Mastermind: Rules, Winning Tips & Genius Strategy


Mastermind is a classic board game that has been challenging players’ logical thinking and problem-solving skills for decades. The game was invented by Mordecai Meirowitz, an Israeli postmaster and telecommunications expert, in 1970. It quickly gained popularity and has since been produced in many different versions and languages, making it a staple in many households (including mine growing up) and game nights around the world.

The game is played with a decoding board and a set of colored pegs. The objective is to guess the secret code created by the opposing player, using logic and deduction. The code is a sequence of colored pegs hidden behind a shield, and the guessing player has to figure out both the colors and the order in which they appear.

Mastermind is a game of strategy, logic, and deduction. It’s a battle of wits that can be played by people of all ages. It’s simple to learn but can take a lifetime to master.

One Key Strategy to Win at Mastermind

To win at Mastermind, always start with a broad guess to narrow down the possibilities quickly.

Rules for playing Mastermind

The official rules of Mastermind are straightforward. The game begins with one player, known as the codemaker, creating a secret code of four colored pegs. The colors can be repeated, and the order is crucial. The other player, the codebreaker, then attempts to guess the code within a set number of turns, usually twelve.

After each guess, the codemaker provides feedback in the form of small black and white pegs. A black peg indicates that one of the guessed pegs is the correct color and in the correct position. A white peg means that one of the guessed pegs is the correct color but in the wrong position. The codebreaker uses this feedback to refine their subsequent guesses.

While the official rules are widely accepted, some players introduce ‘house rules’ to add variety or increase the challenge. For example, some players might agree to use five pegs in the secret code instead of four, or to limit the number of guesses to ten instead of twelve.

How do you play Mastermind


The game begins with the codemaker choosing a secret code of four colored pegs and placing them behind the shield. The codebreaker cannot see this code.


The codebreaker makes a guess by placing four colored pegs on the decoding board. The codemaker then provides feedback by placing black and white pegs in the small holes next to the guess. This process repeats until the codebreaker guesses the code correctly or runs out of turns.

End of the Game

The game ends when the codebreaker guesses the code correctly or when all turns have been used. If the codebreaker guesses the code correctly, they win. If all turns are used without a correct guess, the codemaker wins.

How to Win at Mastermind

Winning at Mastermind requires a combination of logical thinking, strategic guessing, and careful interpretation of feedback. Here are some strategies to help you win:

  1. Start Broad: Begin with a guess that includes two pairs of the same color. This will give you information about how many of those two colors are in the code.
  2. Interpret Feedback Carefully: Pay close attention to the feedback you receive. Remember that black pegs indicate correct colors in correct positions, and white pegs indicate correct colors in wrong positions.
  3. Use Elimination: If you receive no black or white pegs in response to a guess, you know that none of those colors are in the code. Use this information to eliminate possibilities.
  4. Change One Thing at a Time: When refining your guesses, change only one element at a time. This will help you understand which changes lead to different feedback.

Best Strategies for playing Mastermind game

Mastering Mastermind requires not only understanding the rules but also developing effective strategies. Here are some of the best strategies for playing Mastermind:

  1. Use All Colors: Make sure to use all available colors in your initial guesses. This will help you determine which colors are in the code as quickly as possible.
  2. Keep Track of Your Guesses: Write down or mentally note your previous guesses and the feedback you received. This will help you avoid repeating unsuccessful guesses and build on successful ones.
  3. Be Systematic: Try to develop a system for your guesses. For example, you might start by guessing all pegs of one color, then move on to the next color, and so on. This can help you narrow down the possibilities more efficiently.
  4. Learn from Your Mistakes: If a guess doesn’t give you the feedback you expected, try to understand why. This can help you improve your strategy for future games.

Scenarios for Mastermind

Mastermind is a game of scenarios. Each guess and each piece of feedback creates a new scenario that the codebreaker must navigate. Here are some common scenarios and how to handle them:

  1. Scenario: You receive no black or white pegs in response to a guess. Strategy: This means that none of the colors in your guess are in the code. Eliminate these colors from your future guesses.
  2. Scenario: You receive one black peg and three white pegs. Strategy: This means that one color is in the correct position and three colors are correct but in the wrong positions. Try to determine which color is in the correct position and rearrange the others.
  3. Scenario: You receive four black pegs. Strategy: Congratulations, you’ve guessed the code correctly!

Frequently Asked Questions about playing Mastermind game

  1. Q: Can the same color be used more than once in the code? A: Yes, the same color can be used multiple times in the code.
  2. Q: Can the code be all the same color? A: Yes, the code can be all the same color.
  3. Q: What does a white peg mean? A: A white peg means that one of the guessed colors is correct but in the wrong position.
  4. Q: What does a black peg mean? A: A black peg means that one of the guessed colors is correct and in the correct position.
  5. Q: How many turns do I have to guess the code? A: The standard number of turns is twelve, but this can be adjusted depending on the players’ preferences.

For more information about Mastermind, visit the official game website here