If you asked me what game I would never buy new or at thrift, I would probably answer with “Tic-Tac-Toe”. I mean, why bother paying good money for something that can be played with a pencil and paper? Yet Amazon is full of different versions for those who can’t be bothered to search for a good old #2 and some scratch paper.
Yet here I am with my latest thrift purchase, Shift Tac Toe by Pressman Toys. My defense is that it isn’t just a game of Tic-Tac-Toe. It’s a clever variation on the old classic and one that could not easily be replicated at home. And because it was only 88cents at Goodwill, even if we only get a play or two out of it, it’ll be money well spent.
The object of Shift Tac Toe is the same as the paper version, to get three of your color in a row either vertically, horizontally or diagonally. What makes this version different is that it is more of a combination of Connect 4 and Tic-Tac-Toe. Each player receives five chips of their color and on their turn drops one into one of the three openings at the top of the included plastic unit. Get three-in-a-row and you win.
But what makes Shift Tac Toe more than just a game of Connect 3 is how the gameboard operates. Instead of dropping a new chip into play, you may choose to slide one of the three horizontal rows, moving all of the chips left or right. This might cause some of the already played chips to fall down if they enter a column without a chip directly beneath it.
Additionally, if the chip is pushed outside of the normal 3×3 grid, it will not only fall, it will drop completely out of the unit and is returned to the player of that color. Even if all five of your discs are in play, you can still take a turn by sliding one of the rows of chips. The first person to line up three of their color chips in a row wins Shift Tac Toe!
Surprisingly, Shift Tac Toe turned out to be more strategic that a normal game of Tic-Tac-Toe or Connect 4. You can’t gain an edge by choosing the middle spot on your first turn, and even if you eventually acquire the treasured space, it can be quickly taken away from you with a simple slide of a row.
Shift Tac Toe was issued a couple times between the late 80’s and early 2000’s by two different companies. Copies can regularly be found on eBay for around $20 shipped. If you’re patient, you can probably line up one for yourself by keeping an eye out at your local thrift store for a gently-used example!
Are you an “X” or an “O”?