From the help files:

The object of Minesweeper is to find all the mines as quickly as possible without uncovering any of them.

If you are uncertain about a square, right-click it twice to mark it with a question mark (?). Later, you can either mark the square as a mine or uncover it by right-clicking again once or twice.

When you have marked all mines around a numbered square, you can quickly uncover all empty squares around it by clicking that square with both mouse buttons. If not all mines touching the square are marked, the uncovered touching squares will flash.

Look for common patterns in numbers, which often indicate a corresponding pattern of mines. For example, the pattern 2-3-2 at the edge of a group of uncovered squares indicates a row of three mines next to the three numbers.

Ah, Minesweeper. Damn you, you evil bastard. It's a simple little game, you get it free with Windows, along with Solitaire, FreeCell, and that other one nobody understands.

I consider myself to be a fairly intelligent person, usually. I've been to college. Twice (fucked up the first time, did well the second). I have certificates, qualifications, bits of paper that say I'm clever. I can write clever stuff that sounds... clever. I can debate the complex philosophical issues of the day. I read a lot, and try to keep up with all these newfangled changes in technology.

I have had the rules of Minesweeper explained to me several times. I've read the help files many, many times. I have sat and watched as someone walked me through the method of figuring out where the mines are.

But fuck me sideways with a large pink banana, I can't play it to save my life. Within 2 or 3 clicks, boom, I'm dead. I look at the numbers, remember my Jedi training, write down notes, eliminate all the other squares around the one that I suspect is clear, and click it, confident that I'm safe. Am I? Am I bollocks.

Boom. Dead. Idiot. Maybe this is the real test of intelligence - maybe the people who can understand this game are the clever ones. The whole Microsoft and Windows thing is just an elaborate scam to weed out the stupid from the future rulers of the planet, by using the Minesweeper test - why else would it constantly be included in every new release of Windows? They're not reading your secret files or keeping tabs on your private life - they're checking to see if you pass the test. And that is how they will build their new master race. Everyone who can play Minesweeper properly will inherit the earth. All others will be pulped and shot into space.

Well that's me fucked, then.

Oh, and while we're here, Hearts - what's that all about?

Playing (the windows version) of minesweeper on expert level involves a bit of tactics/speed and the rest is simple logic.

tactics/speed
- First of all, you need to get an area cleared as soon as possible. The easiest way is just to click around randomly. From there on, see “logic”.
- Secondly, you don’t need to mark the mines. If you leave them blank, they will fill up automatically when you finish the grid, saving you 99 mouse clicks. This sounds contradictory, as the sole aspect of the game seems to be clicking around, but the 99 clicks make up quite a lot of time if you’re getting fast (e.g. my record is 104 seconds).
- Third aspect, but certainly not less important, is your mouse (and mouse pad, if you’re using one). Allow your motor control with the mouse some time to get used to minesweeper, and keep the ball clean.

Logic
The rest is simple logic most of the time. Ok, there are those awkward corners you sometimes have a 50% chance, but except from that, it is logic. If at one area you can’t find numbers/mines, go on with another area and the problem-area will solve itself.
Minesweeper is even used in introductory math classes to teach the students basic aspects of reasoning, as it is based on “if…and… then…” not only per square with a number, but combining the information of the numbers in the squares in close proximity. Like IF this square has nr 2, AND of the 8 neighbouring squares 6 have numbers, THEN the remaining 2 must contain mines.

However, I suspect Microsoft that they made the game a bit easier, because I find often the same structure of mines and numbers (or I’ve played it too often), whereas it takes me more time with the linux version (but at the moment I still blame my mouse for that).
And for you readers who are bored with the squares: minesweeper also exists with other geometrical shapes and combinations of geometrical structures :)

update 7-6-2003: my latest best score is 86 seconds, the double amount of time of the world record, when I actually had to write my dissertation. (I use minesweeper as a 'distractor' in order to organise my thoughts on what and how I should write all the theory stuff of the research).

I have no idea what this "Minesweeper" is (and this Microsoft Windows), what are all you people up there even talking about?. The real Minesweeper was an arcade game released by Amutech way back in 1977, long before all this Windows foolishness.

The story

There were many titles released in the 1970s that were nearly identical in gameplay (like Bigfoot Bonkers, Comotion, Checkmate, and Dominos). You controlled a boat that moved around the screen, leaving a trail of mines behind you. The object was to get your opponent to crash into your mines before you crashed into theirs.

This basic game is remembered by most people as being a part of the Tron video game (the Light Cycle sequence), but Tron was merely copying a much older idea.

The game

This game was two player only, you must have a real live person to play against, or else the other players boat will head directly for the bottom wall, which doesn't make for a very interesting game.

