Attractive wooden construction and quality craftsmanship with 3-inch pawns. Not too difficult to set up and take down. Can be used indoors and outdoors. Comes with a convenient storage/carry case.
Expensive, and takes up a bit of space compared to the tabletop versions.
A slightly different version of the game that allows players to use Blue Blocker discs to beat opponents. New instructions aren't difficult to learn for young children.
Complaints of the plastic construction having a flimsy feel compared to the sturdy build of the classic game of the past.
The game that's been a family favorite for generations in a board with a solid build. Has a convenient holding tray for the pawns. Folds easily for storage when not in use.
You'd be challenged to find issues or complaints about this nicely made game that provides fun for all ages.
A fun new version that makes this game more active, and introduces an element of chance. Bounce the balls into the slots to get 4 balls in a row. Easy to clean up when you're done playing.
There are better game choices for younger children. The design may not support the backboard well over time.
Sturdy wood construction in a travel size game. Board folds and slides in place to protect pawns when not in use. Lightweight and easy to carry.
Seems a bit smaller in person than expected, but if you are looking for a highly portable model this is an appealing feature.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
Some games become classics for a reason. The game Connect 4 has been entertaining players of all ages since the 1970s. Its goal is basic enough: place four checkers in a row horizontally, vertically, or horizontally to win. The vertical plane upgrades the game from a glorified game of tic-tac-toe to a contest involving real strategy.
But you can only stack checkers so many times before it starts to get old. Game manufacturers have recognized this and designed variations with fun twists on Connect 4 that can breathe new life into your game night or rainy afternoon. Other upgrades correct design flaws from the original concept that make playing, storing, and traveling with the game more practical.
Which fresh take on this family favorite will intrigue your gamers? Keep reading to learn more about the options. When you’re ready to buy, check our recommendations for the best Connect 4 games on the market.
Some Connect 4 sets improve the traditional game with better mechanics and materials. Others take the game to a whole new level with new rules, new pieces, or new mechanisms for depositing your tokens.
If you have a young child just learning to play board games, it’s best to stick with the traditional style. Its simple rules and uncluttered design make it a good choice for early strategic games. If your children are older or you’re looking for something for adults, your audience might enjoy the memories gameplay conjures, but appreciate the fresh twist.
Before you buy a new Connect 4 game set, it’s important to think about where you plan to use it. If you’re looking for a game to play at home, you can consider many of the fresh options on the market. Some versions include tools to flip your tokens into the grid. Others make you bounce balls into the board in a fashion reminiscent of ping pong. Active game play helps keep players engaged, and if a piece goes astray, you can always find it in the morning.
If you plan to take your game on the road, look for a smaller travel size that’s easier to pack. Most collapse more easily than the standard game and keep you from losing pieces. Some travel games include rugged boxes that are less likely to get crushed than their cardboard counterparts. Others are built atop a tray that helps keep your tokens from getting lost.
Connect 4 games played outdoors should be sturdier so they can stand up to wind gusts and occasional roughhousing. They should also be larger than standard boards so pieces are difficult to lose. Some outdoor game sets are made from thick, well-sealed wood to help protect against the elements. Others are fully plastic so that they can stay outside regardless of the weather.
Believe it or not, Connect 4 games actually come in several sizes. The board for the original game measures roughly one foot across and one foot wide. Smaller travel versions are more compact, measuring less than 10 inches across. At the other extreme, the largest sets are intended for outdoor use and measure four feet across. Choose one that works for your play and storage space.
Quality construction, quality memories
This larger-than-life Connect 4 game is made for both indoor and outdoor use and measures more than 30 inches wide. Its durable finished wood frame fits easily inside a sturdy nylon carrying case, as do its 42 red and blue tokens for play. It’s recommended for ages five and up, but even younger children enjoy playing with the oversized pieces and the satisfying sound they make when they drop into place.
You can find quality Connect 4 games made from both plastic and wood, and you can find them in travel, standard and extra-large sizes. If you’re looking for an oversized game that can stay outside permanently, plastic is the way to go. Larger wooden sets must return indoors to avoid water damage when it rains and are vulnerable to fading and cracking with excessive exposure to sun and heat.
