How to Play Connect Four

By Carol Finch

In Connect Four, you pit your wits against an opponent, dropping colored discs into a grid to try to make a four-in-a-row sequence. This isn't as easy as it may sound, as your opponent has exactly the same aim, and you must mix offensive and defensive skills to make sure you're the one who creates the winning line. Connect Four is suitable for players aged 6 years and up.

Set Up the Game

Before playing Connect Four for the first time, set up the grid. If you have a freestanding game, slot its sides into the feet; if it sits on a circular base, slot the legs into the holders and attach a scoring slide on either side. If your grid has a locking bar at the top, slide it along the top of the grid to fit it. Before you start to play, check that the bar at the bottom of the grid is closed (and the PopOut bar, if on your model) so the discs don't fall out.

Gameplay Rules

Players choose a color and place their 21 discs on their side of the grid. They then take turns to insert a disc into the top of the grid, placing them in the hole that corresponds with their chosen column. The first disc goes into the bottom row, but players can then place discs anywhere as long as the spaces under them are filled. The winner is the player who gets four discs in a vertical, horizontal or diagonal row. When the game is over, pull the bar at the bottom to open it and empty the grid.

Connect Four Strategies

Typically, you have the advantage if you take the first turn, especially if you target the middle column. This is the most useful part of the grid, opening up your options and limiting your opponent's moves. You need a disc in this column to make any horizontal or diagonal line of four; if you don't have one, you can make only vertical lines. Experienced players typically put their first disc in the middle slot of the bottom line for this reason -- counter the move by using the column yourself when you can.

Corner squares are also good to have, but avoid edges, as they are too easy to block. Ideally, you want to build lines of three discs that have open spaces on either side, forcing your opponent to set you up for a win or leaving him with no way to block you in one move.

Connect Four Variations

Some versions of Connect Four allow you to play different games. For example, you can snap on wings on either side of the grid to play for five in a row, play power discs to get an extra turn or use a popout bar at the bottom to remove individual discs without emptying the whole grid so you can play PopOut and Pop 10.

In PopOut, on your turn you can choose to put discs in the top of the grid, or remove one of your own discs from the bottom. In Pop 10, players fill the grid and then remove their discs from the bottom with each turn. If a removed disc is part of a four-in-a-row sequence, they retain the disc; if it isn't, they put it back in the grid at the top, in a row different from where it was removed. The first player to collect 10 discs from four-in-a-row sequences wins.

About the Author

Carol Finch has been writing technology, careers, business and finance articles since 2000, tapping into her experience in sales, marketing and technology consulting. She has a bachelor's degree in Modern Languages, a Chartered Institute of Marketing.certificate and unofficial tech and gaming geek status with her long-suffering friends and family.