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Connect Four

Get four of one\'s own discs in a line on the board.

Connect Four (also known as Plot Four) is a two-player board game in which the objective is to be the first to get four of one's own discs in a line. Connect Four is an excellent game to teach even the youngest of players about strategy and planning.

The name "Connect Four" was coined by Milton Bradley in 1974; a non-proprietary version is known as "The Captain's Mistress".

Rules

The game is played on a board with 7 columns and 6 rows, which is placed in a vertical position. The players have 21 discs each, distinguished by color. The players take turns in dropping discs in one of the non-full columns. The disc then drops to and occupies the lowest unoccupied square in that column. A player wins by placing four of their own discs consecutively in a line (row, column, or diagonal), which ends the game. The game ends in a draw if the board is filled completely without any player winning.

Strategy and tactics

Beginners will often overlook a simple threat to connect four discs. It is therefore important to always check all vertical, horizontal and diagonal lines before making a move.

In more advanced play, one aims at forcing a win by making two threats simultaneously; conversely, one should prevent the opponent from doing so. Players must look ahead strategically at the consequences of every move.

As a general rule of thumb, discs played in the center columns are more valuable than border column discs, because they participate in more potential four-disc lines (and accordingly limit the opponent's opportunities).

Among good players, the short term goal is to connect three discs, thereby preventing the opponent from playing in a certain column. Towards the end, the game then often turns into a complex counting match; both players try to win by forcing the other to play a certain column. In these situations, it is useful to realize that, if it's your move, then after filling an even number of places, it's still your move. Every column has an even number of places.

Beyond this, it turns out that the strategies for the first and second player differ markedly. Every three aligned discs of one color create a "hole", a place which when filled with the right color would yield four-in-a-row. A hole is called "even" or "odd" depending on whether it occurs in an even- or odd-numbered row (with the bottom row being numbered 1). In order for red (the first player) to win, red needs more odd holes than black; the even holes don't matter. In order for black (the second player) to win, black needs at least two more odd holes than his opponent, or the same number of odd holes and at least one even hole. (These rules are somewhat simplified: it gets more complicated if several holes occur in the same column. Most of the time, holes occurring above other holes are useless.)

Perfect play

Connect Four on the standard 7x6 board has been solved independently by Victor Allis and James D. Allen. With perfect play, the first player can force a win by starting in the middle column. Starting in the two adjacent columns allows the second player to reach a draw. Starting with the border columns even allows the second player to force a win. There are also several programs out there which play perfectly.


Source: Wikipedia


Flags: Very Short (0-60 mins), Short (1-3 hours), With a Friend, Children, Teens, Adults, Seniors, Indoors, Outdoors, At Home, Morning, Day, Night, Sunny, Snowy, Rainy
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