For all other purposes, it’s a matter of preference, and there are pros and cons to both wood and plastic. Wooden travel sets may be slightly heavier, but it may absorb travel bumps and bruises better than plastic. Plastic sets may fit in a suitcase better without pushing airline weight limits. Plastic sets clean up better than wood after exposure to sticky juice and snack crumbs, but it may not stand up as well to use and abuse by a young child.
Some older Connect 4 game boards must be largely disassembled to store. Many newer options include boards that fold up when you’re done playing. Less assembly and disassembly as well as fewer moving parts means fewer lost pieces and longer game board life.
Many travel sets include cases to make them easier to transport. This is a welcome improvement over the original set’s flimsy cardboard box. Portable cases may be made from vinyl, plastic, or wood. In some cases, the board itself folds down to form part of the case for the ultimate in convenience and space saving.
One of the trivial annoyances in the original Connect 4 game was its lack of token storage during gameplay; tokens were simply loose on the table. Some manufacturers have fixed this inconvenience by attaching token trays on each side of the board, so little hands are less likely to fidget with and lose game pieces.
Connect 4 is also known as Four in a Row, Captain’s Mistress, Plot Four, and Drop Four.
Many primary school teachers use variations on Connect 4 to help teach Common Core math concepts.
Besides new variations of the game, Connect 4 has seen a resurgence in popularity thanks to mobile apps featuring the game.
Inexpensive: You can find a classic Connect 4 games for around $10. At this price, you’re getting a standard game set made with plastic components. You don’t have any value-added features like token trays or storage cases.
Mid-range: Games in the next price tier usually cost $11 to $15. In this range, you get either an upgraded traditional game or an updated game with new rules or features. You can find games made with plastic or wood in this tier. They may have storage trays, special carrying cases, or fold conveniently for travel or storage.
Expensive: The most expensive Connect 4 games are oversized models for outdoor use. Prices for these range from around $80 to $120. You find both wooden and plastic models in this price range. Portable oversized models should come with a storage case or carrying bag, and plastic styles that lack this feature should be durable enough to become permanent outdoor fixtures in your yard.
Classic game, convenient design
IAMGlobal’s updated design preserves classic gameplay while eliminating some of the frustrations with the original game board. A wide tray holds your tokens, keeping them from scattering across the table. When the game is over, simply lift the plastic gate rather than struggling with the release mechanism. This model is recommended for ages five and up.
Larger games with bigger tokens and wider slots may be easier for little hands to maneuver.
Be careful not to accidentally bump the gate release lever with a leg when playing oversized outdoor editions.
Young child frustrated with the game? Consider letting them connect three to win.
At four feet long, this oversized Giantville 4 in a Row Connect Game makes a great fixture in a yard, near the pool, or on a playground. Rings replace the original game’s solid tokens and can be stored on posts attached to the legs. Remind kids to take it easy on the release mechanism.
If you’re looking for something a little more grown up, Wooden 4 in a Row Game from JHY Design might fit the bill. This set skips the primary colors and uses light and dark wood tokens to differentiate players. A canvas bag holds the wooden chips.
Q. Where did Connect 4 come from, anyway?
A. While the game has many other names, it was first marketed by game maker Milton Bradley back in the winter of 1974. It was invented by Howard Wexler, a toy and game designer with a PhD in psychology, and independent toy designer Ned Strongin, who also contributed to the popular Weebles toys. At the time, Wexler noted that the majority of existing games were played flat on a table. His goal was to invent something that engaged the brain differently and required vertical orientation.
Q. Does Connect 4 have any alternate rules to make the game more interesting?
A. We’ve presented some new spins on the classic game in our recommendations, but there are other ways you can play even with a classic game board. Power Up and Pop 10 are two common variations, but the most popular one is called Pop Out. When playing Pop Out, players can deposit their tokens as usual, or remove one of their own colored tokens from the bottom of the board. Removing a token shifts the entire row downward, drastically changing your opponent’s strategy. The goal remains the same: lining up four tokens vertically, horizontally, or diagonally.
Q. At what age can my child start playing Connect 4?
A. While Hasbro markets the game for ages five and up, many children are able to understand the basics of Connect 4 by age four. If your child shows interest, give it a try — you may enjoy it more than many other popular preschool games. The tokens used to play Connect 4 can pose a choking risk for children under age three, so keep this in mind when playing.
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