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SOS (Game): How to Play & Rules – 13 Things You Need to Know

Last Updated on January 25, 2024 by Gamesver Team and JC Franco

Are you exhausted of the hustle-bustle this technologically abundant life has to offer and want a simple, screen-less game you can enjoy with family or friends? Well, SOS can just be the refreshing activity you’re looking for. 

Here is a complete guide with all you need to know about playing and getting good at SOS. This article will give you a thorough knowledge of this deceptively simple game. 

So, if you’re new to SOS, these tips will no doubt help you defeat your opponents. 

Here is a 13-step guide to playing SOS:

1. Understand the Rules of SOS

SOS is a two-player game that can easily be played with pencil and paper. It can be seen as a more complex version of tic-tac-toe. While tic-tac-toe can fall into being too predictable, SOS is bound to keep the players engaged in contemplating their next moves.

SOS can easily be categorized as a traditional game due to its wild popularity in the 90s, like other paper-and-pencil games

SOS is not rocket science—in fact, it is pretty easy to understand and play. All you need to keep in mind is that you need to spell SOS within the connected boxes on the board. 

The sequence you make must always be vertical, horizontal, or diagonal. Each player gets one turn to put down a letter, and then the turns keep alternating. You can mark the letter anywhere on the board—it’s not necessary to connect it with the pre-existing letters.

2. Build Your Board

Unlike in Tic-tac-toe, there is no 9-boxed grid in SOS. Even better, there are no restrictions at all regarding the designs of boards. The boards can be of various sizes, depending on how long you want the game to be. 

A large board will keep you engaged for a reasonable amount of time, while a small one can provide you with a quick, little fun game. A 6×6 grid would be a good place to start—6 columns and 6 rows on a piece of paper.

3. Mark Your Teams

The next step in making SOS more exciting is using different colors. 

The game can easily be played with pencils or same-colored pens—however, to avoid any unnecessary confusion, it is best to get your hands on the nearest pair of colored pens and pick a color for your team. This will make it easier for you and your opponent to keep track of all your moves as the game becomes more complex.

4. Play the Game

Now that you have your boards ready and marked your teams, you can begin! SOS can be played within 5 to 20 minutes, keeping the game time friendly yet exciting. Another wooing factor about SOS is that it’s enjoyable for people of every age. As long as you are ready to let those brain muscles churn, you are good to go!

5. No Hard and Fast Rules

Unlike Tic-tac-toe, you won’t have a specific letter or symbol assigned to you. If your opponent has played an O after an S, you can play an S to score a point or vice-versa!

SOS has no specific rules regarding which player gets to play first, so whichever one goes first can go use either of the letters.

6. Earn More Turns

Every time you score, you earn a turn! The more turns you earn, the lesser chance for your opponent to win. You’ll be connecting more and more SOS sequences, and they will be left with smaller streaks to work with. Keep those eyes open, and you will have a win in your hands within no time.

7. Learn the Sequence

With a game like SOS, it is very common to get the sequences mixed as the board gets more and more crowded. But don’t turn a blind eye to them: it could cost you points and turns.

The only way to score a point is to spell or connect an SOS in that order: S-O-S. With such an abundance of letters on the board, there will be a lot of O-S-Os, but these are invalid and don’t score points.

8. Avoid Common Mistakes 

When it comes to SOS, there are a few common mistakes that can quickly bring you closer to a loss. The good news is that avoiding these mistakes can easily guarantee you a win!

To start, keep these in mind: do not mark an O after an S or an S after an O with vertical, horizontal, and diagonal spaces open, as this helps your opponent complete the sequence by simply marking a S/O.

Similarly, avoid marking an S one block away from another S in any direction. Your opponent can quickly fill the space with an O and score a point.

9. Lay Traps To Lure Your Opponent

Now that you know what to avoid to save yourself from losing, you can start getting creative with winning strategies.

The best way to make your opponent lose the game is by wasting their turns. Try making combinations in a way that they are left with no choice but to connect an O-S-O. This is not the correct sequence, so they will be wasting their turn.

10. Keep Tabs on the Score

In a complex game like SOS, it is not easy to verbally keep the scores. There are many ways to record points. You can always keep a tally: each time a player scores, they draw a single line under their name on the scoreboard.

A fancier option is to put color-coordinated beads on the score sheet or add them to a bowl with the names of the players assigned to both. If you haven’t already chosen a colored pen to represent yourself on the game board, you can highlight your successfully connected sequences to keep a record of who is winning. 

11. End the Game

SOS ends when the whole board is filled with letters and there are no more vacant boxes to fill for either of the players. 

The player with the most successful sequences wins the game. However, if both the players are competent enough and have the same amount of successful sequences, the game is brought to a draw, and a re-match might help decide who is the better player.

12. Mix and Match

SOS is an accommodating game. It lets you choose the size of the board and allows you to play with different combinations of words. However, the words must be three-lettered palindromes. These types of words are spelled the same backward as they do forward.

Here are some examples of three-letter palindromes to make the game more interesting: DAD, DID, EYE, GIG, POP, & WOW. 

13. Spice Up the Gameplay

Although SOS is very engaging, there are some things you can do to add more fun to the game:

  • Add winning bonuses. For example, the winner of the first round gets to play the first move in the second round.
  • Add time limits. This really spices up the game. Each person has to play their turn within a specific time limit, and if they fail, they lose the turn. You can reduce the time limit as the game grows tenser and tenser.
  • Change the board size and shape. Playing on larger grids or non-square grids is a simple way to make the game feel different.


These tips will help any beginner get a good grip on SOS and enjoy this fun, simple game with any other person. What are you waiting for? Grab a pen and paper and start playing!

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This article was co-authored by our team of in-house and freelance writers, and reviewed by our editors, who enjoy sharing their knowledge about their favorite games with others!

JC Franco
Editor | + posts

JC Franco serves as a New York-based editor for Gamesver. His interest for board games centers around chess, a pursuit he began in elementary school at the age of 9. Holding a Bachelor’s degree in Business from Mercyhurst University, JC brings a blend of business acumen and creative insight to his role. Beyond his editorial endeavors, he is a certified USPTA professional, imparting his knowledge in tennis to enthusiasts across the New York City Metropolitan area.