Recommend
19 
 Thumb up
 Hide
11 Posts

Connect Four» Forums » Reviews

Subject: An important step in childhood game-playing rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
MK
United States
Coshocton
OH
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
"Connect Four" appears on BGG with a rating of about 4.7 - and that's not terribly surprising, given that the game has been "solved." It is always possible for the player that goes first to force a win, assuming that both players make the best move on every turn. For gamers adept in higher level abstract strategy games, that's not hard to accomplish.

However, the rating is hardly reflective of how worthy this is as a children's game. In fact, of the typical crop of children's games available on the mass market (e.g., Candyland, Moustrap, etc.), "Connect Four" is one of the few that should appear in any and every tyke's collection because of the skills it helps a child to build and reinforce. Based on it being a children's game, I rate it at an 8.5 and would gladly play this with a youngster over most other little kid games.

"Connect Four" is an important and essential stepping stone to the higher level abstracts, and the fact that it is a "solved" game is partially why it is essential. The day your child figures out exactly how it is possible for the first player to always win, and CAN repeat the plays needed to force a win, is the day you know your child is ready to seriously learn to play, and learn to win, more complex games such as Checkers, Chess, Backgammon, and so forth.

Along the way, of course, the game promotes skills that are critical to good play in other games (not just abstracts of course):

- Seeing the opponent's threats: At first, it is normal for kids to concentrate purely on dropping their checkers into the slots and try to get four in a row without paying attention to what his/her opponent is doing. But a mix of wins with losses, and a patient parental guide, will quickly teach the child to make plays not only for their own win, but to block the other player from winning. Winning play in all abstracts depend on this skill, and many other games that aren't so abstract (Puerto Rico immediately comes to mind) depend on it as well.

- Visualizing the future situation: You need to get four checkers in a row. This means you'll need to look ahead and understand that by putting two checkers in a slot allows you to build to three in that slot, and potentially get a fourth in there to win. Conversely, if you see two of your opponent's checkers lined up (see the above principle), you'll understand that getting a third lined up will threaten you with a loss - so you can either block those two NOW, or wait and block when the opponent does get three. Additionally, the strategy of building four-in-a-row along a diagonal line requires long-term planning, and making sure that you don't spend a lot of time building the supporting column only to have your opponent drop a checker at the right time to destroy the diagonal!

- Finding multiple ways to win: The only way to force a win in Connect Four is to create a pattern of your own checkers that gives you two lines of three checkers each, so that no matter which way your opponent blocks, the other line is open for your win. This principle is one step away from final understanding of how to always force a win if you move first, and incorporates the prior two principles as well. Once the child has mastered this tactic and always looks for a way to create this situation... watch out.


Naturally, kids will outgrow the game and it will collect dust or find it's way to the Goodwill shelves (please, not the landfill!!!). But by then it will have served its purpose and it ought to be traded away for more challenging and engaging games.

So don't knock the game too hard - Connect Four has its place and purpose in the world of games, especially in the children's corner.
6 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Justin Borges
Canada
Toronto
Ontario
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Are you a parent or a teacher, by any chance?
This is a fantastic article, and points to quite a few things that I think adult gamers take for granted.
Nice.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Fraser
Australia
Melbourne
flag msg tools
admin
designer
Back in the days when there were less maps we played every map back to back
badge
Ooh a little higher, now a bit to the left, a little more, a little more, just a bit more. Oooh yes, that's the spot!
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Agreed, good article.

Daughter the Elder and I have played this over one hundred times since Christmas. Neither of us have "solved" it meeple

We are running almost exactly 50-50 in wins, with two draws and two games abandoned due to sabotage by Daughter the Younger.

I certainly concur that it teaches quite a bit about both thinking ahead as well as catering for the here and now (an example of a game with both strategy and tactics).
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Red Dragon
United States
Willows
California
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Although I was somewhat amazed that it had been "solved", all the way through your article, I nodded my head in agreement. Then I went to check to see what rating I had given the game, just to make sure.

Turns out you were talking about Connect Four, and I was thinking about Score Four.

Score Four has all of the advantages you cite, namely seeing the opponent's threats, visualizing the future, and finding multiple ways to win. However, Score Four lacks the disadvantage of being a lousy game.

