3D Tic-Tac-Toe!

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Two boys playing 3D tic-tac-toe.
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Diagram shows board dimensions and the position of each peg.
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A 3D tic-tac-toe board might look something like this.

This little game–the “board” for which can be made in
one evening–is simply a much more
challenging version of the tic-tac-toe almost
all of us played (and quickly mastered) as children …
and the three-dimensional version makes the childhood
pastime fun again, even for grown-ups!

The only tools required to construct a 3D tic-tac-toe
set are a saw (a handsaw will do) and a drill (preferably
electric) with a 17/64″ or 9/32″ drill bit. The materials
list is equally modest. It includes a 26″ section of a 1/4″
dowel (you should be able to purchase a 36″ length for
under 25¢); a scrap of 1 X 4 (preferably
hardwood, but softwood is OK); 28 macrame beads
with 1/4″ holes, which cost 10 to 20¢ apiece (get 14
each of two different colors); and finishing materials
(sandpaper, glue, and stain or varnish).

Easy Construction

To make the base of the game board, saw a 3 1/2″ square
from the 1 X 4 stock. Next, cut nine 2 3/4″ pieces of dowel
(to use as the game’s upright “posts”) and mark the peg
holes on the base.

The best way to position the holes-to-be is to draw a
2 1/2″ square on the board, centered and 1/2 inch from all
edges (see the accompanying diagram). The corners of this
square will serve as the centers for the four corner pegs.
Now, measure and mark the halfway point (1 1/4″) between
each two corners. These spots should be used as the centers
for the four remaining perimeter peg holes. Finally, simply
connect the last four points with two straight lines, and
their intersection will position the middle peg.

Before you drill holes at your marked points, you
should–as a precaution–begin each one with a
center punch or a nail. This will prevent the bit from
drifting, which would result in an off-center bore. (If you
use a handheld drill, be extremely careful to keep it
perpendicular to the base.) The holes should be
1/2″ deep (an easy way to make sure they’re all the same
depth is to wrap a thin strip of masking tape around the
drill to serve as a temporary gauge).

After you’ve finished drilling, the board should be sanded
and finished to your taste. (You can also smooth and stain
or seal the to-be-exposed ends of each of the nine pegs.)
Once the finishing process is completed and all the parts
are dry, glue the pegs into the holes, taking care that
they remain perpendicular to the board as the glue sets up.
Then, get out your beads … and you’re ready to play!

Rules of the Game

In this three-dimensional version, tic-tac-toes are
scored not only in the usual horizontal ways–on three
levels!–but also vertically, or at an angle
from bottom to top. With a well-placed bead, therefore, a
player may be able to complete more than one row in a
single move! For example, if you place one of your beads on
top of two of your own, you score a vertical tick-tack-toe,
but–if you’re lucky and/or clever–that same
bead could finish a horizontal and a diagonal row as well,
totaling three points in one move.

The object of the game, of course, is to score more
tic-tac-toes than your opponent. After any impartial
method has determined who moves first, the players
alternately place a bead over any peg on the playing board
in an effort to build or block a three-in-a-row move. The
only restriction is that the beads may not be stacked more
than three high on a single peg. The player with the most
points–after all 27 positions are filled–wins.

A variation of the game (which is easier for youngsters to
master) is to play only until someone scores … rather
than continuing until 27 of the beads have been brought
into play. In this version, the first to score a
tic-tac-toe in any direction is the winner.

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