If you’ve ever played Connect Four, you’ll immediately understand the attraction of playing with three or four players. With two players, you’ve got strategy. With three or four, you’ve got politics. Sometimes, you just have to cooperate with the very people you are competing against, just to keep someone else from winning. Such is the nature of playing with more than two.
And it’s prettier – having four colors instead of two. Colored rings, even.
But that’s just part of what makes this game so worthy of our collective consideration. The other part is the channels that accommodate the ex-checker rings. They’re double-wide, double-sided. Which means that two rings fit where only one ring used to. And you win regardless of whether your ring is in the front or back of a channel – as long as there are four-in-a-row of your color.
There are also two “blocker” pieces for each color. Double-wide themselves, they fit into both sides of a channel. The blockers are powerful pieces, which is why you only have two of them, which is why you have to conserve them, which is what makes the game all the more inviting for people who like to ponder.
The strategic implications of all this are profound and subtle. Profound enough to make you have to rethink pretty-much everything you know about how to win Connect Four, subtle enough to make the game challenging enough to attract an adult audience, and perhaps too challenging for younger children. But, like Connect Four, the mechanics of dropping checkers into different columns, of being able to empty the entire board by moving the retaining wall on the bottom are still very much present, and at least fascinating enough to keep the toy-value of the game as playworthy as the game itself.
Hasbro has been full of gleeful surprises of late. Though they’ve been releasing new versions of their licensed products for a while, they have taken great efforts, in most cases, to make sure that the new releases are also new games – different enough from their predecessors to be worthy of serious consideration. Elegant enough to be easy to learn and to invite players to develop their own variations. Fun enough to sustain many hours of thought-provoking, deeply engaging play.