The Mind is a card game for 2-4 players by designer Wolfgang Warsch and was nominated for the Spiel des Jahres award in 2018. In The Mind, players have a hand of cards that they need to collectively lay in the centre of the table in ascending order.
Seems simple, but the catch is that players cannot communicate with each other in any way. No twitches, no secret signals, no communication. Players must focus and synchronise their thinking to determine the right time to play a card. As the game progress and advances to higher levels, players become more harmonised and the right time becomes easier to determine. At least, that's the way the game is described.
This may sound a bit weird and like pseudoscience, but strangely it works. Some of the time. The Mind is a quick-playing game. It is fun, tense, easy to play, and hard to master.
The Mind Overview
The game consists of a deck of cards numbered one to 100 and is played over several rounds. At the start of each level, players are dealt cards equal to the level, i.e. three cards each for level three.
At the start of the game, players receive lives equal to the number of players and a single shuriken. At any time during the game, a player can raise their hand to suggest a shuriken is played. If all players agree to play a shuriken every player discards their lowest card and play resumes.
Once the lives, shuriken, and cards have been dealt, all players focus. When you're ready, you place your hand on the table. Once all players have placed their hands on the table, play can commence. No communication is allowed between players. They must simply stare at each other and get in sync, to determine the right time to play a card.
There is no turn order or starting player in The Mind. Any player in any order can play one of their cards. If no other players have a lower card, play continues until all players have no cards left. If a player did have a card lower than the one played, then a life is lost and all players discard any cards lower than the one played.
Once all cards have been played, the level is complete. All the cards are shuffled and the next level is attempted. On completion of levels two, three, five, six, eight and nine a reward is received, either another life or another shuriken.
Harmonised Thinking Or Number Guessing?
The Mind was nominated for the 2018 Spiel des Jahres award, alongside Azul and Luxor, and I can see why. It offers a single deck of cards that can be taken anywhere and played anywhere. The rules are straightforward and the addition of the shuriken and lives are a nice touch to help you through the levels.
This is very much a light filler game. For the moments when you have 30 minutes to spare at the end of a game night or are hanging out with friends. My first game of The Mind was played on a coach trip on the way to Wales. I have played this in a bar and a hotel room. Minimal space is required and the box is small enough that it can be easily transported. I have even been asked by my non-gaming work colleagues to have a game during our lunch break, as they were intrigued by the game.
People might think the lack of communication in the game will make it dry and boring, but I disagree. When you have a hand of high cards, you desperately want someone else to play a lower card. You find yourself silently screaming your numbers at the other players. I found myself getting pulled into the belief that you can synchronise and harmonise with your fellow players. Whether this happens, or you believe in this or not, will be up to you to decide. But, either way, The Mind makes for a fun and quick card game that builds tension as you increase the levels.
There is a huge sense of joy when you hold off playing a card and another player plays a card that is only two or three lower than yours. On the flip side, when a player plays a card that is two or three higher than a card you own, the sense of disappointment is crushing, but in a good way. It makes you want to focus more and harmonise with your fellow players to beat the game.
The Mind is a compelling, almost addictive game that keeps dragging you back for more. I wasn't sure what to expect from the game when I received it, but I was presently surprised. I have yet to beat the game (level 10 with two players is my best) but I am determined to do so and can't wait to play again.
Editors note: This blog was originally published on June 6th, 2018. Updated on October 26th, 2021 to improve the information available.