STRATEGIES & TACTICS
- If you are forced to
guess, make the guess which has the least risk.
- If you don't know all
the moves, then trying to go faster actually makes you worse. So go
- If you are forced to
guess, make a guess that will actually help you if it turns out to be
- Don't just choose the
first valid move you notice, choose the best move available.
- Don't mark a mine if
it can't possibly help you figure out the clear squares.
- If you want to go your
current fastest, distract yourself while you play by talking to someone
or listening to tv.
- To improve beyond a
certain plateau, you have to make 0 mistakes and know 100% of the moves.
- Avoid the walls until
you have eaten out the center of the map.
- Trying to get a good
opening should be avoided because it is short-termist.
- You should play slower
until you notice the number of mistakes you make go down.
- Improve your mouse
control by breathing out slowly while moving.
- Only move to the edge
of the square you have to click, not its center.
- Avoid back-and-forth movements
by organizing 3 or 4 clicks into a line.
- A move that doesn't
open a square or mark a mine is a mistake.
- An unnecessary
movement of the mouse is a mistake.
- Set the mouse movement
rate to fastest.
- Clicks register on mouse-up
(i.e. when you release the button). So make your clicks snappy.
- An unnecessary click
is a mistake, not just one that kills you.
- First make minimizing
the number of clicks you need to complete a game your goal. Then make
your goal speed.
- Instead of using 7 or
8 clicks to do something try to look for the 2 or 3 strategic clicks
which will do the same thing.
- Imagine and already be
planning for the states which could result from your current move.
- Always start from the
- The best record I've been
informed of is 28s for intermediate and 85s for expert by Robert Offutt.
Please tell me if you know of better.
- Accounting for times
you die by chance, you should be able to finish the expert level about
50% of the time.
- The hypothetical
minimum it takes to mark 99 mines is 40s. So see that as an asymptote.
- If you die, estimate
your projected time using totalMines / minesMarked * yourTime
(i.e. better feedback).
- If you become
addicted, play a variety of other less-addictive games.
- Avoid loud, repetitive
clicking when other people are present: it really annoys them -- they're
just afraid to tell you.
- Play Minesweeper to
see how drunk you are if you've been drinking.
[Note: there was so much to say that I just summarized it
in the quick tips above. What's below is what I covered in detail before
deciding to just summarize everything. It's ok but it leaves you hanging...]
I'll assume here that you already know the basic rules of Minesweeper. Just
to get our terminology straight, here are the some definitions:
- clear - a square that
doesn't have a mine
- mark - a square with a
flag on it to indicate you think a mine is there
- cascade - when the
computer automatically opens up clear squares for you
- map - the Minesweeper
A logical move is when you either mark a mine or clear a square
because you are sure you are right. There were several times when I thought I
knew all the possible logical moves there were, but there were always more.
Now though, I think I know all the logical moves. I can tell because whenever
I can't make a logical move, I can always logically proove
why I can't.
Of course, there are some logical moves which just take too long to figure
out.I call these deep moves, because they
require deep mental processing. Often times, it takes long simply because you
are less practiced at figuring out that move. In any case, you might be
temped to stop looking for a deep move and just go to another part of the map
and work some shallow moves.
This is a bit of a dilemma. Without boring you with too much detail, the
solution is to force yourself to look for deep moves until you have learned
all the possible logical moves. Once you know all the logical moves, then you
should avoid deep moves whenever you can.
As Spock once said, "Logic is only the first step in the path toward
enlightenment." And now that I feel like a big nerd, let's go on to useful
moves. Before we can tell what is useful, we need a better definition of
the game's goal.
The goal of Minesweeper is to "complete" the board as fast as
possible. The board is complete once all the clear squares are revealed (not
all the mines need be marked as is sometimes thought). So the goal is really
just to click open all the clear squares. But marking mines, of course, helps
us figure out which are the clear squares.
So the solution is to properly interleave marking phases with clearing
phases. Here are some possibilities:
- The mass production
strategy is to first mark all the mines you can without any further
openings, and then to do all the openings you can without any further
mine-marking. Pro: cascade openings happen more often and the number of
required clicks is minimized. Con: your mind can't cache the
section of the map you're working on. Con: you have to move the mouse a
- The sprint
strategy is to do one clear move and then one mark move. Pro: mouse
movement is minimized. Pro: easy to mentally cache the section of the
map you're working -- leads to more deep moves. Con: cascades rarely
happen so the number of clicks required is larger.
So the criteria are to minimize mouse movement and
the number of clicks, and to maximize caching
and cascades. I use to following strategy:
- I look for the
spatially closest mark or opening from where the cursor is at.
- Before making that
move, I first decide if it is redundant. (example:
imagine you know there is an unopened square with a '1' on it and you
know where that one mine is. You could open the '1', mark the mine, then
hit cascade open on the '1' (3 moves), or, you could mark the mine, then
cascade open the '1' (just 2 moves)). A move is redundant if some other
move, done first, will make the first move more useful.
- If I find a better
move to do first I check if it is redundant too, and so on.
- I stop checking for
redundancies once I'm looking too far from the cursor for the movement
time to be small or to maintain my cache.
- I make the least
redundant move I've found during the process.
This strategy has the advantage that it weeds out all degenerate
cases. A example of a degerate
case might be when you have cleared all the squares surrounding a small part
of the map which has 12 uncovered squares. Now, suppose that 10 of the
uncovered squares are mines, and 2 are clear. You could mark the ten mines
until the 2 clear ones become obvious, or you could just figure out in your
mind which are the two clear squares and explicitly open them. Not only do
you save 10 clicks, but you save all the back-and-forth cursor movement.
Febraury 14, 1999