‘Mastermind’ Is a Great Logic Game for Kids

A with ‘Mastermind’ from Pressman Toys. Image by Elizabeth MacAndrew.

A recently turned eight, which has opened a door to more and more complicated games (although, to be fair, at age seven he beat me in way too many Ticket to Ride games to count). He may generally sort Gryffindor, but the Sorting Hat maintains he’d make a fairly respectable Ravenclaw regarding his logic skills. Pressman Toys sent me a complimentary copy of the classic game Mastermind when they sent me Harry Potter Triwizard Maze to review, and I was interested to see how A would take to this other game.

What Is Mastermind?

Mastermind is a classic game of Codemaker versus Codebreaker for two players ages 8+ that takes about 10 minutes to play a full round.

Mastermind Components

The components for ‘Mastermind.’ Image by Elizabeth MacAndrew.

Mastermind contains the following:

  • Board with a shield feature and drawer for pegs
  • Code Pegs in 6 colors
  • Key Pegs in 2 colors

Nothing requires any assembly and for a game with small pieces, the storage drawer is a nice feature.

How to Play Mastermind

Overall, the game is a fairly simple concept to master and players can decide up front how many rounds they want to play.

The Goal

The game goal is to earn the highest amount of points by trying to create harder codes for the other player to break.


Setting up the code behind the shield. Image by Elizabeth MacAndrew.

Setup is very simple. The first Codemaker pulls up the code shield and places four of the Code Pegs in the little slots while the Codebreaker isn’t looking.

How to Play

With the code hidden behind the shield, the Codebreaker selects four Color Pegs and places them in the first row. Next to this row is four smaller slots for the Key Pegs. For every peg that is the correct color and in the right place, a red Key Peg is placed. For every color that is correct but not in the right place, a white Key Peg is placed. Any color that is not correct is given no peg.

The Codebreaker uses this feedback to make another guess, and this cycle continues until they have successfully cracked the code or have filled all ten rows. Once this happens, the Codemaker pushes down the shield to reveal the code. For every row the Codebreaker needed to make a guess, the Codemaker receives a point. If the Codebreaker did not correctly guess the code, the Codemaker receives ten points plus a bonus point (eleven total).

There are two rows of smaller slots above the code guessing rows where players can use a pair of mismatched Key Pegs to keep track of the score. The players then switch roles and repeat the process. One round involves each player getting a turn at each role, and you may play as many rounds as you like.

A completed turn with the code revealed. Image by Elizabeth MacAndrew.

Game End

The game ends after the players complete as many rounds as they’ve agreed to. Whoever earned the most points at being the Codemaker wins the game.

Why You Should Play Mastermind

Mastermind is an easy to set up, easy to play game that can be as long or short as you like. It is a great way to teach kids reasoning skills as they must figure out how to use the clues they are given to break the code. A had so much fun that he voluntarily gave up his iPad time to play a few more rounds, which is high praise.

The day after we played he asked to play again as soon as he got home from school. The age level on it is probably fairly accurate but might be stretched out a year or so younger for kids with decent logic skills. The one trick is that kids have to be good at giving accurate feedback because if they give the wrong feedback, it can unfairly mess up the Codebreaker. This only happened once and we solved it by resetting a new code and trying again.

Mastermind retails for $16.99 and sells for a touch under that via Amazon. At that price, it’s very reasonable to even gift to other kids or add to classroom game collections.

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