Milton Bradley calls Connect Four “The Vertical Checkers Game”. It is definitely vertical and the playing pieces can be checkers but the similarity ends there. Connect Four always seems more like tic-tac-toe than checkers.
MB first sold a copy of Connect Four in 1974. The game seems like it has been around a lot longer than that and it has been! There are rumors that Captain Cook played a wooden version of a similar game so much that it was called Captain’s Mistress. But nobody really knows for sure. There are some pictures of games using wooden balls from the early 1900’s where the goal is to get four balls of the same color in a row.
Connect Four uses a 6 high by 7 wide upright plastic grid with see through holes. Players take turns dropping circular pieces like checkers into a column of their choice. If it is the first piece in that column then it will be on the first row. If it is the second piece it will rest on the prior piece dropped in that column so it will be in the second row. And onward.
The goal is to win by getting four of your pieces in a row horizontally, vertically or diagonally.
Using the modern grid of 6x7 and 0 to 42 playing pieces there are 4,531,985,219,092 possible layouts. Also MIT released a 55 page paper on Connect Four in 2010 describing different strategies for winning. In that paper MIT describes Connect Four as a “tic-tac-toe like game”...so take that MB!
The Good: Fun game that teaches strategy to kids. The Bad: When the little gate at the bottom breaks you need MacGyver around to fix it.
The Dastardly: The key to winning Connect Four is to be the first player and never make a mistake...you win!