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Tic-Tac-Toe (Noughts & Crosses): 20+ Interesting Facts (Trivia, History,…) 

Last Updated on January 7, 2024 by Gamesver Team and JC Franco

tic-tac-toe board game concept

There’s probably a lot about Tic-Tac-Toe that you don’t know. In fact, most people don’t really know much about the game. What if you were told that Tic-Tac-Toe is more than just a fun and quick game? If you want to expand your general knowledge of one of the world’s favorite pencil and paper games, you’ve come to the right place. This post is all about Tic-Tac-Toe!

Read on below to learn about many interesting facts about Tic-Tac-Toe

What most people don’t know about Tic-Tac-Toe – 21 fun facts

1. Three-in-a-row games were played in Ancient Egypt. 

It’s believed that in Ancient Egypt (or event Mesopotamia) games that involved three-in-a-row were played.

2. The game dates back to the 1st Century BC.

Many resources will tell you that Tic-Tac-Toe originated from a game played in Ancient Roman. The game is said to have been played in Rome in the 1st Century BC. 

3. During the Roman Empire, a version of the game was known as Terni Lapilli.

In the 1st Century, the game was actually played with pebbles and the name “Terni Lapilli” translates to “Three Pebbles at a Time.”

4. The original Roman version of the game was more complicated than the current version.

Each player was given 3 pebbles which had to be moved around the board with each turn. Because of this, the game was more complicated to win than a simple pencil and paper version of Tic-Tac-Toe

5. Medieval pagan rituals were sometimes linked to the game.

Before the game was truly understood for what it is (just a game), some people believed that it was a type of pagan ritual and that the grid actually possessed magical elements.

6. The World’s first video game was a version of Tic-Tac-Toe.

“OXO” was the first Tic-Tac-Toe game created as an EDSAC computer program in 1952. As such, the very first video game the world ever saw was Tic-Tac-Toe.

7. Secret societies of the past believed versions of the game had power.

It is possible to arrange the numbers 1 to 9 on the grid so that the numbers add up to the same amount, whether vertical, horizontal, or diagonal. This created hype in the Middle Ages that the game was some sort of “Magical Square”. 

There were secret societies at the time that believed the grid could uncover secrets of the world, and so it was often called “The Nine Chambers of the Kabbalah” by those who believed it.

8. The modern game made its first appearance in Britain as a kid’s game in the 19th century.

It is believed that the game only made an appearance in Britain when people started to realize that there were no magical or mystical powers attached to the game. 

9. “Tic-Tac-Toe, What Do You Know?” is a game used to expand kids’ general knowledge.

Teachers have found a way to use the game to teach students other subjects. For instance, “Tic-Tac-Toe, What Do You Know?” involves a teacher drawing a grid on the board and then assigning a question or subject to each square. If a student (or team) wants to place their mark in a specific square, the question in the square must be correctly answered. 

10. The game is a “solved” game.

If the person who starts the game is aware of how to win the game, they can play the same first move every time and probably win. Also, since it’s a solved game, the game will always end in a tie if both players play their best. 

Wooden Tic-Tac-Toe game on the black desk

11. Tic-Tac-Toe is a game that goes by many other names.

In other countries, Tic-Tac-Toe is called a variety of other names such as “Noughts and Crosses” in the UK, Ireland, South Africa and Australia, and Xs and Os in Canada and Israel. People in Norway call the game “Twiddles and Bears”.

12. There is a Tic-Tac-Toe World Championship.

There are also smaller Tic-Tac-Toe tournaments around the world. 

13. There are many versions of Tic-Tac-Toe to play. 

Some of these versions include 3-D Tic-Tac-Toe, Qubic, which is played on a 4×4 grid, and a mathematical version of the game called Numerical Tic-Tac-Toe. 

14. Terni Lapilli’s drawings can be found all over Rome.

It’s quite evident that the game was much-loved in Ancient Rome during the 1st Century as drawings of Terni Lapilli (an ancestor of Tic-Tac-Toe) can be found on stones and floors.

15. For experienced players, the game can be a “futile” game.

For a game to be “futile”, it must have the possibility of always ending in a draw between 2 experienced or skilled players. If 2 people truly understand the gameplay, it can consistently end in a draw.

16. In 1978, MIT students used Tic-Tac-Toe to present the computational power of Tinkertoy elements.

Students created a system made completely of Tinkertoys that can play a perfect game of Tic-Tac-Toe. 

17. There is a set of specific strategies called The Newell and Simons Tic-Tac-Toe program.

There are many moves that can result in a win. The Newell and Simons Tic-Tac-Toe program released in 1972 features all the scenarios where a player can guarantee a win.

18. There are several game shows based on the Tic-Tac-Toe game.

This includes “Ping Tac Toe” on Minute to Win It, “Secret X” on The Price is Right, and a game show called “Tic-Tac-Dough”.

19. Tic-Tac-Toe can be used to teach probability. 

There are actually 362,800 ways to place the Xs and 0s.

Gaussian (bell) curve or normal distribution graph

20. Winning combinations. 

There are just 138 winning combinations (without considering all the symmetrical combinations) 

21. You can win money playing Tic-Tac-Toe in online tournaments. 

There are several ways that you can win money simply by playing Tic-Tac-Toe. There are apps that allow you to win money while playing the game!

Last Word

Now that you know pretty much all there is to know about Tic-Tac-Toe, you can consider yourself an expert on the topic of the game! Next time you’re playing, distract your opponent with a few of these fun facts! It might increase your chances of winning.

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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.