Some board games rely on luck and strategy, while others test your ability to dive in the mind of your fellow players. Having the skills to decipher clues, communicate effectively and interpret another player's way of thinking often requires mind bending mental gymnastics. These types of games offer a great opportunity to connect with friends, as competition or cooperation forces you to unravel the way they think. Whether it’s word play, problem solving or social deduction, there is no shortage of games that try to test your mind-reading abilities. In this article, we present the five best games that will have you twisting your thoughts and bending your mind as you work with, or against, your friends (AKA mind bending board games).
Wavelength is a unique and thought-provoking guessing, mind bending board game that has players tuning into each other's mental wavelengths as they attempt to communicate using nothing but intuition. Each team takes turns rotating a dial to where they think a target is located along a spectrum. The difficulty lies in the fact that the target is randomly set and hidden behind a screen, and only one player from the team, who acts as the “Psychic”, knows where the target is. That player must give the rest of their team a clue as to where the target lies using two opposing concepts, which is written on a randomly selected card. These opposites can be simple binaries such as hot/cold or wet/dry, or they could be more ,like “useful invention/useless invention”. After the Psychic gives the clue, their teammates discuss out loud where to place the dial. Once the dial is set and the team agrees, the Psychic reveals the dial’s placement in relation to the target area. The closer the guess is to the center of the target, the more points that team earns.
Conceptually the game may sound complicated, which is why it falls into the category of mind bending. But Wavelength tests your ability to think from different perspectives and challenges you to think about how other people would perceive things. It offers a unique experience; within a single game you will be scratching your head, questioning your friends' sanity and sharing more than a few laughs.
In Mysterium one player takes on the role of a ghost, who must provide dream-like visions to guide other players as they attempt to solve a murder mystery. The ghost may not directly communicate with the other players, who play as “mediums”, but instead lays out illustrated cards across different rounds to provide clues to the mediums. The hope is that the ghost and the mediums will work together to reveal a suspect, a location and a murder weapon. Each round, the ghost hands out one or more illustrated cards to each medium and they are given a chance to guess what the ghost is trying to reveal. At the end of each round the ghost reveals to each medium whether the guesses were correct or not, allowing them to progress to the next stage of guessing. If one or more mediums fail to identify the proper suspect, location and weapon before the end of seven rounds, then the ghost has failed, leaving the mystery unsolved. If, however, all the mediums correctly guess, then the ghost and team of mediums have successfully identified the culprit.
Mysterium relies on creativity and abstract thinking, especially since the beautifully designed cards aren’t always directly linked to what the ghost is trying to communicate. The mechanics can take a little getting used to, but once you wrap your head around them it makes for a great cooperative game that will test your psychic abilities.
Listography is a creative and introspective board game that asks players to explore their own memories, preferences, and experiences through the art of list-making. Players take turns drawing cards that contain a simple prompt or category; this could be as simple as capital cities or types of tree, or more detailed such as movies with multiple sequels. Players are then challenged to create a list based on the prompt, sharing their thoughts and experiences with the group. However, players only get points if the answers on their list meet certain goals, such as if their answer is on another person's list or if they are the only person with that answer. Players then keep track of their score using a small track board, and the first player to complete the track wins.
The premise of Listography seems straightforward; make a list based on a series of prompts. The skill lies in trying to figure out what the other players are likely, or not likely, to write on their own lists. A game of Listography will often lead to drawn out conversations about the way your friends and family think, making it a great low-key party game that will often have you questioning how your own and other people's mind works.
"Codenames" is one of those deceptively simple yet intense word association mind bending board games. Players split into two teams, each of which must identify a series of words based on one word clues from the teams spymaster. The challenge lies in choosing words that are related to multiple cards without accidentally leading your team astray. If a team guesses the wrong card they could harm innocent bystanders, the opposing team's spies, or even trigger the game-ending assassin. While the concept may seem simple, the game hinges on providing one-word clues to identify multiple locations, which presents a surprisingly difficult mental challenge.
Codenames is the ultimate abstract thinking game. In one game you might be trying to draw connections between entirely disconnected concepts (I’m still trying to figure out how I could connect a limousine to an igloo). Then in the next game you’ll be overwhelmed with options, and have to pick a connection that ties together only some words and not others (how would you connect dragon and witch while avoiding any link to dwarf). To win codenames you have to shift your frame of mind and identify connections that might make little sense to you, but are blatantly obvious to your teammates, which makes for some truly mind bending gameplay.
"Monikers" is a lively party game that tests players' knowledge of pop culture and their ability under pressure. Players are divided into teams and work together to guess the names of various well-known people; whether that’s celebrities, fictional characters, or historical figures. The game is played over three rounds, each with its own set of cards. In the first round, players can use any words or phrases to describe the person on the card. In the second round, players can only use one word, and in the final round, they are limited to only gestures.Thankfully, the same set of cards is used in each round, so players gradually become more familiar with the names that they are trying to describe, allowing players to build a shared set of clues as the rounds progress.
The game thrives on inevitable miscommunication and the inside jokes that emerge as players attempt to guess the names. The game relies on creativity, quick thinking, and improvisation as players try to interpret unexpected clues. Monikers always sparks laughter and makes for a fast-paced and fun party game that has you unraveling the confusing and often surprising clues teammates use.