At HangZone, we love logic games. If you’ve ever played Clue and methodically determined which card was shared between two other players, then I think you can relate. Perhaps one of the earliest logic games that most of us are introduced to is Tic Tac Toe. Even as kids, it doesn’t take us long to realize that whoever goes first has a distinct advantage. The degree of this advantage, however, is the topic of much misinformation. I’ve seen people confidently assert (and others agree with them) that whoever goes first should win every game, assuming they make the smartest plays available. It turns out that this is not actually true. If both players make the best moves possible, the game will end in a tie, similar to nuclear war. I guess these Tic Tac Toe savants didn’t catch the end of War Games.
So now we know it’s possible to never lose a game of Tic Tac Toe, even when you go second! But how do you do it? I’m sure you’re tired of losing lives on the Tic Tac Toe game in Pico Time. Rest assured, you’re about to never lose another game of Tic Tac Toe, whether it be in Pico Time or some sort of high stakes street setting. The Pico Time computer knows all the tricks (I should know–I programmed it), but you can neutralize his attacks.
To kick off the game, X will play one of the corners. That’s a pretty crafty first move, that likely opens up the most traps to bait a novice player. Slap an O down in the middle to keep yourself in the game. Any other move and it’s impossible to recover.
X will follow by taking the opposite corner from his opening move. This is a deceptive move. Many players think that since they don’t have to immediately block X from getting three-in-a-row, they should take a corner. After all, corners are usually strong positions. DON’T FALL FOR THIS TRAP. This is the most common mistake that I’ve seen players make. Take any of the edge pieces instead.
Now you’ve put X on the defensive. He has to block your potential winning edge. This also sets up a potential winning corner for X. Block it.
By blocking X’s winning corner, you’ve set up a winning corner for yourself! X will have to block it, which creates a potential winning edge for X. Take the edge to thwart X’s final hope.
There’s only one square remaining, which X will have to take. That’s a disappointing end for X if he believed going first was an insurmountable advantage. Way to put him in his place! You’re now at parity with the best Tic Tac Toe players in the world, and, more importantly, you’re one step closer to playing that perfect round of Pico Time!