Humans have been playing board games for at least hundreds of years. They’ve evolved into the ultra-strategic card games and luxurious high-quality boards we find today on the shelves of our nearest retail stores. But do you ever think about where these games came from? Likely one of the most ancient board games still played today is tic tac toe. This is probably because it’s so simple that you don’t even need a board to play! But even with all its simplicity, the history of tic tac toe is more rich and surprising than you’d think.
Tic taco toe’s history started with the Romans, but their version was, admittedly, much more difficult than the one we know today. Each player used 3 pebbles, and so had to move them around on each turn. Tic tac toe’s markings have been found etched all over Rome.
Where Did the Name Come From?
The early Roman version was known as terni lapilli, or three pebbles at a time. In the mid-1800s, Britain used the name noughts and crosses, with nought referring to the O’s (or zeros) used in the game. The phrase tick-tack-toe wasn’t used until the late 1800s, and there’s some findings that report it might have been used to describe a completely different game.
The United States officially adopted the name tic tac toe in the 20th century. Historians aren’t completely clear about the origin of the game’s name, but it could be referring to the noise of repetitive ticking or writing that goes along with the game’s play.
Alternate Names and Spellings
There are a few other accepted names and spellings for tic tac toe, including tick tack toe, tit tack toe, and tit tat toe. Many players also hyphenate it, so it appears as “tick-tac-toe.” In other countries, it may also be referred to as Xs and Os, Boxin’ Oxen, or even Twiddles and Bears (you can thank Norway for that one).
Tic Tac Toe Variations
Because of its simplistic format and potential for a game of almost any size, there are many possibilities for tic tac toe variations. A common one is Connect 4, where a player must create four in a row of their team’s color on an interactive grid board using chips.
Other popular examples of tic tac toe variations include Mojo, Toss Across, Nine Men’s Morris, Quarto, and Gobblet, among many others.
It’s also possible to expand the board of tic tac toe and play in three dimensions. This can be done by using 3x3x3 tic-tac-toe boards, making a uniquely difficult challenge if more than two people are playing.
The Evolution of Board Game Standards
Instead of using them as a way to pass the time, we utilize board games as a means of entertainment and to foster togetherness with family and friends. Board games for adults are becoming more and more popular, as are high-end luxury game boards and setups to build and strengthen those relationships.
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