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Losing my Mind

Stuart Burnham
United Kingdom
Abingdon
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Back in the days when I spent as much time thinking about, and as much money acquiring, video games as I now do board games, there was a piece of software that I was in thrall to. I specifically use the term "piece of software" because many didn't class it as an actual game, but as an activity or an experience. That "piece of software" was one of my very favourite "games."
Ever.
It was called Rez.
Ostensibly it was an on rails shoot em up. Except that you didn't move your avatar (it wasn't a spaceship or a helicopter or a car etc) on screen, you simply held down a button and moved the cursor over the "enemies" whereby the game automatically locked to them. You could target up to eight on screen items in this manner, and when you released the button they would be "fired" upon and destroyed. Because this was so very basic, although not without challenge, it was dismissed by the general public (although was quite feted by the press) and sold poorly, but achieved something of a cult status.

What many people missed was that this was not a "game" in the traditional sense but was an exercise by the designer in trying to create a state of synesthesia. The music was central to this, specifically the beat, and if you could become synchronous with it you would find that the game would respond, the enemies being locked onto and shot down would reward you with flashes of light and notes of sound and an intensifying of the beat until the game became a pulsating, natural, extension of the player.

One of *the* most iconic levels of any video "game" ever


And now there is a tabletop game that, to my mind, operates in on a similar plain. It is simply a big deck of cards numbered 1 to 100 and all you have to do is play them in ascending order through each of its levels. It is called The Mind, and it has generated quite a bit of buzz recently.

Two to Four players will attempt this challenge and will hold a number of cards equal to the number of the round (ranging from one through to eight/ ten/ twelve depending on player count). As a round begins any player can play a card (their lowest) at any time. However, no player can talk to another or signal to another. At all.
The team will begin with a number of lives and should a card be played incorrectly (ie, not be the lowest that the team collectively holds) then a life will be lost. Lose all lives, lose the game.

There are some wrinkles. When a "foul" is made, all players will discard, face up, their lowest card. Information is thusly gathered. There are also throwing star tokens that can be used to the same effect (without the loss of a life) if the team collectively agrees (this is achieved by all players having raised their hand). A player may also say the word "Stop" and place their hand on the table to "pause" the game, restarting it when they lift it back off. Bonuses in the form of an extra life or extra throwing star are awarded at the end of some levels.

Make it through the required number of rounds and the team has won the "game."



As the quotation marks have suggested there are many who do not consider this to be worthy of being called a game. You can find plenty of comment to that effect around BGG. But, I am telling you, this is absolute genius. This is, quite possibly, this years SDJ. It is a unique experience that will not be to the taste of many gamers, but is absolutely transfixing and revelatory to a more casual crowd.

Of course there is a "trick" to the game, indeed the rulebook explicitly points it out (although mildly spoiler protected by printing it upside down), but knowing it and knowing it are two entirely different things. And when introduced to a new player or group of players the effect is simply beautiful. I played it with some at my regular (euro-centric) game group in the week. Comments went from "bullshit" then "not a game" to "totally breakable if you just [redacted]" then "we're acing this" to "bollocks, you cocked it up" and finally "this is insane, incredible, let's go again" over the rounds of the, yes, game.

You're not daft, you probably think you have "solved" it already, but I am telling you, there is real skill, tension and delight here, if you're open minded enough. This game draws a crowd and, nothing, but nothing, that has come before has had the ability to leave onlookers open-mouthed as four people, in silence, and in synchronicity, correctly play 24(+!) cards between them and then exhale and high five and whoop and cheer.
It's totally unique and I'm delighted that it exists.



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