Is Connect 4 Considered a Board Game? (Let’s see…)

Hasbro Connect 4 - Board game
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What makes a board game an actual board game in your mind? This is something I have been thinking about lately. 

In my family childhood home, there stands a wooden kist packed to the brim with much-loved board games. Over the years, we have collected quite a selection of games, and Connect 4 is one of my personal favorites. While I was enthusiastically hauling the Connect 4 game pack out of the kist the other evening at a family gathering, someone suggested that Connect 4 is actually not a board game. I must be honest; I did not really know how to respond! Is it or is it not a board game – I had to know.

Is Connect 4 considered a board game? Connect 4 is not a board game by definition. Connect 4 is actually an abstract strategy game that is both entertaining and educational. While Connect 4 does not strictly fit in with the definition of the term “board game”, players still consider it a board game as do retailers of the game. 

With that being said, I think the definition of the term board game is somewhat loose.

Board games are a staple part of most people’s childhoods, but when we say “board game”, we are not specifically referring to games that fit in strictly with the definition of the term, are we? That would exclude a wide variety of more modern board games that do not include a specific playing board or include playing cards, wouldn’t it? That is what I thought!

After taking a look at all of the selection of board games at my childhood home, I came to the conclusion that many of our more modern games do not fit in with the strict definition of the term “board game”, but we still consider them much-loved board games in our selection.  

If you want to learn more about how Connect 4 is not a board game, but also is a board game, read on!

What is the Definition of a Board Game? Does Connect 4 Fit That Definition?

Board games concept
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Before we can determine if Connect 4 is a board game or not, we need to take a closer look at the definition of the term “board game”. I decided this was necessary to aid in my research into Connect 4 worthiness of being called a board game and so I headed off to the Oxford English dictionary (“the definitive record of the English language”). 

I found that the Oxford English dictionary defines a board game as follows: 

“a game that involves the movement of counters or other objects round a board”.

Paperback Oxford English Dictionary (2012) – Page 72 

That is a fairly clear and strict definition. I found that it totally excludes many of the board games that I have in my collection. Perhaps it is time we changed how we define games!

I had to ask myself if Connect 4 fits in with that description, and I found that it does not quite. Why not? Well, to help us understand things a bit better, let us take a look at the details. 

Yes, Connect 4 has a playing board, which makes you immediately think that it fits the definition, but does it really? However, the playing board is not just laid flat on the table like a regular game board, but still, it could be argued that Connect 4 has a board, regardless of its format. 

Where it does not fit in with the definition, in my opinion, is the actual style of gameplay referred to in the definition: “movement of counters or other objects round a board”. I had to think about how Connect 4 is played, and there is no actual moving of the discs around the board. 

Playing connect 4 or 4 in a row
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Once the disc is slotted into the rack (or onto the board) that is it…it does not move anywhere. So, to play Connect 4, players must use discs, but they are not moved round the board – they remain fixed once played and then a new disc is used for the next move. There are 42 game discs included in a Connect 4 game pack. 

The game “board” of Connect 4 is an actual rack that consists of 7 columns by 6 rows and stands vertically instead of lying flat on the table. The discs are not moved round the board but rather dropped down into the columns. 

I did a bit of reading on a variety of online forums and found that several people find it worth arguing over the status of Connect 4. Is it a board game or is it not a board game – it seems a lot of people want to know! The discussions can get quite heated on the likes of Reddit and other forums that focus specifically on board games. 

But Maybe Connect 4 is a Board Game

It seems to me as if the definition of board games is based on old fashioned and traditional versions of board games that followed a very specific format. 

I could argue that Connect 4 is, in fact, a board game because the rack is a board. The definition does not strictly say that the board has to be in a flat position on the table. The discs used are game pieces that are moved around the board, just not in a specific clock-wise motion actually around the board. That settles it for me; Connect 4 is a board game (in my opinion at least).

How Do Stores & Online Sites Classify Connect 4?

While I had pretty much made up my mind at this point that Connect 4 is a board game, I wanted to know how others viewed it. Other than the forums and blogs I had been reading, of course. I decided to take a look at how online game stores and even physical stores are classifying Connect 4. Is it featured alongside other board games, or is there another category that Connect 4 is listed under? I set out to find out. 

Classic board games on a store shelf, Operation, Twister and connect 4 amongst others
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While scrolling around the Board Game Geek website, I found that they had listed Connect 4 as an abstract strategy game. Of course, most people head to their favorite online stores to buy their games, and so I headed off to Amazon next. After clicking through to the Games & Accessories section, I discovered that they, too, have Connect 4 listed under board gamesFor all intents and purposes, for me, this truly confirmed that Connect 4 is, in fact, a board game and worth of being called one. 

How Connect 4 and Traditional Board Games (by definition) are Similar

I still wanted to find out how Connect 4 can fit in with the definition of the term “board game”, so I took a look into the various similarities between traditional board games (by definition) and Connect 4. What makes a board game actually a board game to you? What are your personal features or characteristics of a board game? I have a loose understanding of what a board game is and has/includes in my mind. Here they are:

There’s a playing board.

Board games and Connect 4 both make use of a board, except the Connect 4 board is in a rack format that is clipped into a stand and stood up vertically. 

There are equipment and playing tokens.

Board games involve the use of playing discs or tokens, and so does Connect 4. Connect 4 includes 42 discs in total, which are divided between the 2 players (21 each). The discs are red and yellow (or black). 

Puzzle game, Connect 4, with red and yellow discs
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They involved a healthy dose of competition.

Board games are competitive and involve either 2 people or 2 teams/groups playing against each other. Connect 4 is designed for 2 players who play against each other. 

There are rules.

I find that all board games have a set of rules that must be followed. Connect 4 also has a set of rules that players have to follow.

They focus on entertainment and education.

Board games are designed to entertain and educate. Connect 4 is also designed to entertain and educate. People who play Connect 4 can learn to plan ahead and detect patterns. It also teaches basic mathematics and problem-solving skills.

Last Word

When it comes to classifying games, I find that it is quite difficult to fit more modern innovative games in with the old, traditional definitions of board games. Does that mean that they are not actually board games? No, it does not. Connect 4 is most certainly a board game in my home.

With that being said, the next time someone suggests that Connect 4 is not actually a board game; I will be able to argue the point with them, because I believe that it most certainly is!