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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Toss Across!

One of the most classic games that one learns how to play is the standard game of Tic-Tac-Toe.

I doubt that I really need to explain how to play this game to all of you here, because I would think that those of you who are at least kindergarten age know how the game is played.  However, since I am looking to post as much information in this blog as I can, I’ll explain the mechanics behind how the game is played.

You have a grid of nine empty squares, such as the one that is displayed below.

In a classic game of Tic-Tac-Toe, you have two players.  One represents the letter X, while the other one represents the O.  The players would decide who among them would begin the game first (in my household, the X’s always went first, but that was just how we ended up playing it), and the ultimate endgame was getting three of your symbols in a row in one of three ways...horizontally, vertically, or diagonally.  Depending on how competitive the other person was, a game of Tic-Tac-Toe could range in competitiveness from “easy peasy” to “are you kidding me?”.  Either way, I think for most of us, Tic-Tac-Toe introduced millions of children to their first game, as well as their first taste of healthy competition.

(Well, unless your opponent tried to drown you in their cereal bowl filled with Corn Flakes and 2% milk because you beat them, that is.)

But here’s the thing about Tic-Tac-Toe.  It’s entertaining for all of two minutes, but after a while, it gets to be stale and boring.  I mean, yes, the game show “Hollywood Squares” made Tic-Tac-Toe fun by having cash prizes, and featuring stars like Paul Lynde, Jim J. Bullock, and Whoopi Goldberg in the center square, but for those of us who weren’t contestants on the show, we were stuck playing the game of Tic-Tac-Toe the old-fashioned (and boring) way. 

At least that was the case until 1969.

1969 was the year that the ordinary game of Tic-Tac-Toe received a three dimensional makeover, courtesy of a little toy company known as Ideal (which unfortunately is now defunct).  Imagine a Tic-Tac-Toe board that is larger than life itself (at least it is to a child anyway).  Sounds impressive right?  Now imagine being armed with a handful of beanbags, tossing it at the gigantic Tic-Tac-Toe board in hopes of flipping over squares from blank spaces to X’s and O’s?  It would certainly make playing the game of Tic-Tac-Toe not only more fun to play, but more strategic as well. 

Well, thanks to the good people of Ideal Toys, and the design team of Hank Kramer, Larry Reiner, and Walter Moe, the game “Toss Across” was born.

And “Toss Across” is the blog topic for today!  But, I think you have already guessed that by now, right?  J

I have such fond, fond memories of “Toss Across”.  The first time I played “Toss Across” was when I was seven.  I don’t know how elementary school classrooms work nowadays, but during the 1988/89 school year, there were a selection of board games, toys, and books readily available for the children to play with.  There was a reason why the toys were there in the first place.  Whenever it rained, the school playground was a rather terrible place to be.  Without any covered playground equipment or any sort of shelter outside, we pretty much had to stay indoors during recess or our lunch hour, especially if there were weather advisories or torrential downpours.  Those toys prevented us from being completely bored out of our minds.

Anyway, our second grade classroom teacher, Miss Johnson, had dozens of games that we could play with.  There was “Battleship”, “Clue”, jigsaw puzzles, and various crayons and colouring books.  But there was one game that was always the most popular. 

That game was “Toss Across”.

For the most part, my classmates and I followed the rules of the game, as well as the rules of the teacher in playing the game (although the only real rule the teacher enforced was the one where we couldn’t throw the beanbags at each other).  The game of “Toss Across” worked exactly the same as Tic-Tac-Toe.  You had to use your beanbags to get either three X’s or three O’s in a row.  The first person to achieve this goal won the game.

However, “Toss Across” had a bit of a twist to it, which made the game much more challenging to win.  Mind you, that challenge depended on how competitive your opponents were.

The squares of “Toss Across” were designed in such a way that they would flip over depending on the angle in which the beanbag was thrown, and where the beanbag landed on the square.  In the earliest versions of the game, each square was labelled with a small X on one side of the square, and a small circle on the other side.  In order to get the square to flip over into an X or an O, you have to aim your beanbag carefully.

Suppose that I am the X player.  If I want the square to flip over into an X, I’d have to hit the small X on the board.  If I succeed, then the square should flip over to show and X.  The opposite, of course, holds true should your beanbag hit the circle instead.  There are six beanbags total in the game, so each person gets three.  When all six beanbags are tossed, players can retrieve them should nobody win the game after six throws.

So “Toss Across” not only helps you tell the difference between X’s and O’ also helps you develop your hand-eye co-ordination.  It’s a perfect game for learning.

So, you think that it would be easy to win the game, right?  All I would have to do is make sure that I can hit the small X’s in a straight line, and I could win quickly, right?

Not necessarily.

You see, the game’s rules state that just because the player manages to score an X on the doesn’t mean that it has to STAY that way. 

That’s right!  Your opponent can sabotage your efforts by throwing a beanbag at your X, and removing it from play!  Depending on how hard they throw the beanbag, the square can flip back to neutral, or even to the opposite symbol!

That’s what I mean by competitive.  Your opponent can undo your progress with just a couple of throws!  And that’s the beauty of this game.  The game can get fierce with throws, and have the potential to last a very long time.  I remember getting into a “Toss Across” match with someone that lasted a grand total of sixteen minutes!  It didn’t even matter that recess was only fifteen minutes long and that the teacher threatened to put both our names on the “Broken Rules” list.  We were going to continue playing until somebody won the game.

Unfortunately, the person I was playing against beat me in a move that flipped over two squares simultaneously!  So, not only did I lose, but my name ended up on the “Broken Rules” list anyway!  But what a way to get into trouble!  J

These days, the “Toss Across” game is distributed by Mattel, and the design of the game is a bit different.  But the rules are still exactly the same, and I’m sure that I would still have a ball playing “Toss Across” at the age of 31 as I did back when I was seven.

And who knows?  Now that there’s no threat of getting in trouble, maybe I can have a game last thirty-four minutes! 

Anyone want to play a game with me?

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