I Don't Do Middle Of The Road.........The Mind Review

Edit: - Firstly let's get the obvious out of the way - this review won't please many people. Particularly those who love the game - spoiler alert! If you're unwilling to take in an opposite viewpoint, then I suggest you stop reading now because as always I make no apologies for writing a negative review. I tell the truth from my perspective and don't sugar coat to please designers or publishers. So if you're ok with all that, please continue and thanks for reading. If you're ignored all this, then at least keep your comments civil (some have failed at this, but that's the internet for you) whistle Edit over. . . .

There are times when you worry about the board game industry as a whole. I've said that innovation is dying these days with the same types of games being released as well as ideas being recycled from the Dark Ages of gaming. We do get some gems that shine through on innovation, like Fog of Love, the upcoming Billy Kerr game, you know, games which genuinely are trying something different. Then we get The Mind............





Designer: Wolfgang Warsch
Publisher: NBV
Age: 8+
Players: 2-4 
Time: 15 minutes
RRP: £9.99



From BoardGameGeek
The Mind is more than just a game. It's an experiment, a journey, a team experience in which you can't exchange information, yet will become one to defeat all the levels of the game.
In more detail, the deck contains cards numbered 1-100, and during the game you try to complete 12, 10, or 8 levels of play with 2, 3, or 4 players. In a level, each player receives a hand of cards equal to the number of the level: one card in level 1, two cards in level 2, etc. Collectively you must play these cards into the center of the table on a single discard pile in ascending order but you cannot communicate with one another in any way as to which cards you hold. You simply stare into one another's eyes, and when you feel the time is right, you play your lowest card. If no one holds a card lower than what you played, great, the game continues! If someone did, all players discard face up all cards lower than what you played, and you lose one life. Complete all the levels, and you win!



WHAT EVERYONE ELSE SAYS

When I read about this game from other reviewers, it boggles my mind the amount of praise that goes into this. Everyone talking about how it's a unique experience and one which must be tried to be believe. Oh it must be tried alright. Because when this game was explained it was basically "The Game" with less rules. That is a title I rated a "1". That bad. Oh yeah "spoiler alert!" That's not a good starting point. But hey, filler card games are neat, I love Sushi Go, Cockroach Poker, Onirim, etc, so maybe this one will surprise me. . . . . . it did. . . . but not in the way it should have done.

Rather than surprise me in how unique and innovative it was supposed to be, it surprised me in how such an activity could be nominated for a Spiel award. I don't get to see Barenpark in the running despite being perfectly made for the category in terms of length, enjoyment, suitability for families etc, but then I see this. Oh and I don't care if it's a game or an activity. I love Telestrations and Concept and they are just activity games for sure, the definition doesn't make a difference.

Having played it and massaging my temples to try and comprehend what everyone was seeing in it, I had to immediately go to another mate, borrow his copy and then try it out many more times. "What am I missing, it's nominated and people love it, there has to be something"! But nope, nothing changed. I tried 2, 3 and 4 players, I tried gamers and non gamers, I even dabbled between sober and drunk. . . . no change.

I've read a ton of review content for The Mind and read a bunch of social media posts. There's a direct pattern that forms. On social media you get an equal amount of love and hate among the gamers. It's one of the most divisive games of all time in that regard. On reviews, you get one of two things. Either outright fanboy levels of love, or what I call the "middle of the road" approach where you don't actually say if you like it or not, just talk about the game and let the masses decide. Now the latter is obviously the safe approach, however I feel some of those people actually don't like the game, but don't want to invite an all-out war to their castle.

I don't do "middle of the road". . . . . .



AWKWARD MUCH?


Let's just break it down as to what exactly you are doing in this game. You deal out some cards. You then stare at each other blankly until someone chickens out and plays their card thinking it is the lowest. They are either correct or they are wrong. Continue until you run out of lives or you reach the highest level, a feat which is close to impossible without a huge dollop of luck on your side.

That's literally it. I'm not joking that is it. You get to use a special card to discard out of your hand occasionally but other than that, it's literally just sitting in silence and guessing when to play your card. Guessing! I've read overviews that go up to 3,000 words trying to explain the fine little details of how to master The Mind, but guys, it's just guessing! You don't have any information other than minor glimpses of body language and occasional schoolgirl giggling from random players to go on. But what does that tell you really? Does it tell you that you're the lowest card because your 34 is exactly 3 steps lower than his 37, which somehow he's mentally transmitting to your brain via pigeons instinct or something? How can it?

