The Mind transcends gaming and can be referred to as a shared experience or experiment in mind reading. This 2018 Spiel des Jahres Nominee by Wolfgang Warsch is a co-operative card game that is so brilliant in its simplicity – the players are dealt a card, numbered 1-100, from the deck and have to simply lay them onto the table in the correct numerical order. The big kicker is that no one is allowed to speak or indicate the number of the card they have in hand. You must simply stare at each other and then lay your card down when you feel the time is right.
Once you have completed the first round, in round two you are dealt two cards each, in round three you’ll have three cards, and so on. If anyone places a card out of order then the game will stop briefly and the team will lose a life.
Reprieves come in the form of extra lives and Ninja Stars that allow players to halt a round in progress to let all players discard their lowest value card. But these bonuses are scarce and are awarded between certain rounds.
The game scales well between two to four players and you may start the game believing you don’t stand a chance but then you find some sort of cerebral rhythmic connection with your fellow players and progress further than your collective wildest dream! But be warned, later rounds can get horrendously difficult.
This Mind is pocket-sized so there is no excuse to go anywhere without it. A game can forge a connection between players or a true frustration, but either way it is a really unique and rewarding experience every time you play.
Player Count: 2-4
Time: 15 Minutes
The Mind is a card game for 2-4 players by designer Wolfgang Warsch and has been nominated for the 2018 Spiel des Jahres award. In The Mind players have a hand of cards which they need to collectively lay in the centre of the table forming a single discard pile 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 and determine when the right time to play a card. As the game progress and players advance to higher levels players become more harmonised and the right time becomes easier to determine, at least that is the way the game is described.
This may sound a bit weird and pseudoscience but strangely it works, some of the time. The Mind is a quick-playing game, it is fun, it is tense and is super easy to play but hard to master.
The Mind Overview
The game consists of a deck of cards numbered one to 100 and is played over several rounds depending on the player count (12, 10 and eight rounds for two, three and four players). 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, the shuriken and the cards have been dealt, all players focus and when ready place their hand on the table. Once all players have placed their hand on the table then play can commence, no communication is allowed between players, they must simply stare at each other and get in sync to determine when it is the right time to play a card.
There is no turn order or starting player in The Mind and any player in any order can play one of their cards in to the middle of the table creating the discard pile. If a player plays a card and no other players have a lower card then play continues until all players have no cards left. If a player did have a card lower than one already played, then a life is lost and all players discard cards that are lower than the one played.
Once all cards have been played, and assuming that all lives have not been lost, the level is complete, all the cards are shuffled and the next level is attempted. Once level two, three, five, six, eight and nine are completed a reward is received, either another life or another shuriken.
Harmonised Thinking or Number Guessing?
The Mind has been 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 successfully played on a coach trip on the way to Wales with no issues. 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 and you find yourself silently screaming your numbers at the other players. I found myself getting pulled in to 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, it makes for fun, light and quick card game that builds the tension as you increase the levels.
There is a huge sense of joy when you hold off playing a card and another player lays 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 which keeps dragging you back for more. I was not sure what to expect from the game when I receive it but 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.