What it is: A life-sized, physically active version of the classic game tic-tac-toe (and one that’s a lot more exciting and less likely to end in a draw every time)

Best for: Teens and above, and at the very least six players (preferably more like 12). You also need an even number of players and one player to be the referee.

What you need:

  • A playing area: somewhere large and flat like a gym, a large room, or a big slab of concrete
  • A way to mark squares on the floor. Painter’s tape or masking tape is great for this (or chalk if you’re outside).
  • A pen and paper to keep score
  • Optional: A way to distinguish teams from one another. Three bandanas of one color and three of another (or scrimmage vests in two colors) would work great for this.

How to play: First, prepare your playing area.

You want a giant human-sized tic-tac-toe board on the ground. You can start by taping out your typical tic-tac-toe board with strips of tape. Aim to have each square about 3 feet by 3 feet.

Now, in the middle of each of your nine squares, tape a smaller rectangle, just big enough to hold one pair of feet.

If you want, you can skip the first step and forego the long tape lines. The most important part is a 3 by 3 grid of small rectangles just big enough for one person to stand in. Also, tape two lines parallel to and on opposite sides of the grid, spaced a few feet back from the grid:

Next, prepare your players.

First divide them into two even teams. If you have scrimmage vests to wear, assign each team a color and have them put on their vests. Next, give each player a number. Assign a number 1 on each team, a number 2 on each team, a number 3 on each team, and so on. So each player will have, on the opposing team, a counterpart with a matching number. Each player needs to remember his or her number. You as a referee might want to write down the numbers on a piece of paper so you know which numbers are assigned to players.

Have the teams stand behind the lines on opposite sides of the grid, like this:

If you’re playing with bandanas, assign each team a color and put the bandanas on the floor between the teams and the grid.

As a referee, sit or stand off to the side so you can clearly see the grid and both teams. Now you’re ready to start!

To begin, call out three numbers. The three players with those numbers on each team run forward, grab a bandana (if you have bandanas), and try stand on open squares to form a three in a row. The first team to get three in a row wins! With two teams competing for open spots, though, there’s a fair amount of running, teamwork, and communication involved. Still, it shouldn’t take more than a few seconds until one team has made three in a row.

The only row teams are not allowed to use is the one closest to them:

Any other row of three is fair game, for example:

Once one team has scored, mark them a point, send all the players back, put the bandanas back on the ground, and call three more numbers for the next round.

It’s handy to have all the players’ numbers written down because you can mark how many times you call each number so all the players get an even amount of playing time.

The bandanas or scrimmage vests are handy because they make it very easy for players to see and remember whose team they’re on. If you’re using bandanas, players can also hold their bandanas up in the air as soon as they form a row of three, making it easier for you as referee.

After a while you can change up teams, if you like. At the end of your desired playing time, tally up the points and declare a winner!

It’s a simple game, rule wise, with enough strategy to keep it interesting but fast-paced enough to keep it fun. It’s a great game for a big youth group to play.


Variations: Another variation of the classic tic-tac-toe is 3D triple-decker tic-tac-toe. Ultimate tic-tac-toe brings even more strategy to the game.


  1. I’ve been looking for indoor games for a youth group that don’t require a bunch of props and this fits the bill so well. Thank you!

  2. I have a question/clarification about the rules: According to your diagram — I know the blue team cannot use the 3 horizontal lines directly in front of their team, but can they use the 3 horizontal lines in front of the orange team? And Vice Versa? Or are those specific rows out for either team to use?

    1. So the set of 3 that the orange team aren’t allowed to use – the blue team CAN use those. And vice versa. The reason for the rule is, if teams could use the three squares directly in front of them, it would be too easy for both teams and games would often end in ties.

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