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The Mind: Most polarizing card game of the year? (arstechnica.com)
187 points by Tomte 8 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 60 comments



> Players are not allowed to talk and must instead utilize non-verbal cues (like delayed action) as their primary tools.

No, I don't believe that's the correct interpretation of the game. The rules are pretty clear about all forms of signaling being forbidden, not just verbal. The only communication the rules allow is saying "stop", after which all players place their hands on the table and remove them at the same time to resume the game.

Now, you might say that without non-verbal queues there is even less of a game here than this article describes. And you'd be right. There is literally nothing to "The Mind" except every player (explicitly or implicitly) counting time at the same speed and synchronizing up either after a card play or a "stop".


I think that's a little reductive - there is more to it in the same way that there's more to poker than hoping you get dealt a good hand (I'm sure that's opening a can of worms).

It's not a game designed purely for expert bluffers. Everyone I've played The Mind with has their own tells and quirks - even when they know the rules forbid it - they'll cringe at their hand, tentatively hold a card forward, or lower it to the table. It's just fun to pick up on these and have a laugh about them.

I'm sure there are people that will rules-lawyer the fun out of it, but with the right crowd this is one of the games I've been pulling out most frequently recently, and haven't heard a bad thing.


I don't think it's reductive, and this is definitely not rules lawyering. There is just no ambiguity here. The rules mention multiple times that there are to be no secret signals or information sharing.

In addition to that there's a spoiler section printed upside down for people to read after they've played the game, to explain how anyone could possibly succeed at the task with no communication. And that section is not about reading non-verbal queues. It's about the players perception of time getting synchronized.

It's great that you're having fun playing a game with the components of The Mind. But the game both you and the original article are describing is pretty much diametrically opposed to the game that the designer intended it to be and described in the rules.


Every game I’ve played is full of non intentional communication in addition to timing and that’s part of the game play as far as I’m concerned. Even the way you move your hand communicates something.


Indeed, I think it’s impossible to have zero information at all unless players aren’t even in the same room. There’s just too much meta information you can feed off of.


I feel like this is the part the other comment or is either ignoring or not seeing. We’re not talking about non-verbal communication, like the hand signals of a 3rd base coach. Of course it’s forbidden to hold up fingers for the numbers on the card you have.

That rule doesn’t forbid your natural actions and reactions.


Fair enough! I'm intrigued to know your opinion of the game from what you've played of it. Do you enjoy the synchronization/counting aspect?


No, I don't. If someone insists on counting, it's like watching paint dry. It's a little bit more interesting if everyone is willing to wing it, but still not something I'd choose to play.

So I'm certainly not going to tell people that they should play by the rules as written. There's no game there. But perhaps this explains why the author of the original game perceived it as being polarizing. (But the problem is that the moment you transform this to a game about communicating over a limited channel, or to a game about reading tells, there are better options around.)


I guess it's like watching paint dry in 100 sec.


> There is just no ambiguity here. The rules mention multiple times that there are to be no secret signals or information sharing.

But the way you’ve just explained it is ambiguous.

Do the rules prohibit intentional information sharing or just information sharing?

If the former, then (unintentional) information sharing is allowed and if the latter, then the game should be played using computer terminals to prevent physical and verbal tells.


> Do the rules prohibit intentional information sharing or just information sharing?

Maybe you're just being silly, and if so I apologize for playing this straight, but how are you composing intentionally and unintentionally? If someone has the intention to (somehow) unintentionally share information, I don't see how that differs from intentionally sharing information.


I haven't played this game and don't intend to, since it seems dumb to me. But that's like asking, "Does the board game prohibit intentional cheating or just cheating?"

The English rules are here: http://middys.nsv.de/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/TheMind_GB.p...

There is no ambiguity. Don't share information. Worse, your line of thinking is not in the spirit of the game, ambiguous or not.


Secret signaling implies intent. Does cringing at a hand signal intent? Maybe, if the player intentionally does it, and has been warned before hand about doing it. But a regular new doing it automatically?


The (well-developed, with a lot of literature) precedent you want to look at is bidding systems in contract bridge, and the enforcement around them in tournament play.


This problem in bridge is what make playing it competitively (either in tournaments or for money) a bit frustrating. I still enjoy it and love to play the game, but at elevated stakes the possibility for partners to cheat by secret communication is too high for me to enjoy it. I even sometimes start to think about how my own normal behavior is illegally signaling to my partner. That is no fun.


It seems like what the rules actually mean is that you're not allowed to communicate except via the one form of communication that they've designated as "not communication".

The spoiler section also says you're not supposed to just count upward in seconds, which is strange because that's clearly both allowed and optimal. Maybe they mean that that's not the most fun way to play. But why would I want to play a game where fun was inversely correlated with the probability of winning?