Contrary to popular belief we're not all psychic and have third eyes open in our foreheads. There's loads of feedback and reviews claiming that suddenly the group falls into synchronicity and you somehow click and then do well. If that happens, again you got lucky with the cards!

And woe betide you if you get unlucky enough to be dealt a situation where multiple players are holding 56,57,58 and 59 in their hand for example and don't know it. Yeah, get out of that one with the power of mind melding. You have throwing stars that allow you to discard your lowest card, but again when do you use it? What's the trigger? Have a guess!



DOWNTIME: THE GAME


One phrase I've used along with others is The Mind represents "downtime" as a mechanic. That's pretty much the case. You sit there in silence and wait. How long you wait depends on the patience of other players. I know I've lost a few lives here and there because I've gotten so bored waiting minutes for someone to act that I've played my card to get on with it.

And I don't know when staring at someone in silence became funny? But it seems to break some groups into hilarity when I watch video playthroughs. Imagine if this was a stage show where you went to the theatre and there were 4 people sitting on chairs staring at each other for the full 90 minutes. Nothing else happens, you just sit there waiting for something to happen. Would you find that funny instead of boring? How long before you just walk out of the theatre? It doesn't work there so why would it work here?

The anticipation of whether someone will play the right card will only keep you interested for so long especially as you do the same thing every level just with more cards. The goal of the game is just to simply reach Level 8-12 depending on player count. Sounds so exciting when you describe the game to a group doesn't it?


MULTIPLE INTERPRETATIONS OF COMMUNICATION


The only way it can't be down to mostly luck is if you bend the rules to such an extent that you allow weird forms of communication that kind of defeat the whole point of the game. There's a lot of confusion on the internet depending on which version of the game you get about what's allowed in terms of communication. Now the way I see it is that you are not allowed any kind whatsoever. Because if you are, then you just pre-arrange it and then the game is broken. Just all agree to count in your head from 1 to 100 and play a card when your number comes up. There you go, no communication and you just won the game with ease, unless someone can't count.

Everyone has their own interpretation and I say, go with what works best for you, but personally if the game is to be a challenge, you shouldn't have communication.



GOT TO SAY SOMETHING POSITIVE


Is there anything good I can say about The Mind? Well it's cheap, portable and can be played by any age that registers mental thought so yeah it's certainly one that's approachable and easy to take with you on travels to be played anywhere. But why would you? Was Sushi Go not available? Or No Thanks?

It is becoming popular with a lot of groups though and I'll admit, this is pretty perfect for a game cafe, doesn't require much thought to play or learn, just pick it up and go have a giggle if you can work hard enough to form one above your beer belch.

Component wise........it's cheap and port...oh wait I said that already. Not a lot I can say here either, you get a bunch of cards from 1-100 with bland art and design and several other cards with ninja stars and some creepy bunnies on them. At least I guess you can say no-one would get confused what card was what so . . . . . + 1 for graphic design?


VERDICT ON THE MIND


The Mind will go down in history as one of the most divisive card games ever to be put in the sight of gamers. There are those that adore The Mind as the new definition of fun and innovation. There are others who think it is a pointless creation that took 5 minutes to devise and offers little to no fun. So much love and hatred over a tiny card game that costs less than a tenner and features the most basic of components and artwork possible.

It's easy to know which camp I fall under though. You sit in silence trying to guess whether you should play a card or not. Occasionally people giggle because silence does that to some it seems. Rinse repeat this game of "Chicken" until you win or lose. I'll never understand how some groups are laughing their heads off playing The Mind. I'll never understand why this got nominated for a Spiel Des Jahres award over so many other better contenders.

If this game is one of the best you've played this year, I applaud you, you've found a game you love and that's an awesome thing, keep playing it, don't let me or any other person stop you. . . . . but I hate this game . . . . . so much. . . .  and if it dares to overthrow something like Azul for the Spiel award (which may be getting samey but it's still good). . . . . then may God have mercy on us all.



PERSONAL BGG RATING - 1




YOU WILL LIKE THE MIND IF:


You don't like rules - there are less rules in this game than Yahtzee.


You want something that's lightning fast to teach and play to anyone of all ages.




YOU WILL NOT LIKE THE MIND IF:


You don't think that downtime makes for a fun mechanic.


You like to make choices based on information during a game.




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