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Tabletop Game / Tic-Tac-Toe

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Can't get 3 in a row. Can get 43 tie games in a row.
(Super NES version)
Tic-tac-toe, also called tick tack toe, or noughts and crosses/Xs and Os as it is known in the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand, is a pencil-and-paper Abstract Strategy Game of unknown origin. Two players, X and O, take turns marking the spaces in a 3×3 grid. The X player usually goes first. The player who succeeds in placing three respective marks in a horizontal, vertical, or diagonal row wins the game. If the board fills up before anyone accomplishes this (which is very likely to happen between players with any experience), the game is a draw.

The first (or second) video game, OXO, is pretty much this in video game form. It was also the basis for Tic-Tac-Dough and The Hollywood Squares, as well as the Secret "X" game on The Price Is Right.

Video game adaptations:

"Tic Tac Tropes":

  • Abstract Strategy Game: The rules are simple and fully abstract, and the course of the game is dictated entirely by where players choose to put their X's and O's.
  • Bamboo Technology: It's possible to teach a pile of matchboxes to play the game, as seen in this video
  • Difficulty Levels: Some computer players never lose. To give the human a chance, some video games have difficulty levels.
    • Ostermiller's Tic-Tac-Toe has four difficulty levels: Novice makes random moves, Intermediate blocks two-in-a-row, Experienced makes the best first moves, and Expert plays perfectly.
    • Tim Soft's Tic-Tac-Toe has Easy, Normal and Hard. If you find the flaw, you can still win about 1 in 4 games against Hard.
  • Digital Tabletop Game Adaptation: Besides being one of the easiest games to code, this game is often rereleased online or in bundles.
  • Match-Three Game: Well, you need to get three X's or O's in a row, column or diagonal to win...
  • No Plot? No Problem!: There's no plot. Just put your X's or O's in the grid and try to get three in a row.
  • Physical Pinball Tables: OXO, released by Williams Electronics in 1973.
  • Player Versus Player: 2 players go head-to-head in a race to claim three in a row.
  • Separated by a Common Language: This game known as Tic-Tac-Toe in North America is known as Noughts and Crosses in the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand.
  • Strategy Game: One needs some strategy to avoid defeat in this game, as players are technically attacking and defending at the same time.
  • Unwinnable by Design: If two skilled players play the game, they will inevitably force themselves into a draw. Many computer players, starting with OXO from 1952, can play a perfect game with no mistakes, so it is impossible to win against them. In fiction, not realizing this is a sign of a character being Book Dumb, a Fish out of Water, or otherwise stupid or naive. If the character is a robot or AI, it's a sign of Artificial Stupidity.
  • Video Game: Ur-Example. OXO, a 1952 version made for the computer, is believed to be the first computer/video game to use a digital graphics display.

Appearances in media:

  • Tic-Tac-Dough: Game show. Answer questions, place X's and O's, win money.
  • The Hollywood Squares: Game show with nine celebrities sitting in a giant grid.
  • WarGames: One of the computer games on WOPR is "Tic-Tac-Toe". This game is as unwinnable as "Global Thermonuclear War".
    • SMBC Theater did a parody of this scene where the computer concludes that the lesson is to go first and control your opponent's options. Ironically, its justification uses terrible tic-tac-toe strategy.
  • xkcd provides the Complete Map of Optimal Tic-Tac-Toe Moves. You will never lose a game again! Its Alt Text is a Shout-Out to WarGames.
    "The only winning move is to play, perfectly, waiting for your opponent to make a mistake."
  • The BBC's famous Test Card F features Carole Hersee playing the game with her doll.
  • In the Small Wonder episode "Jailbirds", Jamie and Vicki come to a graffiti wall with an incomplete game of tic-tac-toe. The way Vicki finishes the game gets them both jailed for vandalism.
  • In the Ready Jet Go! episode "Beep and Boop's Game", the eponymous game that the two rovers were playing was tic-tac-toe.
  • Rocket: Robot on Wheels requires playing Chick-Tac-Toe against a Perfect Play A.I. in order to get a Plot Coupon. Please do not harass the chicken by throwing stuff at it.
  • In Episode 2779 of Sesame Street, an Anything Muppet version of Cowboy Xnote  challenges Cowboy O to a game of tic-tac-toe on the street, using a board provided by Bob and Uncle Wally.
  • In There Is No Game: Wrong Dimension, the climactic battle has Mr. Glitch challenging Game to a Tic-Tac-Toe match to decide their fate. Every game they play ends in a draw, however, and the User has to intervene to break the stalemate.
  • In the third The Legend of Kyrandia game, Malcolm is forced to play Tic-Tac-Toe against the Fish Queen of Limbo. The Queen is exceptionally bad at the game, but you must force her to win and praise her as a tactical genius in order to proceed.
  • In Otaku Elf, a four hundred year-long series of Tic-Tac-Toe games with alternate symbols is part of Elda and Yord's rivalry, with 399 draws in a row. The elves call it Lingbeli Byoluling and consider it a battle of wits on par with chess, and are deeply shocked when Koito explains that the game always ends in a draw if no one makes a mistake.