Connect 4 revisited

There’s a new version of Connect 4. It’s called Connect 4. But it’s more. It’s three different Connect 4 games. The first, you already know. It’s the “original” Connect 4. The second is not. It’s called “PopOut Connect 4.” The third is also new. It’s called “Pop Ten.”

The bottom row of the Connect 4 grid has been changed. There’s a sliding bar on the very bottom. If you slide it to the right, the checkers that are in the bottom row can be “popped” out. Well, pushed out. Which, in turn, will cause all the checkers that are in that column to fall down one space. Which results in a new alignment of checkers. Which could very well result in the sudden appearance of a line of 4 checkers, all ever so delightfully in a row.

You can only pop checkers of your own color. Which makes sense, considering. In PopOut Connect 4, you either add a checker, as in traditional Connect 4, or push one of your checkers out of the bottom row. In either event, if it results in 4-in-a-row (of your checkers, of course), you win. On the other hand, your pop could result in the very alignment your opponent was so sincerely wishing for. Thus, even though the game is very much like your traditional Connect 4, it’s different enough for you to have to rethink everything you know about Connect 4 strategies.

Then there’s Pop 10, which, oddly enough, is a different game altogether, a figure-ground reversal, one might say, a shift in your basic Connect 4 gestalt. To game begins with a board-full of checkers. You take turns, dropping one checker at a time, until there are no more checker-accommodating spaces. A move consists of popping a checker out of the bottom row (again, you can only pop checkers of your own kind). You can pop any of your bottom-row checkers. But, if that checker happens to already be part of a 4-in-a-row alignment, you can pop again. Every time you do so, you get to keep that checker. When you can no longer pop, your turn is over. If the checker you pop is not part of a Connected 4, you return it to some other column.

Pop 10 is different from all other variations of Connect 4. And it is as much fun. Because there are three so very different versions, you have to decide which you want to play together. This is a decision that you have to make together. And, simply because you are both making that decision, the game takes its rightful place as a way to have fun together – not so much as a way to see who is the better thinker or player or person, but more to find a game that you both want to play, together.

The thing about all Connect 4 games, and so many of the best of Hasbro games, is that they’re very much like toys – as much fun to play with as they are to play. The new Connect 4 is just that: fun to play, fun to play with. Easy to understand, but different enough from everything you know about traditional Connect 4 to have to think of it as something new. Easy to learn. Quick to play. A genuinely enjoyable invitation to logical and strategic thinking. Major FUN.

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