Looking for an easy strategy game to teach and play with your kids? Connect 4 is one of the simplest board games ever made! It may take a few rounds for you to pick up the ideal Connect 4 strategy for fixed wins, but it’s the journey you’ll enjoy the most.
Connect 4 is so simple, you can teach someone new and play one full game in under just five minutes. Although the rules are simple, the strategies can get a little complicated — making the game that much more exciting. Once you pick up the strategy though, you will become unbeatable.
What Is Connect 4?
Connect 4 is a short two-player connection board game with a fixed strategy for winning. It’s also called Four Up, Four in a Row, Plot Four, Drop Four, Find Four, Gravitrips, and Captain’s Mistress. Going by various names, Connect 4 has popularity spanning worldwide.
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The rules are very simple to understand and are, in fact, evident in the name of the game. You need to connect four of your discs in a row to win.
Players take turns placing one disc at a time into a suspended seven-column × six-row grid. The pieces fall down, taking up the lowest space available in that column. You can make these connections horizontally, vertically, or diagonally.
The objective of the game is to be the first to connect 4 discs, so you have to play to create your own line and obstruct the other player at the same time. It kind of works like Tic-Tac-Toe.
History of Connect 4
Although it doesn’t go as far back as chess or checkers, Connect 4 has had a pretty long history with many variations. There are three major events that led to the creation of modern-day Connect 4 with a 6 × 7 grid.
The first is the legend of Explorer Captain James Cook. According to this legend, Captain Cook used to spend hours upon hours in his cabin playing a simple board game not too different from Connect 4.
In fact, he was never playing alone. It’s recorded that other notable figures such as a scientist called Joseph Banks and a botanist named Daniel Solander were invited on his voyages and had frequent Connect 4 duels together.
The Captain spent so much time with the game that people started calling it his mistress, thereby coining the name “Captain’s Mistress.”
In 1946, Theodore R. Duncan got a patent registered in his name for a 3D stacking tic-tac-toe style game that involved stacking discs on a 3D board. This is believed to have been the inspiration for today’s version of Connect 4.
Not much, however, is known about Duncan or his game. But in 1968, Funtastic came out with its own version called “Score Four.” It was a wooden game played on a 4 × 4 grid with vertical poles on which you can drop wooden beads.
You can score four in a row horizontally, vertically, and diagonally across the base grid. You can also score four by stacking 4 beads, although that would be a harder play.
The Connect 4 game as we recognize it today was trademarked and released by Milton Bradley in 1974. Milton Bradley founded the company, named after himself, in Massachusetts in 1860.
The company was bought out by Hasbro in 1984, and so, Connect 4 is now branded and sold most popularly by Hasbro.
How to Play Connect 4
It’s a fairly easy game, but to make it even easier for you, we’ll break it down into steps.
You should have a game board with a grid to hold the checkers, 21 red checkers, and 21 black checkers. Depending on the set you buy, the colors might be different.
#1. Sort the checkers by color and split them on the two trays.
#2. To be fair, you should take turns in who goes first for each round because the first player does have the advantage in the game.
#3. The game starts with dropping the first disc. Each player can only put in one disk on each turn.
#4. The objective is to create four in a row horizontally, vertically, or diagonally and to be the first to do it. You also have to obstruct your opponent from creating their four while playing. You can also decide how much time each player gets to take to think per round. We recommend at least a minute.
#5. First to make four wins. You can then tally the score for each round. The game may also end at a stalemate.
For a video tutorial on how to play connect 4, click it below.
Winning Strategy for Connect 4
Connect 4 is called a solved game because, as mentioned earlier, there exists a winning strategy that, once learned, allows you to win every single game. Getting the hang of it, however, can take some time. Did you know there are 4,531,985,219,092 possible iterations of Connect 4? This means there are 4,531,985,219,092 ways an entire Connect 4 game could go from start to finish.
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Let’s check out some pointers that can help you develop a winning strategy for any game in no time. But remember, you need to apply these tricks at the same time; they don’t individually guarantee victory.
The spot in the middle row and column, if it’s your start, take it. That is the most strategic spot to place your checker for the entire game as it allows for connections to be made in numerous directions.
It also blocks your opponent from making horizontal connections at the beginning of the game. Players who start the game have a huge advantage as they gain early control over the flow of the game.
If two players who are equally well-versed in the game’s strategy face-off, the one who starts will win every single time. What makes the game interesting and long is when players make mistakes, which brings us to the next point.
Analyze the grid at every step of the gameplay. Try to envision the game from both sides as if you were playing the game with yourself. Observe what your opponent is trying to do, including the connections and traps they’re trying to set up and block those attempts.
Even if you do not start the game, you can still win it if you catch your opponent’s mistake or strategy and use it against them.
You won’t be building connections one at a time. So, mid-game, stop to analyze the positions you have already occupied on the grid and the total number of connections that are possible.
This will show you the strategic game-ending spaces, or in other words, where your four could end up. Fill those up as quickly as you can, so you’re only left with the middle. Also, never play below the game-ending space, because then your opponent might take it.
A trap in Connect 4 is when you create two possible “connects” in your next round. The next player cannot block both and has to leave one of your “connects” open, allowing you to claim victory in the next round.
Traps need to be deceptive. You accomplish this by misleading your opponent into thinking you’re either trying to block him or make a four.
Some people only focus on blocking right from the start, and this could make it impossible for you to win because you’ll lose strategic points and won’t have any set-ups for possible connects.If your opponent is setting up an obvious trap or is about to make a four, block them. But stay on offense and defense at the same time.
Frequently Asked Questions
Each game is quite short, so usually, people play multiple rounds. You can either take turns being the first player or you could flip a coin each time.
The real problem arises when both players are completely versed in strategy, then the game becomes fixed each time just depending on who starts.
There are numerous variants to the game to make it more interesting or longer. These variations have come in the form of new rules, special tokens, and additional gameplay ideas. You could also add your own ideas to modify the game a little.
For instance, in one of the variants, each player has a power checker that they can play at any point in the game. If you play this checker, you have to pop out all the checkers below it and the power checker takes its place at the bottom of the column.
Since Hasbro took over Milton Bradley in 1984, the first and original version of Connect 4, as we know it today, is sold by Hasbro.
At the moment? No. There aren’t any large-scale global tournaments for Connect 4, but it’s likely you’ll find something domestically if you want to participate in a tournament to showcase your skills.
A Few Parting Words
The best Connect 4 strategy is practice, practice, and practice. With regular playing, you’re sure to get better at the game because you’ll have more trials and errors to build on. Remember to apply all of the tips from this article to formulate your winning strategy, and have fun while you’re at it.
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