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Minesweeper, to those who do not know the strategies involved, is a difficult game.

What patterns exist in the game which I can take advantage of?

Meta-context: this question is an offshoot of the current original question, for which the scope has been changed to be simply pattern-based. Feedback indicated this was somewhat too broad. This question has now been edited to address these concerns. Please contribute to discussion on Meta if you feel inclined.

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    $\begingroup$ Excellent answer, but the question seems far too broad - "how to play this game" isn't really specific enough to be its own question. This will just end up with a hundred answers, all about different strategies. Consider narrowing down the question and splitting your answer into a few separate answers to a few separate questions. $\endgroup$ – Doorknob May 22 '14 at 1:35
  • $\begingroup$ @Doorknob I'm not entirely sure I agree? I did consider that when I posted this self-answer, but I'm pretty sure there are only a finite number of minesweeper permutations and strategies, and I'm not sure each of them warrants their own question. (I'm frankly not sure how I would ask such a question, either.) I'm curious what your thoughts are for handling this case? $\endgroup$ – Aza May 22 '14 at 1:38
  • $\begingroup$ @Doorknob Also, bear in mind that we're keeping questions like "What is the optimal strategy for 2048?" as well - perhaps this is a class of questions which should be asked about on Meta? $\endgroup$ – Aza May 22 '14 at 1:38
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, I was a little vague in my wording because I'm also not entirely sure how this could be fragmented. Perhaps "what are the most common patterns encountered in Minesweeper," "what do I do when I can't use strategy to solve a Minesweeper puzzle," "what strategy exists for starting out a Minesweeper game," etc. I agree; this would be a good topic for meta. $\endgroup$ – Doorknob May 22 '14 at 1:40
  • $\begingroup$ @Doorknob Kaploosh! A new meta post! $\endgroup$ – Aza May 22 '14 at 1:47
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Small notes

  • Remember that the number of remaining mines is the clue number minus the number of surrounding mines. This is important in patterns like 1-2-1; 3-2-3, for instance, also works if there are two mines next to each 3, since they both need 1 mine to be solved.
  • A one by itself on a corner always indicates that there is a mine
  • A two by itself next to a convex corner always indicates two mines
  • Patterns that work on horizontal walls obviously work on vertical walls, and vice versa.
  • Patterns do not work when there is interference from adjacent clues or unknowns; i.e. when a pattern is in a corner or has another unknown near it.

The double-click trick

On the Windows version of Minesweeper, if you click on a clue with both your left and right mouse buttons, if all that clue's mines have been identified, then the game will remove all the other surrounding unknowns. You should always use this to clear spaces, unless you are guessing.

Additionally, you can use this to check visually if all the spaces surrounding a clue are mines. If you need two mines, and two squares are highlighted when you use this trick, you know they're both mines.

You will primarily use this trick to identify patterns quickly through visual recognition of shapes.

Note: if you have a mine incorrectly marked, this will cause you to lose the game - but then again, you would have anyway.

The 1-2 pattern

Whenever you see a 1 next to a 2 against a wall, you know that the space opposite the 2 is a mine.

enter image description here enter image description here

This is because there can only be one mine in the two spaces adjacent to the 1, which means the second mine must be adjacent to the 2 in the final space.

Note that in the second case, since there is a mine next to the 3 and 2, they need 2 and 1 mines respectively, matching the 1-2 pattern.

The 1-2-1 pattern

One of the frequently-encountered patterns along walls in Minesweeper is the 1-2-1 pattern. This is an extension of the 1-2 pattern, in that two of the pattern exist side-by-side. In this case, as an extension of 1-2, the mines must be underneath the ones.

enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here

Note again that in the second case, the 2-3-2 are all adjacent to a known mine, which means they need 1-2-1. In the third case, we know that there is a mine next to the two by the one and corner in olive-green. therefore, the 1-2-2 matches the 1-2-1 pattern, implying there are two mines in front of it.

The first position was honestly just dumb luck. Yes, the 1-2-1 pattern does chain.

Also note that it is very rare to actually encounter a 1-2-1 specifically. Usually, these are by reduction from surrounding mines.

The 1-2-2-1 pattern

Whenever you find a 1-2-2-1 pattern against a wall, you know that the two squares under the 2s are mines.

enter image description here

Unfortunately, I found myself unable to generate a true 1-2-2-1 case in a reasonable amount of time, but here is a valid position anyway that demonstrates the point.

The 1-1-X pattern

When a 1-1-X are sequential against a wall and against the edge of the grid, the space under the third clue, marked here with a question mark:

enter image description here

This is because the first two spaces must contain a mine by the first clue, which means both the first and second ones are already guaranteed to be satisfied. If there were a mine in the third space, it would conflict with the second one.

This pattern is, admittedly, a lot less useful. However, it has the possibility to save your game, especially when you're stuck.

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  • $\begingroup$ Ancient, I know, but: last case is incorrectly marked as unimportant, as it has 2 important cases. One is at start, as it lets you open up few tiles if you happen to end up with rectangle as mentioned. The other is when situation gets reduced to that case - like in 1-2 example mentioned in the start - you know the tile to the up-left of 1 is not a mine. There is another pattern that is mostly irrelevant except at start, 3 in a corner with 2x1 on the sides. You know that corner has a mine and that you can open up 2 tiles just beyond 3's domain (this is a special and rare case of double 1-2) $\endgroup$ – Zizy Archer Apr 14 '17 at 19:00

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