A Beautiful Game from the War: Piet Hein, John Nash, Martin Gardner and Hex

Seeking income during World War II, Piet Hein created the game now called Hex, marketing it through the Danish newspaper Politiken. The game was popular but disappeared in 1943 when Hein fled Denmark.

The game re-appeared in 1948 when John Nash introduced it to Princeton’s game theory group, and became popular again in 1957 after Martin Gardner’s column —- “Concerning the game of Hex, which may be played on the tiles of the bathroom floor” —- appeared in Scientific American.

I will survey the early history of Hex, highlighting the war’s influence on Hein’s design and marketing, Hein’s mysterious puzzle-maker, and Nash’s fascination with Hex’s theoretical properties.