Updated 7/16/2013 – See Original Here 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. As I watched, the basic rules emerged quickly. Each turn, you mark one of the small squares. 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. Then your next move must be here… This lends the game a strategic element. The resulting scenarios look bizarre. A few clarifying rules are necessary: What if my opponent sends me to a board that’s already been won? What if one of the small boards results in a tie? When I see my students playing tic-tac-toe, I resist the urge to roll my eyes, and I teach them this game instead.
Related: LUDOMATICA on the road