Time: 20 minutes
Age: The box says 8+, but I’ve played it with six-year-olds.
Size: Fits in a good-sized pocket.
To me, games are about two things: escapism and exploring different patterns of thought, which is really two ways of saying a very similar thing – so instead of rambling further, I’ll cut to the chase and say what I mean. The Mind is very cool. I hadn’t really played board or card games outside the mainstream assortment (Monopoly, Cluedo, etc) until I was introduced to this little beauty a couple of years ago, and it sent me off into a whole universe of weird and wonderful games I never knew existed. The Mind feels like magic to play and here’s how it works.
You each start out with one card each from a deck numbered 1-100, and must place them in ascending order between the players, without speaking or signalling who you think should go first. That’s Level 1. Level 2 is two cards, Level 3 is three, all the way up to Level 12. You only have a certain number of lives (represented, for some reason, by rabbits with spiritual tendencies) to do so, and a certain number of special cards that allow you to break a deadlock. Put down a card out of order, lose a life. Lose all your rabbits, game over.
Now the beauty of this is in its simplicity. I’ve played The Mind in groups where the age has ranged from six to 70s and everyone has had a good time or, if they hated it, been too polite to say. The beauty, perversely, also lies in the game’s intangibility – The Mind is impossible to really figure out because its currency, body language, is so subjective and complicated as to be impossible to pin down, whatever certain TV shows will tell you. But when you get a successful run going the group feeling is electric and, because you all have to stay silent until you eventually win or lose, all that emotion just builds and builds until the final card is laid.
It’s a great game for bonding, perfect as a warm-up for a night of playing other games or in a pub, as an ice breaker at a dinner party etc. Buy it in the original German if you can because the language barrier on the cards makes it all the more mystical.
For improvisers: There’s a lot here about training observation and eye contact which have obvious improv benefits, but the singular element of this game is the way it replicates that feeling of ‘group mind’ that can be such an important part of especially long form improv, depending on the level of tolerated mysticism toward that sort of thing within your act. It’s a good game for bonding after a rehearsal in the pub and you might even be able to work it into a warm-up. (I’ve never tried, but it feels like it should be possible.)
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