I wonder what the optimal strategy is for the version where you're really not allowed to communicate (i.e. if no one plays a card immediately then you've communicated and therefore lost). Presumably you have to calculate based on the number of players and cards remaining how likely it is that you have the lowest card. You could also skip the later rounds by immediately playing a high card, at the cost of one life. I bet with enough practice you could win some games.

EDIT: On second thoughts, you're still communicating when you either play a card or not. So maybe that variant isn't so fun. It basically becomes everyone playing their lowest card as quickly as possible, and hoping that the lowest one lands first.


It is basically a game about timing but in practice people can’t help but give cues. Just as an example, if my only card is a 99 or 100 I can’t help but be somewhat disengaged with play and people are going to notice that and make assumptions about what I have.

It’s primarily a game about timing but it’s not the only element.


The problem is that they can't for it all forms of signalling. The game is just a frustrating semantic argument on what kinds of signals are allowed. I can't tap 3 times but can I move my card at 3cm per second?

Getting good at this game simply means getting good at one of the allowed forms of signalling.


So the idea is everyone count say twice a second, starting with the value of the exposed card, and when you get a match to a card you have, play it as fast a possible. If everyone counts at the same rate, you should win every time. I think this would be pretty easy to do if the group practiced out load for a while, but hard if you didn't.


I don’t see why the “synchronized play” strategy described in your last paragraph also doesn’t violate the no signaling of any kind rule. If I have a Two but no One, then by consciously not playing on the first second of play I am signaling something. Am I missing something?


I think the rules are just badly written. Every description I've read of people enjoying the game involves them signalling to each other using facial expressions. And it seems like it would actually be fun to play that way. I suspect it was how the game authors were playing it while play testing it. They just managed to write the rules in a way that didn't describe the game they had been playing.


Neat, though it sounds like this game could be trivially beaten by agreeing to sleepsort ahead of time (if your propensity to solve a game outweighs your desire to not be a killjoy, anyway). For a less trivial take on a cooperative game that limits communication (which is essential for any cooperative game, to prevent quarterbacking) I highly recommend Hanabi: https://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/98778/hanabi


Seconding this. The first thing that came to my mind when reading this article was Hanabi - which is a fantastic game.

There's also a number of fun papers out there about Hanabi:

Hanabi is NP-Complete, Even for Cheaters Who Look at Their Cards : http://drops.dagstuhl.de/opus/volltexte/2016/5864/pdf/4.pdf

Playing Hanabi Near-Optimally: http://www.mi.parisdescartes.fr/~bouzy/publications/bouzy-ha... (Though maybe skip this one if you intend to play the game for fun with friends)


PDF warning, both links

(Sorry, mobile cuts off the second half of the URL)


Based on jsnells comments on the other subthread, it seems like sleepsorting is the intended end result/mechanism of the game. So it is not really killjoy or game-breaking strategy


>to prevent quarterbacking

Do you mean "the action of making criticisms after the event" as in Wiktionary, "to be the head of your click" as in Urban Dictionary or something else?


In co-op games, quarterbacking is where a player dominates the game by telling all the other players what to do, making strategic and tactical choices for them. This means that really only one person is playing a game, making it less fun everyone else.


> a cooperative game that limits communication (which is essential for any cooperative game, to prevent quarterbacking)

Just no. The very point of cooperative games is learning to work together as a team. If you can't do that, then you lost the game. Ruining the rules so the game can't be lost is counterproductive.


It’s really hard and not fun to keep everyone just counting seconds. In practice it goes faster in earlier rounds and slower in later ones.


Can see the game in action here - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xnIfCG2dga8 their level 4 was nice.


They're passing a lot of information through movements and facial expressions. That seems like a more fun version of the game than the game actually described by the rules.


I find that "The Game" and its "Extreme"[1] version with event cards where one of them is actually disallowing communication until covered by another card more engaging and fun to play then "The mind". Its fun to see the emotional rollercoaster that someone goes through when you put something on the pile they said they are interested in.

[1] https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/209325/game-extreme

edit: fixed name and added link


So you can beat this game by using the "sleep sort" method: starting at minute 0, every minute play the card that has the same number as the current minute


The way people actually play is this:

Let’s say we’re in the second round and all the players have 2 cards. If you have a 1 obviously you’re playing it immediately. Of course everyone knows that so if you have a 5 for example, you’ll wait to see if someone plays something immediately. You notice someone starting to play a card somewhat tentatively. But if they had a card lower than five they’d be more confident about it so you rush to get your card down first, and you’re right, the tentative player had an 11. And on the game goes.

All of which is to say that there is a lot of information in the game beyond the passage of time and it’s about developing a theory of mind of all the people you’re playing with— how would they play if they had a card lower than yours?

Like playing with my wife, I’ve noticed she waits longer per number as the gap gets larger — so she might wait 5 seconds for a 10 gap and then 30 seconds for a gap of 20 cards. So I’ve had to adjust my timing to match. And of course she adjusts to adapt to my adjustment to her. Eventually you get into some kind of agreed upon internal clock without ever actually talking about it and you can drop 20 cards in order without so much as sighing.


