Tic Tac Toe for Grown-Ups
TACTIC-TOE (by David Dickerson)
The gimmick---stolen from Diplomacy---is that you plan your moves three at a time, in advance, and then reveal them simultaneously. But it requires a little tweaking, so here are the details.
You get two players and a couple of blank tic-tac-toe grids (for however many times you want to play). But you also have a master grid---for handy reference---that's numbered from the upper left ("1") to the lower right ("9") so that each sector has a number. ("5" is the center square.) Each person also has a private scrap of paper on which to write their plan.
THE PLAN: Each player then secretly writes down three numbers in a row. Let's say Player A chooses 2, 3, and 7, and Player B writes 2, 7, 1. This means that A wants an X in space 2, then 3, and then 7, and B wants an O in 2, then 7, then 1.
THE RESOLUTION: Players reveal their three moves, and they are resolved in simultaneous consecutive pairs. Whenever there's a conflict, the person who was in a square first stays there, and the later move is invalid. If two people choose the same square simultaneously, neither symbol goes in it; they both "bounce out."
So in our example above, in move 1, both A and B have chosen sector 2. So nothing gets written in, and we go to the next move.
In move 2, A chooses 3 and B chooses 7. There's no conflict, so 3 takes an X and 7 takes an O.
In move 3, A chooses 7 and B chooses 1. But 7 is already taken, so A's X is not entered. But B is unoccupied, and so B gets an O in position 1.
BUT WAIT! THERE'S MORE.
To provide slightly more interesting play, the game is played in three rounds, and each round follows different rules:
Round 1: You can't write the same number twice, you can't choose 5 (the center square) and you can't choose any three-in-a-row win. Round 1 is all about setting yourself up.
Round 2: You may now choose 5, but you can't choose any number you chose in Round 1.
Round 3: Anything goes---go anywhere, repeat as much as you like. If the center square is still unoccupied, you can write "5, 5, 5" and take it no matter what. (Unless, of course, your opponent writes 5, 5, 5 as well.)
You only play a Round 3 if there isn't already a winner in Round 2. (Duh.) But you also don't play past Round 3. If there's no winner by then, you simply call it a cats game and move on. Note, however, that it's also possible to get a tie game, which is not quite the same thing as a stalemate. Do a shot or something.
I'm happy to field questions on the game, though I imagine it speaks for itself. One thing you'll find is that you still wind up with a lot of tie games. But still---I'm proud of the fact that I developed a form of tic-tac-toe that an adult human being can actually win. Try it today!