Four in a Row, also more commonly known as Hasbro MB Games ‘Connect 4’ or Captain’s Mistress is a straightforward strategy game in which counters are dropped down vertical shoots with the objective of getting four counters in a row horizontally, vertically or diagonally.
Origins and History
It is not exactly known when the first Four in a Row game appeared. There are claims and whispers of legend that it may have been a game which was around in Captain Cooks time and was carved or made by hand and played to pass time. This could just be a myth and the only slight link or claim is when a Washington company in 1987 copyrighted a version called Captains Mistress, and on the packaging, they claim on voyages this was played, but of course, no way to prove one way or another.
Milton Bradley MB Games (now Hasbro) started selling their massively successful version of the game called Connect 4 in February 1974 (1976 in UK).
But the game has certainly been around for much longer, In a book by Robbie Bell, there is a picture of a 4 in a row game that he references “Four Balls”. It is a wooden game made to exactly the same design. There is also higher quality example through being made from Mahogany with beach balls for pieces. Bell says that the date of the game is uncertain but it is estimated that it is Edwardian c. 1901 – 1910. On the bottom of the game in gold lettering is inscribed “Remy Martin Cognac”.
Apart from Hasbro’s Connect 4, many modern games manufacturers make a version of Four in A Row from small cheap plastic travel versions to larger wooden versions.
Since the turn of the century a boom in the production of Giant versions of the game for parties and events in the UK company Garden Games market a version licenced by Hasbro called Giant Connect 4, in the USA it is called ‘Up for It’.
In Spanish a company Feber market it as ‘Mega 4 in a Line’ – another brightly coloured robust Giant version of Four in a Row that can be seen all over the place in garden centres and play areas etc. The old veteran games company Jaques make a Four in a Row game called ‘Score Four’ that they also make it a very large version.
Another corollary game derived from Four in a Row is a 3D version of the game. This was first sold by a company called Funtastic in 1968 under the name Score 4 and again clones of it abound to this day – including the inevitable Hasbro version. The classic version of the game, however, is made from wood and consists of a 4 x 4 grid of vertical poles sticking up from aboard. Players drop wooden beads down the poles.