So we all know Tic Tac Toe is a game that two more or less good players will always tie in.

I present to you, Ultimate Tic Tac Toe:

Once at a picnic, I saw mathematicians crowding around the last game I would have expected: Tic-tac-toe.

As you may have discovered yourself, tic-tac-toe is terminally dull. There’s no room for creativity or insight. Good players always tie. Games inevitably go something like this:

But the mathematicians at the picnic played a more sophisticated version. In each square of their tic-tac-toe board, they’d drawn a smaller board:

As I watched, the basic rules emerged quickly.

Each turn, you mark one of the small squares.
When you get three in a row on a small board, you’ve won that board.
To win the game, you need to win three small boards in a row.

But it took a while for the most important rule in the game to dawn on me:

You don’t get to pick which of the nine boards to play on. That’s determined by your opponent’s previous move. Whichever square he picks, that’s the board you must play in next. (And whichever square you pick will determine which board he plays on next.)

This lends the game a strategic element. You can’t just focus on the little board. You’ve got to consider where your move will send your opponent, and where his next move will send you, and so on.

The resulting scenarios look bizarre. Players seem to move randomly, missing easy two- and three-in-a-rows. But there’s a method to the madness – they’re thinking ahead to future moves, wary of setting up their opponent on prime real estate. It is, in short, vastly more interesting than regular tic-tac-toe.

A few clarifying rules are necessary:

What if my opponent sends me to a board that’s already been won?

Tough luck. If there are open squares, you must pick one. While you can’t really affect that board, you can at least determine where your opponent will go next.

What if my opponent sends me to a board that’s full?

In that case, congratulations – you get to go anywhere you like, on any of the other boards. (This means you should avoid sending your opponent to a full board!)

When I see my students playing tic-tac-toe, I resist the urge to roll my eyes, and I teach them this game instead. You could argue that it builds mathematical skills (deductive reasoning, conditional thinking, the geometric concept of similarity), but who cares? It’s a good game in any case.

The whole article with pictures is here:


And you can play it against an AI here:


I am honestly baffled. I would have never thought there was a way to make Tic Tac Toe interesting, but they found a way. It's pretty hard, actually.
Mastered tic tac toe a long time ago with a friend of mine. We also eventually started stalemating everytime on Connect Four, Checkers, Stratego, Chess (90% of the time), and the game with dots where you try and make squares.

We didn't get out much, obviously.
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Very cool game. I won my first play. The AI took a larger square of little strategic significance, and sent me to a position where I could capture a square that won me the game. Too bad you can't make the AI smarter, it was a foolish mistake.
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Well, I guess that's that. I'm sticking to regular old tic tac toe.

This. >.>
E-married to ilikepirates

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Took me 4 tries but I beat the stupid thing.
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This is very difficult for my simple brain man. I like playing puzzles and stuff, but I've never been good at any mindsport games like chess.

I'd probably piss my opponent off though. I accidentally let the AI get the middle board, and I just took every single middle in the other boards just to make him waste his move.

Managed to beat him on the second try based on sheer luck though. That bastard did the same thing to me

Edit: I just got a tie . I think if this thing took off, there's a probability that people will catch on to a common strategy and the same thing will happen again.
Last edited by triface at Jun 20, 2013,