Each player moves their little boat around leaving a solid line of mines behind them. All moves are made on an invisible grid, so you can only turn at 90 degree angles.

To win you must last longer than your opponent before hitting something (first person to hit something loses). One good strategy is to try and box your opponent in to a small section of the screen, and then just move carefully until they crash. Pushing backwards on the stick will cause you to crash into your own mines, so avoid that at all cost.

ASCII Screenshot
                           
♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦6♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
♦                                                    ♦
♦            1                                       ♦
♦                                             ♦      ♦
♦     ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦                                ♦      ♦
♦     ♦      ♦                                ♦      ♦
♦     ♦      ♦               <♦♦♦♦♦           ♦      ♦
♦     ♦      ♦                    ♦           ♦      ♦
♦     ♦      ♦                    ♦           ♦      ♦
♦     ♦      ♦                    ♦           ♦      ♦
♦     ♦      ♦♦♦♦♦♦>              ♦           ♦      ♦
♦     ♦                           ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦      ♦
♦     ♦                                              ♦
♦     ♦                                              ♦
♦     ♦                                              ♦
♦                                                    ♦
♦                                                    ♦
♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

The number imbedded in the border at the top of the screen is the number of rounds you have to win to beat your opponent. The machine flashes each player's individual score everytime someone loses a round. The graphics are displayed in black and white monochrome, there may have been a color overlay (probably blue), but I was unable to find an actual machine to verify that information on.

The Machine

I wasn't able to find a photograph of the machine that this game came in, let me know if you locate one.

The game used an 8080 CPU, and was controlled with buttons rather than joysticks (this was cheaper to produce, and most of the other similar games of the time used buttons as well).

Inserting a coin started the game at once. Both players got to play for a single coin. The game ended after one player chalked up six wins, but this was operator adjustable down to as low as three. The operator can also turn the sound on and off with internal switches as well.

Where to play

MAME supports this almost perfectly. So you can play it on your home computer. There have also been clones of this title for every platform known to man (under various names), so you can probably play this no matter what kind of hardware you have (E2's own yerricde wrote one for the NES).

I do not suggest buying this one for home use (unless it is really cheap), because you need two people to play. A game that require two players never gets much use, which is an advantage if you collect game just to have them (rather than play them). If you do buy one of these, don't pay a lot for it, and make sure that everything works on it (and don't blame me if you get bored, I already warned you).

As of February 23, 2003, the Windows Minesweeper world records* (as recorded by http://www.metanoodle.com/minesweeper) were as follows:

Beginner: 1 second, held tied by at least 33 people. This is basically luck. You click once or maybe twice within the first second of play, and just by luck, all of the mineless tiles are uncovered by these clicks. Unless your reaction time is really good there is really no skill involved. 2 seconds, on the other hand, can very much be a matter of skill. One good 2-second video recorded by Damien Moore had him clicking once, then, within the space of one and a half seconds, noticing AND CLICKING on the only two other positions on the board that needed uncovering. To spot these within the time requires great skill, not fluke. Note: 1 second is the minimum possible time for a Minesweeper game. The timer hits 001 immediately after releasing your first click and before the game ends.

Intermediate: 10 seconds, held by Matt McGinley. The way to win the game is not by marking all the mines (which would take at least 20 seconds even for a skilled player), but by uncovering all the tiles which DON'T conceal mines. In this run, McGinley uses the technique to the full to blaze across the board, clicking only where he needs to. He starts off with a relatively big (and relatively lucky, i.e. minimal additional clicking required to isolate all the mines) reveal, follows up soon after with another, smaller reveal, then finishes before you can blink an eye. ...and he made an error. AN ERROR. He could've made 9 seconds. Maybe even 8.

Expert: 43 seconds, held by Lasse Nyholm. Stunning. Just stunning. The man purrs across an Expert board at the same rate as I would traverse Beginner. Requiring incredibly fast mental dexterity, pattern-recognition instinct, lightning-fast logical reasoning and a super-accurate mouse finger, this is the definitive Minesweeper video. It's difficult to imagine how a man can think and act so fast until you witness it. One to amaze your friends with. All skill, no luck.

All these records have video proof, available here: http://www.metanoodle.com/minesweeper/videos.html. You will also need to download a relevant codec, this is explained on the video page.

Humbling, is it not? Proof that regardless of how good you think you are, there's always someone out there who can wipe the floor with you. My records are 5/43/196. *sigh*

If you want to record your own Minesweeper achievements, the best way to do so is by downloading the Camtasia screen-capturing application from http://www.techsmith.com/defaultflash.asp.

* It's possible that these are not the actual fastest recorded times, but very, very unlikely. It's near-inconceivable that an individual would have honed his skills to exceed those of the record holders, without the incentive of a whole planet of fellow players to drive him on.

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