Last weekend my wife and daughter went out of town (Girl Scout camping), leaving the boy and I to fend for ourselves for a couple of days. Those of you with kids (especially those of you with more than one) know that one-on-one time is a rare and desirable commodity, or at least it is in our house. One of the things my son and I did was hit a couple of Goodwill stores together, and one of our first finds of the day was a brand new in the box Mastermind game for $3.


If you’ve not played Mastermind before, the object is for one player, the Codebreaker, to guess a code that has been chosen by his or her opponent, the Codemaker. Codes consist of four pegs, and with six colors of pegs to choose from, that means there are 1,296 possible code combinations. Codebreakers get 12 attempts to guess the code; after each guess, the Codemaker will display between none and four key pegs. A red key peg means one of the guessed pegs is the right color and in the right position, and a white key peg means a peg is the right color, but in the wrong position. Part of the game’s difficultly is that the Codebreaker is not told which key peg goes with which colored peg.

The game in its current form has existed since 1972. Although the game’s formula has been tweaked many times throughout the years in various “deluxe” versions, I have always preferred the original. My 10-year-old son had no problem picking up the rules of the game and coming up with his own codebreaking techniques.

If you can’t find a copy of Mastermind locally and want to try it out, there are literally hundreds of free online versions to try out. There are also head-to-head online versions, versions for your phone, and just about any other platform you can think of. One advantage to the computer-based versions is you don’t need a friend to play against.

Rob O'Hara

I'm into old video games, old arcade games, old computer games, writing, photography, computer/network security, and of course, the 1980s!

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