Tostadas: a quick + fun party game [#9]

Takes 2 minutes to learn, 1 minute to play, and many hours to master.

Tostadas: a quick + fun party game [#9]

I love this game. So does Ben Orlin, who describes Tostadas as "sweet, snackable, and intermittently spicy, like a bowl of honey-roasted nuts where one in thirty has an invisible coating of wasabi."

And the game Tostadas is everything you could ever want in a board game – it's devilishly simple, yet full of complex strategy and surprise victories. Let's hop right into the rules!

Quick note: I call this game Tostadas, even though its actual name is Teeko. My sister came up with the name Tostadas while she was snacking on some corn chips, and I liked the name, so it stuck.


  1. Tostadas is played on a 5x5 board, and each player has 4 pieces of one color. You can use a chessboard or some notebook paper for the board, and you can use colored dice, checkers, chess pawns, or other (relatively small) household materials for the pieces.
  2. You instantly win if your pieces form a winning position. There are only two types of winning positions:
    1. 4 same-color pieces connected in a straight, continuous line, whether horizontal, vertical, or diagonal.
    2. 4 same-color pieces that form the corners of a square. This square can be 2x2, 3x3, 4x4, or even 5x5, but cannot be tilted.
  3. In the first stage of play, alternate placing down your pieces with your opponent. You can place pieces on any unoccupied square. Once all 8 pieces are on the board, move to the second stage of play.
  4. In the second stage of play, move any of your pieces onto an adjacent square. Your pieces can move diagonally, horizontally, or vertically, but they cannot jump over or capture any pieces. Continue to alternate moves with your opponent until someone wins – and you cannot skip your turn.

Those are all of the rules! Tostadas is a pretty simple game, and it's easy to explain it to someone in less than 2 minutes. Here's a graphic which displays possible winning/non-winning positions:

Positions 8 + 9 aren't winning, since the four pieces form the corners of a tilted square, not a normal square. Position 10 also isn't winning, since the four pieces form the corners of a rectangle, not a square.

The Beauty of Tostadas

Before you read this next bit, I want you to:

  1. Make a 5x5 grid (using pen + paper or just get a chessboard) and find some pieces – again, you can use almost any small objects you want, as long as they are relatively distinguishable.
  2. Grab a friend, reread the rules if you need to, and play a game of Tostadas.
  3. Now play again. And again. And again.

Have you played a few games? Great – it should have only taken you a few minutes.

Two reasons why Tostadas is such an incredible game:

  1. There's surprising depth of strategy for how simple the game rules are. Teeko is nowhere as near as simple as Tic-Tac-Toe is, and there's a lot of opportunity for improvisation.
  2. The games are super quick. Most games only take 1-2 minutes, which is incredible. Basically all other games take much longer to play.

So the next time you're at a boring party, introduce your fellow partygoers to the wonderful game of Tostadas. I bet they'll appreciate it.

Final Notes

  1. I discovered the game Tostadas thanks to Ben Orlin's wonderful third book, Math Games with Bad Drawings. It's definitely worth it to buy a copy!
  2. Tostadas (actually Teeko) was invented by John Scarne, who was a masterful American magician. His Wikipedia page is really intriguing.
  3. Rule clarifications can be found here.