Fun Alternative Games (Similar) to Connect 4 (4 in a Row)

Puzzle game (Connect 4) with red and yellow counters
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Connect 4 is a game that I often play at family gatherings. It is a game that is great for kids, adults, and oldies alike. While the rules of Connect 4 are easy to learn, the game can be somewhat challenging too, which makes for great fun.

Even though I am always keen to play a game of Connect 4, because of the element of fun as well as the many cognitive and brain stimulation benefits of the game, not everyone is always on board (sadly!). And when this happens, I like to have a backup game available that is similar to Connect 4 so that I don’t have to completely lose out. Today I am sharing my favorite alternatives to Connect with you – enjoy!

Similar games to Connect 4:

  1. Chinese Checkers
  2. Battleship
  3. Jenga
  4. Renju or Gomoku (Five in a Row)

I find that all of these games offer a variety of benefits that are quite similar to those provided by Connect 4. These include developing basic mathematics skills, problem-solving, pattern detection skills, strategic thinking, and adaptability. Playing Connect 4 is also about having fun and bonding with your opponent. 

If you have not heard of these games before, or if you would like to learn just a little more about each of them; read on below, where you will find a bit more information and background on each of them. I hope that you add each of these to your board game collection soon!

4 Games That Are Similar to Connect 4

When the time comes to pack away the Connect 4 (just temporarily, do not worry), you have to come up with alternative games to play to keep the crowd and yourself entertained. If you are also keen on learning a few new games (and playing them) that are similar to Connect 4, consider these 4 options below:

1. Chinese Checkers

Video Source: YouTube / Triple S Games 

Just like Connect 4, Chinese Checkers is a game that is ideal for young players with the ability to think strategically, and who have not lost interest in playing board games. Most people believe, due to the game’s name, that Chinese Checkers comes from China, but it does not. The game is of German origin and is also known as Chinese Chequers and Stern-Halma. It came out in 1892 and has been extremely popular ever since. 

The game can be played by 2 to 6 people playing as individuals or with partners as teams, with the typical game taking between 10 minutes and 30 minutes to complete. Of course, games can also take a lot longer to play.

The objective of a game of Chinese Checkers is to be the first to get all of your pieces across the board. The movements used are single steps or jump moves. Each player must end up with their pieces in the “home” corner directly opposite them. When only 2 players are playing, each plays with 15 pieces. When there are more players present, each player has 10 pieces. 

Once the first person has made it to the other side of the board, they are deemed the winner, but the game doesn’t end. The rest of the players continue to battle it out for runner up positions. 

Playing Checkers is great for fine motor skills development, eye-hand coordination, strategic thinking, and adaptability; much like Connect 4.

2. Battleship

Video Source: YouTube / Triple S Games 

Battleship is also a game that is based on strategic thinking and adaptability, much like Connect 4. There is a great deal of guesswork involved in the game too. 

The game is designed for two players and is played on a board or on paper with ruled grids. On the grid, players plot their fleet of ships and their battleships. The locations are only known to the players and not shared with each other. Each player takes a turn calling a “shot” at the opponent’s ships with the objective of obliterating the opponent’s fleet. When the position of a ship is correctly called out, the player must mark it as out.

Battleship has come a long way in the world of board games. In the 1930s, the game was published as a pad-and-pencil game and was only later produced on a plastic board in 1967. The more recent versions of the game are played on electronic gadgets, smart devices, and apps. 

The origins of Battleship are said to come from a French game that was popular during WWI. The French game was called L’Attaque. What most people do not know is that Battleship was one of the first popular computer games ever produced (when computer games became popular) in 1977.

Battleship is played on 4 grids, which are square and have 10×10 blocks. Each block has a letter and number identifier mark in it. The player must arrange his/her ships on these blocks so that when a player calls out a number and letter, he/she can determine if his/her ship has been hit or not. 

This type of gameplay helps with cognitive development, fine motor skills development, strategic thinking, and developing quick reaction times. 

3. Jenga

Video Source: YouTube / Triple S Games 

Just like Connect 4, Jenga is great for cognitive development, fine motor skills, strategic thinking, and critical reasoning. 

The game focuses on players stacking blocks in a tower, and then removing them one by one, without compromising the stability of the structure. The player who removes a block that results in the falling of the tower is the player that ends the game. Jenga is a game that has proven highly engaging and beneficial to players of various ages and backgrounds. It’s actually a firm favorite at my family gatherings.

Jenga has an interesting history in that it was created by Oxford Games Ltd co-founder, Leslie Scott, in the 1970s. The game was initially one that originated within her family using wooden blocks that were bought from a sawmill in Ghana, Africa. It is called “Jenga” because the Swahili (the language spoken in Ghana) word “Jenga” means “to build”.

The game is played with 54 wooden blocks that are all similar in dimensions, but not exactly identical. This is to ensure that the game is challenging and that there is some instability in the tower (this makes the game interesting, in my opinion). To play Jenga, a tower must be stacked up from the blocks, using the loading tray included in the game pack to ensure that it is neat and as stable as possible. The result is an 18 level structure of 3 blocks per level.

The player who constructs the tower is the first person to start and must remove one block from any of the levels, except the level below the partial top level (which, obviously, should not be moved. Once the block is removed, it must be stacked back on the top of the tower. Only one hand can be used to remove blocks and replace them on top of the tower. 

Players are allowed to tap a block gently to see if it moves before moving onto another piece to try move, if required. If the tower falls, the game is considered over. The winner of the game is the last person who removed and stacked a block without the tower toppling over.

Some of the benefits of playing Jenga are very much like Connect 4 and include the following:

  • Development of fine motor skills. 
  • Strategic thinking.
  • Adaptability.
  • Problem-solving.

4. Renju or Gomoku (Five in a Row)

Video Source: YouTube / theMinecraftMethod

 Renju is a Japanese board game that I personally find highly entertaining. It is known as the professional/ tournament version of the well-known Japanese game Gomoku. The game is said to date back to as early as 700 AD. In fact, it was derived from several similar games that have been passed down through Japanese generations. The game was named “Renju” by the first permanent Japanese Meijin (a highly-skilled master) who made information on the game available on the 6th of December 1899 in the Yorozu-Chouhou newspaper.

Renju is played on a board that is a grid of 15×15 squares, using black and white game pieces called “stones”. The game is quite aptly described in the board game world as an “abstract strategy game”. The main objective of the game is very similar to that of Connect 4, as players must aim to get 5 of their stones in a row. The game is designed for 2 players, and most rounds take between 10 minutes and 30 minutes.

Much like Connect 4, Renju is helpful in developing fine motor skills, strategic thinking, and adaptability. It is a game that has proven fun for the whole family; ask me, I know!

Last Word

If you are looking for games that have a similar game plan to Connect 4, look for board games that focus on strategy, quick thinking, patterns, and guesswork. While none will be 100% the same as Connect 4, you will find a variety of options that come close in terms of gameplay and are just as much fun. If you take the time to try out any of the abovementioned options: enjoy and good luck!