Minesweeper Nonsense | mariteaux
Here at home
Last modified: 7/1/2020
If you haven't used a computer since 1992 or so, let me congratulate you on making it to my site in one piece before explaining the basic premise of Minesweeper: there's a big grid of squares. Click on a mine, and you die. Most squares have numbers on them, letting you know the number of mines adjacent to that square. Click on all the squares without mines as fast as possible without blowing yourself up.
For such a simple game, there's a whole slew of optimizations, strategy, and pattern recognition that goes into it. I blame LGR for making me take a second look, and now I'm a little obsessed. I'm still fairly shit at it, don't get me wrong (I am horribly inefficient in mouse and patterns), but I made this page to post my own best times and explain what isn't easily explained, as best as I understand it. There's a lot of numbers here.
(I use Minesweeper Arbiter, a clone that better keeps track of tons more important stats and is what all the official cool kid Minesweeper players use anyway.)
Strategy and Terms
Flags? No Flags?
Minesweeper lets you right-click on any square to mark it as a mine. It's super handy for remembering where the mines are, but the game ends when you've clicked all the squares without mines under them, not when you've flagged all the mines. If you want, you can skip flags altogether, ostensibly saving a bunch of time.
In practice, it's not that simple. NF play requires you to keep track of mines yourself, and if you're used to flagging, you'll probably just outright click the mines a few times thanks to muscle memory. At least, I did. Chording (clicking either both mouse buttons or the wheel) lets you clear the immediate squares around your mouse as long as you've flagged the right number of adjacent squares, and that's a big time-saver too. Naturally, that doesn't work in NF play.
This is why Arbiter (and I assume other clones) keep track of F and NF times separately, because the two require entirely different strategies. If you're flagging, you can chord and click a bunch of squares at once, but you're slowed down by the impulse to flag everything. If you're not flagging, you don't have that, but you have to keep it all in your head and click each square, one-by-one. Both are a pretty fun challenge in their own right.
Counters and Stats
Arbiter keeps track of a ton of stats related to how efficiently you clear a board on a run, and you see this in a separate Counters window as you play. It looks like a bunch of gibberish, I'm sure (and a lot of it still is to me), but here's the most important bits:
Seriously, if I didn't list it, it's probably not that important. Some metrics, like RQP, are really only counted for funsies, no one actually measures anything with that anymore from what I can gather.
Like I said, I am a horribly inefficient player. I scramble and waste a lot of clicks flagging and chording for little benefit, and there's certainly a lot of time for me to cut off all of my PBs (especially the NF ones).
A big part of efficiency is pattern recognition. If you see a certain set of numbers in the grid that always get solved one way, you don't have to think about what to do with them, thus speeding you up overall.
There's a few patterns in this grid you can immediately use to determine where mines are. Any 1s on corners are automatically mines (hence why it's safest to work from the corners in), and the squares directly adjacent (ie not diagonal, in this case underneath) to the 1s at the bottom of this grid are mines. After you've found those, you've also satisfied various 2s in the grid and can uncover more squares.
Should go without saying, but if your client has question marks (?) enabled, disable them. They have no use and will slow you down.
Links and Further Reading