(In an effort to consolidate blogs, I’m moving a few old posts over – but the opinions are still relevant!)
Mensa Mind games was held in San Diego this past weekend. I have been attending since 2000, and it has been one of the only reasons for me to remain in Mensa, until my local group became active about two years ago.
Game manufacturers submit games to Mind Games, where game-loving Mensans spend over 40 hours (Friday to Sunday) and get very little sleep to play them. The games are rated, and each Mensan votes on his or her top seven. The top five games are awarded the coveted Mensa Select sticker to adhere to their games, and many, many shoppers have learned that the sticker means there is a great game underneath.
Here are the top five for 2010:
Players alternate adding square heavy cardboard tiles to the ever-increasing tabletop grid. The tiles have 0, 1, 2, 3, or 4 dots in their center, and are decorated with a single or multiple-colored swirling pattern such that each tile edge consists of either one or two colors. Tiles must be laid so that edge colors match exactly, and points awarded are equivalent to the total number of dots in any previously laid tiles (which may of course be from one to four tiles). The tiles were very attractive, which I think had a lot to do with this game winning. My own opinion is that it was a nice little game, but not terribly stimulating – not any more engaging than regular dominoes, at least, because one’s options on each turn are very limited. It is effectively just a matching game, at least initially. Just like dominoes, however, once a player understands which tiles are still not on the table (they are systematically coded in terms of dots and color patterns), one can strategize more. I think this game won because it was a unique take on an old idea, it was visually appealing, and one didn’t have to work hard to understand how to play.
Yikerz (Wiggles 3D):
Up to four players alternate placing tumbled, flat-sided, magnetic, hematite stones onto an arrangement of four pads, with the goal of being the first to place their final stone. The four pads are basically thin mouse pads cut in half diagonally, and can be arranged into different patterns to make the stone placement more or less challenging. The challenge is to place each stone without attracting other stones, or pushing them (via magnetic repulsion) into other stones. Any stones caused to attract have to be picked up into that player’s hand. This game was a surprise, because even after reading my explanation it doesn’t seem like a winner. At first it didn’t look appealing, and the name wasn’t appealing (to me, that is, but I know several others who felt the same way); it just looked kind of gimmicky. But the magnets are strong and when they attract, they move quickly and meet with a sharp snap! One also quickly learns that one can use the magnetic repulsion to move the other, existing magnets out of the way in order to make a spot to place a magnet. This was a pleasant surprise for me.
Anomia (Michael Innes; self-published):
Players each have a single card in front of them, and there is a common draw pile; cards have symbols and categories. On their turn, a player quickly flips a card onto their own pile – if the symbol matches any other player’s symbol a quick face-off ensues in which one has to name something from the other’s category. The first to blurt out an acceptable answer wins the other’s card – revealing a buried card that might precipitate another face-off. Wild cards are played in the middle and show two different symbols, so when any two players have those symbols they also have a face-off.
I think this game won because it blends fast-paced multi-tasking with categorical knowledge, and every player is constantly involved. it certainly was among the loudest and most exciting tables at Mind Games this year.
Forbidden Island (Gamewright):
Players compose a cooperative team of adventurers, racing against time to retrieve four treasures from a sinking island, and then escape before the water rises. Each player takes on a different role, each having a special (but not outrageously powerful) ability, which aids in the three main tasks – getting around the island, “shoring up” the island (undoing the effects of rising water), and moving/claiming treasure. The island itself consists of tiles laid out randomly in a cross-shaped grid. Some tiles are labeled as places to claim treasure, and some are labeled with pawns, and serve as starting places for that player (pawn colors correspond to the identity and special ability of that player). Players alternate, performing three actions per turn, from this list: Move to an adjacent tile, Shore up a tile that has been flooded (i.e., unflood it), Give a treasure card to another player, or Claim a treasure (use four treasure cards to claim an actual treasure by being on the appropriately labeled tile). After the actions are taken, players draw two treasure cards – one of which might actually be one of three “Waters Rise” cards in the deck. At that point, “Flood Cards” are drawn, revealing which tiles will be flooded. Those tiles are physically inverted, or, if they had already been inverted, they are GONE from the game. Yikes! As the game progresses, water levels only get higher, so more cards are drawn, and hence more tiles flooded, when the Waters Rise cards are drawn. To make matters worse, when the Waters Rise cards is drawn, all the flood cards previously drawn are reshuffled and placed on top of the draw pile, so they are the first to be drawn again.
Word on the Street (Out of the Box):
Players form two teams, and have 30 seconds to name, and spell, something from a given category (as determined by a drawn card). Sounds fun, no?
There is more to it, of course. The board is long and thin, and consists of two, two-lane roads separated by a median. Most letters of the alphabet (no vowels and no J Q, X, or Z) occupy the median in a long column from B to Y. As the words are spelled, one of the spelling team members moves the appropriate letter into the roads from the median, toward the edge of the board. Then the other team does the same, with a new category. The result is a sort of alphabet tug-of-war. When a team manages to use a letter enough to move it off of their side of the board, they win it. The first to win 8 letters, wins!
I expected this to be a winner. It’s exciting, it’s nice to be able to form teams, and it’s especially great for people who are fond of words with repeated consonants…(peppermint, Guggenheim, Mississippi, etc).