I'm teaching a kid programming, and am introducing some basic artificial intelligence concepts at the moment. To begin with we're going to implement a tic-tac-toe game that searches the entire game tree and as such plays perfectly. Once we finish that I want to apply the same concepts to a game that has too many positions to evaluate every single one so that we need to implement a heuristic to evaluate intermediate positions.
The best thing I could think of was Dots and Boxes. It has the advantage that I can set the board size arbitrarily large to stop him from searching the entire tree, and I can make a very basic scoring function be the number of my boxes minus the number of opponent boxes. Unfortunately, this means that for most of the beginning of the game every position will be evaluated equivalently with a score of 0 because it takes quite a few moves before players actually start making boxes.
Does anyone have any better ideas for games? (Or a better scoring function for dots and boxes)?