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Minesweeper Explained: How To Play & Rules – 14 Things To Know

Last Updated on January 25, 2024 by Gamesver Team and JC Franco

Minesweeper is one of those games that no one seems to know how to play. You may have even found yourself randomly clicking away in the hopes of figuring out how the game works. Then BOOM – another game lost. Thankfully, there’s no more need for endless random clicking, as we will explain how to play Minesweeper and its rules.  

Learning how to play Minesweeper is a simple matter once you familiarize yourself with the rules and the layout of the game. First, become familiar with the flag, mine, and number symbols in Minesweeper. To win the game, you need to open every numbered block without hitting a mine.

1. Understand The Goal Of Minesweeper

You can’t win a game if you don’t know what the goal of the game is. The same is true for Minesweeper. If you have tried to play Minesweeper before, you might have noticed that the game ends once you hit a mine. Thus, it is probably quite clear that you should avoid the mines at all costs.

Though this is a great aim to have in mind, you can also think of it in another way; a more precise way. The goal of the game is to complete the board without detonating any mines. Think of yourself as part of a landmine detection unit whose sole job is to mark areas that are safe – i.e., no bombs – and mark areas that contain mines.

2. Choose The Correct Board Size In Minesweeper

For all you ambitious beginners out there, you may want to consider dialing it back a bit- for the beginning phase at least. I say this because sometimes it is natural to want to tackle the more challenging levels from the get-go (who wants to play at a beginner level, right?). 

Even so, it is always better to play at a level that suits your gaming abilities. Once you have mastered that level, you can move on to a slightly higher level. Minesweeper comes in three difficulty levels; beginner, intermediate, and expert. 

Beginner minesweeper consists of a 8 x 8 or 9 x 9 board; intermediate is 16 x16, and expert is 30 x 16 board. Considering that you are reading this article, it is probably safe to assume you are a beginner. So the beginner board will be best suited to you. However, you are free to choose the difficulty level you prefer. Best of luck!

3. Understand What The Mine Symbol Means In Minesweeper

The mine symbol is quite straightforward. If you see a mine on your game board, it means that you have hit a mine. And just like the real world, stumbling across a mine is far from good news. Luckily, the worst news a mine brings in Minesweeper is that you have lost the game, and the game is over.

Once you hit a mine, the board will reveal all the other hidden mines within the game. Thankfully, hitting a mine in Minesweeper is not so bad, as you can simply choose to play a new game or replay the last move.

4. Understand What The Flag Symbol Means In Minesweeper

flag on a square means that there is a hidden mine within that square. These flags are placed by you, the ‘mine-detector,’ and should be used when you are sure of the location of the bomb. You don’t need to place the flags to win, but using them would certainly be easier than trying to keep track of the mines yourself. 

5. Understand What The Question Mark Means In Minesweeper

Question marks are used when you are unsure of whether there is a mine hidden within the block or not; hence, the appropriate use of the question mark symbol is to represent uncertainty. Once you have figured out whether the block contains a mine, you can open the block or change the question mark to a flag. 

Unfortunately, not all versions of Minesweeper have the option to place a question mark. So, in this case, you will have to do without it or use a flag as a ‘temporary question mark.’ However, be sure to return to the block to make your final decision.

6. Understand What The Numbers Mean In Minesweeper

When you open a block in Minesweeper, you might notice that a number is revealed. These numbers are the crux of the game, so it is vitally important to understand what they mean. The number gives you an indication of how many mines are located in the blocks adjacent to that specific, numbered block. 

Another way of looking at it is to picture the numbered block within the center of a larger square (the surrounding adjacent blocks). The number will tell you how many mines are in the larger square surrounding the block. 

For instance, if a block has the number 2, it means that it has two mines surrounding it. However, it does not tell you which two blocks have the mines, so it is up to your logic and skill to determine which ones are dangerous. 

7. Understand What The Blank Squares Mean In Minesweeper

If you see blank squares on the game board, don’t worry, you did not somehow break the game. Sometimes when you click on a square, a cluster of squares will automatically open. These clusters of squares will include both blank and numbered squares. 

This automatic opening of squares usually happens when there are no neighboring mines. So essentially, you don’t have to worry about the blank squares as the game has already cleared those blocks.

8. Don’t Worry About The First Click In Minesweeper

If you are worried that your first click will end in disaster, you can rest easy. The Minesweeper game is designed in such a way that the first click is safe; This means you will never click on a mine on your first try. However, every click after that is fair play, so choose your blocks wisely. 

9. Know How To Win Minesweeper

To win Minesweeper, you must clear (open) all the blocks that do not contain mines. Therefore, if there is a flag on a perfectly safe block, you must remove the flag and open the block before you can win.

10. Use The Smiley Face In Minesweeper

If you happen to land on a mine, you will notice that the (once happy) smiley face has turned into the classic crossed-out-eyed smiley. To play a new game, click on the smiley, and a brand new board will appear.

11. Be Aware Of The Timer Box In Minesweeper

If you haven’t already noticed, Minesweeper has a timer located in a box to the right of the smiley. The timer starts from the moment of the first click and ends at the last click. Like most games with a timer, the aim is to complete the game in as little time as possible. 

However, many people opt to ignore the timer because, let’s face it, sweeping for mines is stressful enough without the added pressure of trying to clear the board in record time.

12. Be Aware Of The Counter Box In Minesweeper

Now that we have discussed the box to the right of the smiley, let’s discuss the box to the left. This box shows how many hidden mines are within the board. Once you mark a block with a flag, the number on the box will decrease. 

If you use more flags than there are mine, the counter will show a negative number. Remember, you can only win the game once all safe blocks are opened.

13. Take Chances In Minesweeper

Occasionally, you might find that your first click reveals number 1. While it is great that you are one step closer to finishing the game, it doesn’t give you an indication of where is the next safe click. In this case, you will have to take a chance and randomly select a block anywhere on the board and hope you don’t land on a mine.

14. Figure Out The Safe Blocks In Minesweeper

We have previously mentioned that a number indicates how many mines surround it in adjacent blocks. While it is important to use the information given, we can also use the adjacent numbered blocks to help figure out where the mine might lie. 

Try to keep in mind that two numbered blocks may share a mine within their proximity, so try and work out where the mines are by considering the surrounding numbered blocks.

Last Word

Learning how to play Minesweeper is fairly easy once you familiarize yourself with the rules and layout of the game. Practicing will help you improve your skills and complete larger boards.

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This article was co-authored by our team of in-house and freelance writers, and reviewed by our editors, who enjoy sharing their knowledge about their favorite games with others!

JC Franco
Editor | + posts

JC Franco serves as a New York-based editor for Gamesver. His interest for board games centers around chess, a pursuit he began in elementary school at the age of 9. Holding a Bachelor’s degree in Business from Mercyhurst University, JC brings a blend of business acumen and creative insight to his role. Beyond his editorial endeavors, he is a certified USPTA professional, imparting his knowledge in tennis to enthusiasts across the New York City Metropolitan area.