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I was skimming best-of list for games of 2018 and came across The Mind on several lists. It looks like a relatively simple, but interesting game, and after watching a couple of videos showing its gameplay, I decided that I could create more-or-less the equivalent thing just using a standard 52-card deck.

At first The Mind seems too simplistic; Players just cooperate to put out their cards in numerical order (I think it’s 1-100 in The Mind). What makes this hard is that you can’t talk to one another! So somehow you and the other player(s) have to “communicate” who should go next by … who knows … ESP or something? Under these circumstances, The Mind seems nearly impossible; how could you possibly know who’s got the next highest card without signaling in some way or other. I haven’t play The (original) Mind, but given that it gets such glowing reviews, I’m going to assume that what happens is that the players sort of learn one another’s non-verbal cues.

Regardless of how The (original) Mind works, I created what seems to be a very doable and fun version that uses a standard 52-card deck (plus jokers). Here’s how it goes:

Setup: Separate the (2) jokers, and the (13) hearts from the deck. Place the 2 jokers face up. These are your lives. Order the hearts from Ace-through-king face up, and place them in a stack, so you’ll be looking at an Ace. This is your level counter. (This is an “Ace Low” game: Ace = 1, J=11, Q=12, and K=13.) Shuffle the remaining 39 cards (the remaining 3 suits).

Overall Goal: The play is cooperative; when I say “you”, I mean, “you all the players cooperating”.  The hearts indicate your level, so you start at level 1 (ace), and win if you get to level 13 without dying either 2 or 4 times. (I recommend 4 times for the beginners). The jokers indicate your lives; Each time you fail, you either discard a joker if you’re playing 2-lives, or turn over, and then on the next fail discard a joker, thus affording you 4 lives. (Of course you can do life and level counting any way you like! This setup just makes things convenient.)

Level Play: For each level (1-13 == ace->king) play goes as follows:

  1. Shuffle the 39 cards.
  2. Deal as many cards to each player as your level. So on the first play each player gets one card, second level 2, etc. and if you should make it to the 13th (King) level, each player would get 13 cards. (There can only be 3 players, obviously, or else you’ll have to either play with multiple decks, or somehow otherwise modify the rules so that you don’t have to deal more cards than there are in the stack.)
  3. Play as many rounds as you can get to without failing. If you fail, you decrement a life (jokers). If you get through all the dealt cards, then you win that level.
  4. In either case, flip over one of the hearts to go on to the next level.
  5. GoTo 1 🙂

Rounds within a level are really simple, but here is also where things get interesting:

Each round is independent — don’t worry about whether the cards between rounds are higher or lower than one another, HOWEVER, leave all the cards face up (you’ll see why this is in a moment).

Even though the players are cooperating, they cannot look at one another’s cards, nor talk to one another, except to decide which player should go first, then next, etc.

On each round, each player must place exactly one of their cards in an order that the players can discuss, but without telling one another what card they are playing. If the cards are placed in lowest-to-highest order, then that’s a win. If they are not, then the level is failed. (Ties count as wins; only out-of-order sequencing fails.)

For example, in level one, since each player has just one card, there will only be one round. If one of the players was dealt an Ace, they should argue strenuously to go first since regardless of what any other player could place, it will either tie or be larger than an Ace.

If you succeed at level 1, go on to level 2, where each player has 2 cards, and so on up to 13. If you haven’t failed 2 (or 4) times by the end of level 13, the game is won!

If you think this sounds either too easy or too hard to be interesting, try it and see for yourself; It’s actually quite difficult and interesting. Consider these factors:

  1. As you get to higher levels, since there are only 3 of any card in the deck, you are more and more likely to be able to guess what cards the other players must have, especially combined with what has been already played. (Recall that I said it’s useful to leave all the played cards face-up and exposed. This helps in the card counting that can be a useful strategy.)
  2. Since the rounds within a level are independent, you don’t have to play your lowest card on each play. It may be useful, for example, to play your very high cards early in order to get rid of some of them. Recall that you can’t talk about anything except who is going to place the next card, so you can’t agree no an algorithm. However, you can figure out, perhaps, what your team-mates’ algorithm might be, and play cooperatively with them based on this analysis.

So, there you go. Fun game for a rainy afternoon!