Not many games have intrigued me as much as The Mind has. The card game from Wolfgang Warsch certainly was welcomed with critical acclaim when it was released in 2018. The Mind is a winner of three Golden Geek awards including Best Party Game and Best Co-operative Game. It was nominated for the coveted Spiel des Jahres and has won other awards too.
What aroused my curiosity is these awards are usually reserved for some games with serious clout. The Mind didn’t read like this at all. It’s a small box co-operative card game that takes around 20 minutes to play. Some people question whether it is even a game! What is going on? Well, the good news is you can read my review to find out…
In The Mind you have cards numbered 1-100. To one side you have a few lifelines. The 2-4 players sit in silence with 1 card in their hand. All you have to do, without signals or speaking, is to lay their cards face-up in number order from low to high. You literally play your card when you think the time is right! If they are successful, you move on to level 2, whereby everyone gets two cards, and so it continues up to level 8 for four players, level 10 for three players or level 12 for two players. If you successfully complete your final level you have collectively won. If you get a sequence wrong then you lose a life but can continue. If you win then you can attempt to do it all again, but instead of placing the cards face up, you place them face down.
That all sounds a bit bonkers I know, borderline farcical. It really does play like that though. Occasionally someone will signal to use a throwing star and you silently and collectively decide whether to toss your shuriken and all discard your lowest card or not. Equally as sporadic, you will put your hand back down on the table to refocus everyone and get back in sync.
What it’s like
The bizarre thing is, it really is as simple as it sounds. Yet when I play, I am really invested in the game. I don’t want to be the person that lays the number out of order. I don’t want to lose a life. You do feel connected as you silently scream the number you have in your head at your opponents in the hope that some sort of telepathy will work. Real joy will warm you when you lay numbers close together in the perfect order.
Increasing the player count, increases the difficulty. The game says ages 8 plus and that is perfectly reasonable. My 9 and 12 year olds have played this together claiming they’ve managed level 10, although without witnesses and with giant smirks on their faces I’m not entirely convinced! The increasing levels of difficulty build up like a symphony of pressure and tension. The experience is unique.
I know from reading other reviews some people do not feel invested in the game and even question whether The Mind is a game! I have got to level 12 with my wife and the victory and excitement is on a par with any other co-operative game we have played. It has moments of panic, heart-racing excitement and nervous adrenaline. Not many games deliver that. Speaking from experience, win or lose, you also want to play again, to check it wasn’t a fluke or to try to improve. I think if you are sitting on the sidelines thinking this is just dumb (and some people will I’m sure), then that mentality will prohibit your enjoyment of the experience. You need to be invested in The Mind to get the maximum from it.
The cards are good quality. Obviously with numbers from 1 to 100 form follows function, but they are clear and still good-looking. The throwing stars are as you would expect them to look. The lives and level cards have a little more personality with a curious mystic bunny character adorning them in various pursuits.
Overall the components are exactly what you want and need from a game as minimal as this. Without doubt there are better looking card games on the market, but anything more than what it has would probably detract rather than enhance.
Final thoughts on The Mind
I can see that there is a certain novelty factor with The Mind. Once you have played it, completed it and showed it off to your friends, it won’t be hitting the table frequently. The same could be said of a lot of games though, particularly co-operative games and certainly legacy games. The joy of The Mind is it has an RRP of £9.99 and it is unlike anything else you will have played. It is brilliantly transportable, can be played literally on the fold down table of an aeroplane.
It is this unusual gameplay and unnerving interaction that grabbed the attention of many when it was released. Although a lighter game, it doesn’t necessarily feel it when you are fully invested in the process. It is mesmerising! Although I can understand why many people think it could be a party game, I disagree. Firstly, who only invites three other people to a party? Secondly, The Mind takes a bit of dedication and commitment, you have to really want to succeed for the game to not be a gimmick. Yes, I might play it after dinner with another couple, but the mood and the friends would have to be right to attempt it.
Overall I have thoroughly enjoyed playing The Mind. I am delighted to have risen to level 12 on more than one occasion and I haven’t finished with the game yet!
Number of players: 2 to 4
Board Game Review Recommended Age: 8+
Publisher’s Recommended Age: 8+
Playing Time: 20 mins
Setting Up and Take Down Time: 1 minute
Designers: Wolfgang Warsch
Publisher: Coiledspring Games
The Mind is an extraordinary gaming experience. In its raw simplicity it is immersive and gripping. I can finally see what all the fuss is about!
Artwork and Components
Value for Money
- A very different gaming experience
- Quick play time
- Easy to learn
- A lighter game
- Some people may consider it luck based
- You have to be willing to mentally invest
Buy The Mind
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