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Three-way twist on Tic Tac Toe touches down on App Store

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Tic Tac Toe isn't exactly the pinnacle of pencil-and-paper gaming. It might be quick to learn, but its strategy is minimal, the outcome is all too predictably a draw, and if you're older than about eight you've probably had enough of it years ago.

Until now. A new twist on the old routine hit the App Store earlier this week that introduces a bigger board, an extra symbol (a "Y" to join the classic "O" and "X,") and, most interestingly, a third player.Appropriately named "Tic Tac Mo!," the game is the work of Dr. Ken Mask, a New Orleans diagnostic radiologist, who developed the game in between shooting patients with X-rays.

"Sitting in a radiology room all day is pretty concentrating," says Dr. Mask. "I came up with the game spontaneously as an effort to let my two young kids play together with me."

Snag it from the App Store for a reasonable $0.99, and you might be surprised at the amount of strategic depth that third player creates. If an opponent lands two in a row and you're up next, for example, you don't necessarily have to block them. Leave the space open and you force your other opponent into making the blocking play. With two opposing moves in between each of yours, you're forced into thinking further ahead.

That's not all. The grid's larger -- Tic Tac Mo uses a wider three-by-five board, which in addition to fitting nicely on an iPad or iPhone screen gives it something of the flavor of a Connect 4 game. Because it's five spaces wide and you only need a line of three to win, if you can place a horizontal pair of markers with an open space on each end, you force both your opponents into making blocking moves. That play's not the instant winner it is in two-player Connect 4, but it's still a strong position.

Sure, you could still play it with pencil and paper. But Tic Tac Mo boasts a reasonably strong computer opponent to make up the numbers if necessary -- you can play it with either one, two, or three people. Mask plans future improvements (it's crying out for online multiplayer, we think) but if you're in the mood for a simple iOS timewaster that'll get you thinking, it's well worth a look.

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