can vary from one to as many as two dozen. Some versions
require that the winner takes the last object; others that
the winner avoids taking the last object (misère variant).
Curiously enough, Alain Resnais featured this little strategy
game in the movie "L'année dernière à Marienbad" (Last
Year in Marienbad, 1962).
The "classical" Nimm
game (misère or
Marienbad variant) is a game by two players. It consists
of 16 matches in 4 rows (as shown above). Two players
alternately pick a certain number of matches and the
one, who takes the last match, loses.