While learning tic-tac-toe is a sort of gaming coming-of-age experience, it must be acknowledged that it’s not a great game. Everyone must learn it, it seems, but everyone must (quickly, hopefully) discover that it’s a game that two competent players should play to a tie. Every. Single. Time.
Great games sometimes play to a tie, but great games never always play to a tie. Therefore, tic-tac-toe isn’t a great game.
Because of that simple tic-tac-toe foundation, my five-year-old (very much a beginning gamer) quickly learned how to play (and enjoyed it).
Because of some additions to that simple tic-tac-toe foundation, adults (myself included) enjoyed the game.
Because the game board is busy and playing with up to four different people adds some hectic-ness, players of all ages won and fun was had by all.
Like tic-tac-toe, three-in-a-row is the key. Unlike tic-tac-toe, three-in-a-row is achieved in different ways because each space on the grid has three potential plays: the large piece, the medium piece, and the small piece. As a result, there are three different three-in-a-row ways to win: all three sizes in one grid space (which—surprisingly—happens), a big-to-small/small-to-big size progression across the board, or a same-size three-in-a-row across the board. The variety of ways to win means there’s a lot of things to try on offense and a lot of things to look for on defense.
Playing with two players works, but our favorite games happen with three or four people playing. With three or four jostling for three-in-a-row, a certain five-year-old sneaks to victory with some frequency, besting her older sisters and her dad…and that’s pretty great.
Wrestling and rough-housing with your kids is an aspect of fatherhood in which expertise may be possible (and it’s certainly worth striving for). And engaging with the vulnerable is an oft-overlooked component of dadcraft that helpfully stretches us and our kids.
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