Connect Four is fun for all campers, young and old.
Taking the kids on a camping excursion means you have to keep them entertained, too. Over the years we've found a few games ideally suited to the rigors of the campground. One of our favorites is Connect Four, from Milton Bradley [retail price, $19.99].
Connect Four is billed as "the vertical four-in-a-row checkers game," and looks like an upright version of Tic-Tac-Toe. This game is neither checkers nor the classically unwinnable kid's pastime game. In fact, Amazon.com rates it four stars out of five, and we agree wholeheartedly. Players can indeed win this game; it provides a serious challenge to strategists who can see a few moves ahead.
The game "board" is an upright enclosure that accepts traditional checkers pieces in sequence. It's seven slots wide and six spaces tall. The object of the game, quite obviously, is to "connect four" of your red or black chips -- vertically, horizontally, or diagonally. Since red and black alternate play, you have to plan ahead to set up unstoppable combinations while keeping a watchful eye on your opponent's moves. We've seen many games lost by a player who forgot to play defense as he plotted his offense.
What makes Connect Four such a good choice for camping?
1. It's waterproof. A sudden rainstorm won't hurt this game one bit. Believe me, this matters!
2. It's wind-proof, too. Trying to play card games or Monopoly at the campground can be frustrating if there's the slightest breeze. Even if a sudden gust topples the game board, you can stand it right back up and continue playing.
3. No batteries or power cord required. This should probably be listed as reason number one!
3. Campers of all ages and skill level can learn to play in just minutes. You won't need an instruction sheet. New friends from the campsite next to you can join right in without hours of initiation.
4. It's far more challenging than it first appears. How many times have you heard that timeless whine, "I'm bored"? That's why we play games while camping, in the first place. Finding an easy game that doesn't "get old" in minutes is a big win-win for kids and parents alike.
5. Individual matches are over quickly. Some games last less than a minute; others take as much as five, but rarely longer. Players can come and go, yelling "I play winner" as they switch between this game and other activities.
6. You can buy more than one game. At $20 or less, with used games easy to find at Goodwill and yard sales, you can have two or three available so more players can compete at the same time. This makes things more interesting, because:
We like to hold Connect Four tournaments.
Because the game plays so quickly it lends itself to tournament play, even when you have other things going on at the same time. By using simple "brackets" like you see every year for the NCAA's basketball March Madness, you can easily arrange competitive match-ups that eventually crown a Connect Four Champion...
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