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Tic Tac Toe - Game Rules

The complete rules for Tic Tac Toe, with variants

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Tic Tac Toe

Tic Tac Toe

Image © Erik Arneson
Tic Tac Toe is a simple game which, if played optimally by both players, will always result in a tie. However, many players (especially younger children) still enjoy it, and Tic Tac Toe can be made significantly more complex by increasing the size of the board.

Players

2 players.

Equipment

Paper and pencil.

Goal

The goal of Tic Tac Toe is to be the first player to get three in a row on a 3x3 grid, or four in a row in a 4x4 grid.

Setup

One of the players draws a board, creating either a 3x3 grid of squares or a 4x4 grid of squares.

Playing Tic Tac Toe on a 3x3 Board

X always goes first.

Players alternate placing Xs and Os on the board until either (a) one player has three in a row, horizontally, vertically or diagonally; or (b) all nine squares are filled.

If a player is able to draw three Xs or three Os in a row, that player wins.

If all nine squares are filled and neither player has three in a row, the game is a draw.

Playing Tic Tac Toe on a 4x4 Board

X always goes first.

Players alternate placing Xs and Os on the board until either (a) one player has four in a row, horizontally, vertically or diagonally; or (b) all 16 squares are filled.

If a player is able to draw four Xs or four Os in a row, that player wins.

If all 16 squares are filled and neither player has four in a row, the game is a draw.

Other Variants

Tic Tac Toe can be also be played on a 5x5 grid with each player trying to get five in a row.

The game can also be played on larger grids, such as 10x10 or even 20x20. For any grid of 6x6 or larger, I recommend sticking to a goal of getting five in a row. This turns the basic game of Tic Tac Toe into a much more complex game with similarities to Pente.

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