In my opinion, Conenct Four is one of those games that kids get stuck playing when they should have been introduced to a better game instead, thus it fully deserves the low rating it has. Other than the pointy spikes and little beads, which probably make it inappropriate for a 3-year-old, I would give Score Four to any child who has figured out why tic tac toe is a worthless game. I wouldn't demand that she figure out Connect Four first, before rewarding her with the fun of finally playing a real game. But that's just me.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Ken B.
United States
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
This review is spot-on. Connect Four teaches children cause/effect, thinking ahead, spatial reasoning, and forcing moves. It's perfect for a five-year-old to cut their teeth on moving forward to better things. Plus it has the cool tactile feel of the checkers and what kid doesn't get a kick out of pulling the tray and have all the checkers come crashing out into the box?

My kid loves this and he rarely asks for stuff like Candyland anymore. To me, that's an infinite blessing.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
MK
United States
Coshocton
OH
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
franklincobb wrote:
My kid loves this and he rarely asks for stuff like Candyland anymore. To me, that's an infinite blessing.


Same with my 5 year old. Also, Monopoly Junior (Disney Princess Edition) doesn't see the light of day for actual game play, as a result of C4 - the kids just pull it out to use the castle tokens and the princess cutouts for inclusion in other types of play.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
MK
United States
Coshocton
OH
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Von Cougar wrote:
Are you a parent or a teacher, by any chance?
This is a fantastic article, and points to quite a few things that I think adult gamers take for granted.
Nice.


Parent - yes.

Teacher - working on it.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
James Evers
United States
Texas
flag msg tools
Connect four is a terrific game! I play it all the time and find it offensive to suggest its a simple game that is only for kids. I have yet to meet anyone who can actually win everytime starting first. Its actually easier to win going second because the solutions are less complex.

Its not just a childhood game and is perfectly valid for any age. Most people don't like math so I can understand their desire for a different game, but don't use your difference in preference as a reason to slam people that do enjoy this game.

3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
dsr15
United States
Littleton
Colorado
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmb
kimapesan wrote:

The day your child figures out exactly how it is possible for the first player to always win, and CAN repeat the plays needed to force a win, is the day you know your child is ready to seriously learn to play, and learn to win, more complex games such as Checkers, Chess, Backgammon, and so forth.


Forget the child - I hope that day arrives for me!

1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Stephen McNeil
Canada
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
kimapesan wrote:


- Finding multiple ways to win: The only way to force a win in Connect Four is to create a pattern of your own checkers that gives you two lines of three checkers each, so that no matter which way your opponent blocks, the other line is open for your win.


Actually, that's not true.

The thing that makes Connect Four interesting is that you can only play checkers in positions that have checkers below them, which means that there are often winning positions that can't be played until those below them are filled. This makes it possible to lay traps that aren't the straight forward 2-intersecting-lines-of-3 motif. Instead, they're based on forcing an opponent to fill critical open cells. You can set up play and counterplay sequences whereby my play here forces you to play there to block, but now I can play on top of your block to win in completely different line (often one set up by my initial play). (Or play block play block win, etc.) It's not a situation where you have to block two positions at once so I win; instead, it's a situation where you have one position you must block, but by taking it you trigger a cascade of plays that lead to a win three or five moves later. (Sometimes it happens because the board is otherwise full and you simply have to play such a cell, at which point you can shout Zugzwang! for added fun.)

My daughter is seven. She routinely spots and avoids positions that would give me access to threat cells, and she's beginning to anticipate and prevent my attempts to force her to play to such positions.

But I agree whole heartedly. It's a fantastic game for kids. The strategy can get surprisingly deep, requiring visualization of cause/effect many turns ahead. It plays very quickly, so you can play many games in a row, immediately applying what you learned last game to improve your play in the next.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jared Hayter

Metuchen
New Jersey
msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
I wonder how many of the people who deride this game here for its simplicity could force a win every time. I can understand that a player who has mastered the game can put it down but most people simply consider it a child's game and ignore it for that reason. I think this is actually a very valuable game to help adults learn how to play abstracts. Once this game has been mastered one can move onto bigger and better things. Even though I can win or draw most times I play I still make foolish mistakes unless I am constantly thinking about the game at hand. The solution exists but is not obvious to all. This game is a great tool to exercise the planning ahead that all more complex games require.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.