While Tic-Tac-Toe may be the original game about getting pieces in a row, Connect 4 is one of the classic pieces-in-a-row strategy games. Unlike Tic-Tac-Toe, which most people know how to play without losing, Connect 4 involves slightly more strategy. Like Tic-Tac-Toe it's played between two people but unlike its predecessor which only requires a piece of paper and something to write with Connect 4 does require a special board to play.
Connect 4 can move quickly which requires some quick strategizing on the part of its players. Here are some quick tips on how to win at Connect 4:
Not Quite Tic-Tac-Toe
It's true that Connect 4 is very similar to Tic-Tac-Toe but for players who are not used to the board, it can be almost intimidating. One of the most important things to remember while playing is that you need to anticipate your opponents move more so than you would in Tic-Tac-Toe. You don't want to inadvertently force your opponent into a winning move!
Play in the Center Column as Often as Possible
On the standard 7-column board, any connect-four that is not vertical MUST use one checker from the center column. This means that if you control most of the central column, it will be very difficult for your opponent to get a connect-four.
Look a Few Moves Ahead
If your opponent can create three in a row with an open, playable space on either side, then you will probably lose.
Prevent this ahead of time by paying attention as soon as your opponent gets two checkers in a row. Trying to anticipate ways your opponent could win will help you defend against it.
Watch out for Game-Ending Spaces
It will sometimes happen that a certain space on the board would give a connect-four to either you or your opponent, depending on who plays there.
If this occurs, then as soon as that space is filled, the game will be over. Because of this, you can safely ignore all spaces above the game-ending space in the same column -- as well as any potential connect-fours that rely on the spaces you are ignoring.
Never Play Directly Below the Game-Ending Space
This will allow your opponent to play into the space and claim victory. Conversely, you should attempt to force your opponent to play just below the game-ending space, perhaps by setting up a connect-four that forces your opponent to block in the critical space.
Fork Your Threats Whenever Possible
The ideal position is to have two potential connect-fours that need a final checker on two spaces that are on top of each other. This will usually lead to a victory because you can threaten in the first space. If the opponent fails to block, you win. If the opponent blocks, you play on top to win in the next space. A simple way to set this up is to make a "7" with your checkers, such that finishing the horizontal or diagonal connect-four on the right will be two spaces on top of each other.