Mastermind, from Andrew Moe

September 4, 2007 |

MastermindThe greatest projects in civil engineering are undertaken by young children digging. Whether at the beach or deep within a closet, you haven't built a bridge until you've built one of sand and you haven't tunneled until you've hit the back corner of the family game closet. My kids excel at both and a recent expedition to the dark hinterlands of our home unearthed Mastermind, a code breaking game for two.

Play is simple. The first player has a choice of six colors to make a four-peg secret code. The second player must then solve the code in 12 or fewer turns by making guesses with the pegs. After each guess, the first player provides feedback as to:

  1. How many pegs are the right color but wrong place (white response peg)
  2. How many pegs are the right color and right place (red response peg). Information is transferred both by the response pegs and the absence of same. Player two has 12 turns to deduce the pattern.

This is a wonderful game of feedback systems, deduction, intuition and chance. It's one of those games that can be created and played from scratch with sticks, stones, leaves or whatever is at hand and enjoyed for hours. Also, you start with a completely random guess and use incoming information to deduce complete signal. What a lesson to teach kids! It's like cross training for the spec mind.

I've yet to be prouder of my five year old then when she cracked her first code with no hints. "Daaaaaad, I know…just let me do it".


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