Can you communicate with your teammates to play cards in the right order...without speaking?
Android & iOS
# of Players
The Mind is a cooperative card game from Brettspielwelt GmbH. The game has two to four players working together to try to play their cards, numbered anywhere from one to 100, in sequential order without communicating with each other. Once the players successfully play their cards over a certain number of rounds/levels, or they get enough of them wrong, the game ends. A game typically lasts about 10 minutes.
The Mind starts with each player being dealt a single card. Players then “synchronize” by dragging their hand onto the table, each player then removes their hand when they want to. Then players begin playing their cards. The goal is to play whatever cards all players have in sequential, low to high, order. If you do so correctly, you move to the next level and try again, this time with each player getting one extra card compared to the previous level. This continues over a certain number of levels which depends on the player count. Each game also provides a certain number of lives, each time you play a card out of order, a life is used. Run out, and the game ends. Should you make it to the end of the final level with lives remaining, you and your teammates have won The Mind.
The game also features throwing stars which, if all players agree to use them, allow each player to reveal and discard their lowest remaining card. This is vital to breaking stalemates and additional throwing stars are earned for completing certain levels in the game. The app provides three different facial emotions and three different facial expressions which works as the only form of communication between players in a game. Players can also request a “stop” which has each player synchronize again before play continues.
One thing to note is how much the app emphasizes the synchronization phase. If you browse the physical game rulebook it will be called “concentration.” The curious thing here is that, after watching a handful of online reviews/rule explanations, none of them mentioned the concentration phase. The idea of putting your hand (physical or digital) on the table and pulling it away to provide some sort of meaning is clearly an important piece of the intended game experience, but it gets ignored by people playing the physical game?
The Mind is a downright bizarre choice to get a digital port. The physical game is all about nonverbal communication across the table. The app attempts to replicate this with the built-in emotions, but it’s not the same. The app is also interesting in that it has a handful of built-in AIs with their own defined tendencies.
I’ve never played the physical game, but I can easily see the comparison to Hanabi which I’ve played quite a bit of. I simply can’t see the fun of Hanabi porting well to digital form and The Mind’s digital implementation is interesting enough to get me to take a look at the physical game, but the app is almost certainly not going to stay in my rotation for long after this review gets published. Your results may vary, of course.
Barrier to Entry
A quick tutorial introduces you to The Mind and shows you the basics. It glosses over the synchronize phase a bit, which leaves it more confusing than anything, but other than that does a fine job explaining the rules. The app also contains a set of text rules which were written specifically for the app, which is always good to see versus a copy and paste of the physical rules. The Mind is an incredibly simple game and the tutorial and rulebook are more than enough to get you started, although it will take some time to pick up on some of the AI nuances.
Look and Feel
The app looks and controls really well. All of the graphics look good. From the clean, easy to navigate menus, to the simple and intuitive in-game layout. Controls are drag-and-drop. There’s really nothing to complain about in this area. You could nitpick on the lack of an undo button, but it doesn’t make a lot of sense in this game.
The Mind features online play, you can search for random players to play with or invite friends. The online system uses email verification through a website that is in German (the emails it sends will be in German as well). This is annoying at best, it makes you jump through a few hoops to get going, and those hoops probably aren’t in a language you understand.
I’ve had the app since launch and made numerous attempts to play online, and none have resulted in starting a game, unfortunately. I had a few cases where it appeared I was matched, only to be left waiting in the lobby for 10 minutes without and action. I’ll keep trying and hopefully get to update this section soon.
I have heard reports of a buggy online system, but, unfortunately, I can’t verify that at this time.
The game features six different AI players to play with. Each of the six have their own ratings in speed, rhythm fidelity, and adaptability. You choose one to three of them to play with when starting a single player game. You can also choose to prevent the AI players from making mistakes between each other, so that the only errors can come into play involving your cards.
It’s really hard to say how well the AIs work. I’ve mostly played with the smarter AIs and it’s still really, really tough to win a game. Maybe I’m not using the facial expressions well enough? Or maybe I don’t understand the rhythm fidelity? Whatever it is, the games, more often than not, end after a handful of very close cards are played out of order. When the cards are dealt in a lucky way, the game moves rather easily, but a couple of rounds with two or more cards within five or so of each other, and the mistakes pile up quickly and a loss is quickly incoming.
The app features a handful of achievements to chase which is always a nice addition for completionists out there.
The Wrap Up
The Mind is simply one of the oddest games we’ve covered that has made the jump from physical to digital. A game like Love Letter has a lot of social aspects and it made the transition fairly well, so it can be done, but The Mind just isn’t quite the same. The app is well made and does a good job of presenting the game and letting players play it with a variety of AI options as well as online play. The problems come in with a rather large learning curve to understanding how the AI operate. The game is asking a lot of players to learn how those three small rating bars next to the AI names translate into actual gameplay. Play enough and you’ll start to figure it out, but it’s tough to see many players getting to that point. If online play is well made, it could provide a fun online experience with friends, but I suspect something big would be lost there as well. Add in the reports of dropped games and the annoying email verification system to get signed up, and it’s easy to see the uphill climb The Mind has to gaining a large online user base.
As it stands, The Mind is a fun introduction to the game and does enough to spark some interest in the physical game, but I’m not sure it will find a warm reception in the digital space. It’s not from lack of effort as the app is well made, offline anyway, and has an impressive amount of AI work put into it, but the underlying game is a tough sell on mobile devices. If playing this game with AI teammates appeals to you, you will find a lot to like about The Mind on mobile devices.