Trixo is a tile game, based on tic-tac-toe. Based, but taking the game in a unique, and absorbing direction, even for those of us who have come to think of tic-tac-toe as a “trivial” game.

You get 36 well-made, plastic tiles – just large, colorful, and hefty enough to make you feel that someone really wants you to take the game seriously. There are 14 blue tiles with a white X on their faces, 14 red tiles with a white diamond (which acts as an O), 5 orange Trixo tiles (with the special, Asian-like symbol that looks like a plus sign going through a rectangle), and 3 green Slide tiles (the ones with an arrow on them).

Two-to-four players each take 4 tiles from the face-down, randomly arranged Trixo tile collection. They then take turns, adding one of their tiles to the imaginary 3×3 grid, and selecting a replacement from the collection. On their turn, they may either place their tile on an empty space, stack a tile on top of any other tile (as long as it is different from the tile below it and there are no more than two other tiles in the stack), or “push” a row or column of two tiles.

The orange Trixo tile is used to block other players, and the Slide tiles to push. You can place a tile vertically, horizontally, or diagonally adjacent to any tile, as long as it doesn’t extend beyond the imagined 3×3 matrix.

As you can see, we are clearly beyond the pale of what you or I might consider to be tic-tac-toe. Yet everything else we know about tic-tac-toe is central to the game. This is one of the reasons the game is so easy to learn. The Trixo and Slide tiles are two of the reasons the game is so interesting, and so unlike everything we know about tic-tac-toe.

We Tasted the game with only three players, and it was as easy to understand and as challenging as any thinking game that one might call “Major Fun.” According to the rules, when you get three-in-a-row, you get to take all the tiles that make up that three-in-a-row – which includes any tiles in that row that happen to be stacked. Which means if the other players (for example, the author of this post) aren’t careful enough, the player who wins that three-in-a-row might wind up with an impressive number of tiles. After about three such events, it was pretty clear who was going to claim victory, but so absorbed were we by the game play that we continued until the last tile was played.

Designed by Ariel Laden, Trixo turns out to be a fun, easy to learn, well-made and absorbing strategy game. It takes maybe 15 minutes to play, and even less time to learn. It’s simple enough to intrigue anyone who knows how to play tic-tac-toe. It’s interesting enough to want to play several times before admitting ultimate defeat. And then to want to play again, maybe with someone else.

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