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Minesweeper Strategy

© Copyright 1996, Jim Loy

Minesweeper, which comes with some versions of Windows, is a solitaire game of skill and some luck. To get started with a game, you need some luck.

The object of the game is to find mines, and mark them as mines. You mark them by pressing your right mouse button. This places a little flag where you think the mine is. There is no immediate penalty for incorrectly marking a square as being a mine. You use your left mouse button to claim a square as not being a mine. If this square is really a mine, it explodes, and you lose. The little smiley face at the top of the window gains a frown and little x's for eyes, he loses too. The little colored numbers, which come up where there is no mine, tell you how many mines are adjacent to those squares. These are the clues that you are looking for. For example, if you left-clicked a square, and a little 8 appeared, then you would know that this square is surrounded by 8 mines, all 8 of its adjacent squares. You would then have to go elsewhere to test for non-mine squares. When you correctly left-click on a non-mine, adjacent zeros get uncovered, too. There is a shortcut that you can use. You can click both mouse buttons on one of the empty squares. If all of the unmarked squares adjacent to this empty square are non-mines, then they all get uncovered. The object of the game is to uncover all of the non-mine squares, without exploding any actual mines. Then the little smiley face gets dark glasses, and you both win.

To start the game, you have to make a few wild guesses. Once, you have done this successfully, you can rely on logical deduction, most of the time.

There are two basic missions that you can try for, play for speed or play to win the game. In a way, these two missions are incompatible. If you play for speed, you decrease your chances of winning. And if you try to win, you decrease your speed.

There are four versions of the game: beginner, intermediate, advanced, and custom. And there are a few options. One option is to let you mark squares with a "?". If you are playing for speed, disable this "?" option, as it slows you down. It can help you, if you are just trying to win the game.

Here we can locate 5 mines. The one that I have labeled "mine" is the most obvious. We quickly mark them (right click). And then we can click both mouse buttons on some of the squares marked "1", to uncover the non-mines around them.

This is a very common non-mine, which we can left-click. This is likely to help us clarify other squares.

In the diagram on the right, we can mark four mines. This will help us identify the non-mines around these mines.

In the diagram on the left, we can mark one mine. This will then help us mark a mine, two squares below that one (and the non-mine between them). There are even more subtle deductions that you can make.