How is that beating anything? You play games to have a fun or engaging time, counting seconds is extremely boring.

I and everyone we showed this game to had a lot of fun playing this game and not by counting seconds. It‘s a nice, quick game to start out with …


You beat it because: thems the rules son. They decided, not me.


The more interesting question in that case, is why play it at all, if you're going to take all the life out of it only you demonstrate a hollow win.


Why is it a hollow win? Does castling or forking in chess make it a hollow win?


What’s hollow or not is about context. Chess is very serious, The Minds is not very serious.

If things are less serious and also more squishy when it comes to the rules (despite the very absolute “no communication” rule I do think that some talking in The Mind doesn’t immediately destroy the experience and if you find a happy medium and approach with the group you are playing with it can even enhance the experience) then I would generalize that it’s in general easier for wins to be hollow, because there is more room to “cheat” in ways that ruin the experience.


It's not taking any life out of it since that's how you are supposed to beat it. It's not a hollow win, it's the real win.


The rules explicitly state that you shouldn’t count seconds … this presumably also includes using a clock as reference.

It’s given as a guideline (in the optional to read spoilery upside down box on the rules that explains that it’s a game all about timing), not an actual rule, but that still completely contradicts your statement that “that's how you are supposed to beat it”.


Not everyone plays games in order to win them, the “spirit of the game”, the fun, the camaraderie, is often times more important and it’s what one will remember in 20 or 30 years’ time, not the fact that on that particular night he/she won a specific game.


This is like this guy I played Golden Eye with once who had one place on the map between the body armor and the best gun and refused to move from the spot. Said the point is to employ the optimal strategy to win, right? I set the control down on the other half of the map, and he goes, “I guess it’s a stalemate, and I’m in the lead, do you surrender?”

Cracked me up. I said no and started walking in small circles. Then when he’d finally gotten tired and started coming out, I knew the maps well enough that I was always as far away from him as possible. Said the point is not to lose, right? Then he quit.


It literally says in the game that's how you are supposed to beat it.


It literally says in the game that’s how you are not supposed to beat it.

Quote from the rules: “It should be emphasised at this point that this is not a question of counting off the seconds. There is no counting. Of course, time passes by “in the head” of each player, but this is normally quicker than one second per number and it changes depending on what level is being played. The secret of the game is developing that collective feeling for “now is the moment”.”


This could be discouraged by having many more cards in the sequence than you distribute. With large random gaps, sleep sort would make a slow game.


Not if you, for instance count 5 cards per second, you will get trough the deck in 20 seconds. Also after the first card is played add a "slow down" buffer for next 5 cards - 1 number per second and then speed up again to 5 per second.

I would also try to stick to my logic and tempo and just let the other players pick up on the logic used.

Could be fun.


I would argue that sleep sort requires communication before the game play starts, which seems to be a violation of the rules, and a way to keep time synchronized during play, which I doubt most groups of people are able to do without a shared clock.


With the limited information, what other option is there?

I would hope/expect each other player reaches the same conclusion: sleepsort is the most obvious plan, and 1 second is the most likely interval.


A fun party game I've seen is similar: everyone sits in a circle, then we try to count to 100 collectively. The catch: if two people say a number at the same time, we have to start over.

This is surprisingly fun, at least with a large group. Of course it is easy to game (just count sequentially), but if people are playing for fun, it's really interesting.


This is a classic warmup for an ensemble of actors in a play. We used to do it with our eyes closed as well.


I think a simple method would be for each player to move its next card linearily towards the stack, for a duration in seconds corresponding to the difference between the stack and their card.

That way, the one with the lowest card reaches the stack first.


Apart from making the game no fun at all, that's just establishing a language before the game to use during. It's still a language (or a form of explicit communication) and as such is as forbidden as ASL.


so as long as you don't explicitly establish that the speed with which you move is the key, then it doesn't count if each player independently assume that speed of movement is the key?

I think the game is fun, but for only a few rounds. A game needs to have competition between players imho.


I think being a programmer is cheating when it comes to this game.


Hanabi is very similar. It's a card game where we have to work together to build card sets. Except the catch is that everyone else knows what cards we have, but not us.


Discussion here of the rules to this game and the conflict between winning and having fun brings up a constant dilemma when playing board games. Playing with my own family, where we have similar values for what was fun and made up the extra rules ourselves, most games could be easily made better with some rule changes. The downside is when you want to play with someone else. Following the rule book then is the default as "better" has many interpretations.


I haven't played The Mind (yet), but this card "game" uses non-verbal responses to make a quick and surprisingly accurate psychoanalysis of the respondent: https://medium.com/@jasoncomely/be-honest-are-you-lying-to-y...

It's based on the word association experiments by Carl Jung, who later published his findings as The Association Method.



Polarizing?




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