Apr 29 2017

Mensa Mind Games: Bringing Your A+ Game

Today marks the fifth anniversary of International Tabletop Day, a day devoted to the playful discovery and fun of board games. To get in the gaming holiday spirit, I recently had a chance to get a behind the scenes look at the 2017 Mensa Mind Games. An annual event for American Mensa members since 1990, Mind Games has become one of the most respected national games competitions. After all, any organization that gives props to Apples to Apples (a 1999 Mind Games winner…and one of my favorite games OF ALL TIME) must truly know their stuff.

So here are some fast facts I picked up during my fun inside peak at Mind Games:


  • Mind Games is a fun but intense experience

Mensa members have 48 hours to play and judge all 30 games assigned to them on their ballots. This year’s Mind Games accepted 74 games for judging–the biggest number of games in its almost 30 year history.  It’s not uncommon to see members gaming at 4am (see, Mensans–they’re just like us!). I also learned from Mind Games Chief Judge Greg Webster that every player gets at least one game to take home after the event.


Early nerds get the game! This was the scene at 9am in gaming hall at the 2017 Mind Games.

  • It’s about board games, not “bored” games

The board game seal of approval, “Mensa Select.” Only 5 games get this coveted title at Mind Games.

Getting the Mensa Select seal for a game is not synonymous with “nerdy games nobody wants to play.” Actually, games that have wide appeal are the best games. As Mind Games Chief Judge Greg Webster put it,  judges have to ultimately consider “would you like to play this game over and over… would you want to have it in your home.” Not surprisingly, there is a rubric that Mind Games judges use to vet the games. Judges rate each of the games on originality (structure, concept, creativity), game play (enjoyment, excitement, challenge), play value (repeatability, longevity, price), aesthetics (look, feel, style) and instructions (brevity, clarity, completeness).

For 2017, the Mind Games Mensa Select winners are:

  • Amalgam, Simply Fun
  • Around the World in 80 Days, IELLO Games
  • Clank!: A Deck Building Adventure, Renegade Game Studio
  • Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle, USAOPOLY
  • Imagine, Gamewright Inc.

    Resized_2017 winners

    The 2017 Mensa Mind Games Select Winners. And yes, there is a “Harry Potter” game in the mix! Photo courtesy of Mensa Mind Games.


  • The fun con culture is alive and well at Mind Games

Like-minded, and lighthearted! Pictures of Nicolas Cage hidden throughout the 2017 Mind Games gaming hall mysteriously appear

Mind Games judges come from all walks of life–truckers, scientists, and even kids–all unified with a passion for gaming. Since Mind Games happens annually, there is the family reunion atmosphere, just like any con. When I walked around the gaming hall, I saw little photographs of actor Nicolas Cage artfully placed in unlikely places. Hey, who doesn’t love a  con “inside joke”!

Mind Games is so welcoming that members can even show up solo, discover new games, and make new friends in the process.

Next year Mind Games takes place in Denver, Colorado. To learn more about Mind Games, check out http://mensamindgames.com

About the author

The Shadow Scout

Lakita’s geek force within was first publicly observed when she bopped to Herbie Hancock’s “Rock It” video as a very young child. This same said force was nurtured in adolescence through many weekends watching “Star Trek: Original Series” with her father and VHS binge-reserving “The Twilight Zone” television series from her nearest nerd sanctuary, the public library! Lakita also considers herself a public service “lifer” and supports youth voice inspired and empowered by the arts. A live tweeter and competitive trivia leaguer with dreams of learning esperanto or coding one day (whichever comes first), you can usually find her on twitter: @artshumana

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>