The Rules of Connect 4 (According to M. Bradley & Hasbro)

Playground with Giant 4 Connect
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Connect 4 has been a family favorite ever since Milton Bradley released it in 1974 and for very good reason. It has been a go-to game in my family for many years. The game is a tremendous amount of fun and can be played by the whole family – young and old. 

If you are a newbie to board games and have not had the opportunity to play Connect 4 before, prepare to become instantly addicted! Before you can get started and become the next Connect 4 champion in your family or social circle, you have to familiarize yourself with the rules first. 

According to Milton Bradley and Hasbro, the rules of Connect 4 are as follows:

Connect 4 Rules

OBJECTIVE:

  • To be the first player to connect 4 of the same colored discs in a row (either vertically, horizontally, or diagonally)

HOW TO PLAY:

  • First, decide who goes first and what color each player will have. 
  • Players must alternate turns, and only one disc can be dropped in each turn. 
  • On your turn, drop one of your colored discs from the top into any of the seven slots. 
  • The game ends when there is a 4-in-a-row or a stalemate.
  • The starter of the previous game goes second on the next game.

I’ll suggest you take a quick look at the following clip from our friends at Tripe S Games, who made a short but very helpful video on how to play Connect 4. 

Video Source: YouTube / Tripe S Games 

As you can see, the rules of Connect 4 are actually quite simple to learn. Once you have them mastered, you can start winning game after game of Connect 4. Something to keep in mind is that simply knowing the rules of Connect 4 will not guarantee you a win. You need to work on your strategy and technique in order to increase your chances of winning. 

Before you can put the rules into action, you need to know what the game is all about and how to set the game up. Let’s take a closer look at these details first and then jump into the rules.

What is Connect 4? – What is the Object of the Connect 4 Game?

If you have not played Connect 4 before, you might wonder what it is, who it is best-suited to, and how to go about playing it. Connect 4 is a connection game created for 2 players that was invented in the 1970s and went on to be wildly popular all throughout the 1980s and to date. 

In the game, players take turns inserting colored discs (each player chooses one color) into a suspended rack. Once dropped into the top of each column, the pieces slot into the lowest spaces in each column. 

By inserting discs, players aim to form a row of 4 colored discs all in a row. For instance, if a player is playing with red discs and manages to get 4 red-colored discs in a horizontal, vertical, or diagonal row, the game is won. 

It is said that the game has been solved, which means that the first person to play can always win if they know the right moves. The solution dictates that winning is made easier by controlling the center of the rack (playing discs into the center column). But that is all about strategy …let’s talk about setting up the game and the actual rules.

Setting Up Connect 4 | How to Set Up Connect 4

There is nothing complicated about setting up a game of Connect 4. In fact, it is absolutely simple. There are two stands included in the game that are used to snap the vertical game board together. This takes just a second to do – convenient, right? I certainly think so! 

Setting up boardgame, Connect 4
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The game board is essentially a 2-window rack with 6 rows and 7 columns and makes for extremely easy play. Each of the columns has a hole at the very top, where the game pieces are inserted and dropped down. You will not have to fiddle around here to get your game discs to slot in – simply slot the disc in and watch it slip down to just where you want it to be. 

In the rack window, each game piece can be seen from both sides of the rack. Once the board (also called a “rack” once it is in standing position) is in place, the two players need to decide who will be red or who will be black (yellow) on the game board. Each player gets 21 game pieces of the same color to use. 

How to Play Connect 4 | The Rules of Connect 4

Now that the Connect 4 game board or rack is set up, you can start the game. Let’s take a look at the rules below.

Players must connect 4 of the same colored discs in a row to win.

So, what’s the objective of playing Connect 4? What’s the point and how is a winner declared? The main objective of the game of Connect 4 is for players to slot 4 of their discs into the rack and be able to get them all in a row (4 in a row). It is really in the name of the game, isn’t it? The gameplay is quite similar to that of Tic-Tac-Toe in that the pieces must all be placed 4-in-a-row vertically, horizontally, or diagonally in order for a player to claim a win.

Only one piece is played at a time.

You might think that getting 4 discs in a row is easy if you can simply slot 4 discs into the rack at a time, but that is not how it works. The fact that players alternate turns makes the game unpredictable and means that the opponent can block your attempts to create a 4-in-a-row rather successfully. Players can only play one piece at a time, and so there has to be a lot of thought that goes into it. 

Kid playing a traditional strategy game, connect 4
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To play, a player must insert just one of their discs into the rack. You can insert your game discs to build a row of 4 pieces, or you can insert your game discs strategically so as to stop your opponent from achieving a 4-in-a-row. How you play the game is really up to you.

Players can be on the offensive or defensive.

Players can either play offensively or defensively on the rack – it’s really up to you how you play. That means you can either focus simply on achieving a 4-in-a-row of your colored discs, or you can rather focus on blocking your opponent from achieving any connect 4s. 

I have personally found that a combination of offensive and defensive play is most effective. When I focus on merely blocking my opponent, I lose out on the satisfaction of creating my own 4-in-a-row. And when I complete neglect blocking my opponent by only focusing on creating my 4-in-a-row, they can surprise me with an unexpected win. 

The game ends when there is a 4-in-a-row or a stalemate.

You might wonder what it takes to win. When is the game over? Do you keep trying to get 4 in a row after a player has already achieved it? The game is considered “over” when one of the players manages to get 4 of their own colored discs in a row diagonally, horizontally, or vertically. 

But that is not the only time the game is over. What if neither of the players is able to achieve a 4-in-a-row? Once most of the slots are filled and it’s impossible for any player to get 4-in-a-row, the game is considered over because of a stalemate. Unfortunately, there is no winner in this instance, and re-match can be played.

The starter of the previous game goes second on the next game.

If players want to play more than one round of Connect 4, the player who started second on the previous round usually starts the next round.

Packing Up the Game Board/Rack

The game of Connect 4 by Milton Bradley
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While there are no rules attached to packing up the Connect 4 game board or rack, it does not hurt to know what to do. 

After the game is complete, you can simply slide the switch located on the bottom of the game board rack. Place the game box under the rack, slide the switch, and the game pieces will all drop out from the bottom. This makes clearing up after the game quick and convenient.

Last Word

Once you have played Connect 4 a few times, the rules will become clearer and easier. I remember feeling vaguely challenged at first when it came to the rules, and then I realized that the rules are easy to understand…mastering the rules and the correct strategy is where the hard work really is. Now that you know how to play Connect 4, it is time to get started. Enjoy, and good luck!