Every year, hundreds of Mensans and their guests gather at the Mensa Mind Games to play and evaluate new tabletop games that have been submitted for evaluation. The Mensa members judge and rank them on concept, gameplay, replayability, components, instructions, value, and more during this game-playing marathon. And every year, the top five games are announced. They are always compelling and fun, and worth a play or ten.
Just yesterday, the 2018 Mensa Mind Games winners were announced, earning the right to display the Mensa Select seal on their packaging. The winners are Azul, Constellations: The Game of Stargazing and the Night Sky, Ex Libris, Photosynthesis, and Raiders of the North Sea. Here they are in more detail. (Prices listed are from Amazon.)
Azul by Plan B Games – About $36
For 2-4 players, age 8 and up, this game is supposed to play in 30-40 minutes.
Players work as artisans to decorate the walls of the Royal Palace of Dvora in Moorish tile art as beautifully as they can. They must also conserve materials. The name of the game comes from the azulejos, which were originally blue and white ceramic tiles used in the process of decorating spaces. The gorgeous game components look to be of high quality. How creative can you be?
For 2-4 players, age 7 and up, this game is supposed to play in 45 minutes. It also includes a workbook about the stars, encompassing both science and mythology.
Based on real science and following the success of their last game, Xtronaut, this one focuses on the night sky’s constellations. Race to collect red, orange, yellow, white, and blue stars to form constellations. To play a constellation hex tile, you need to gather the types of star cards that are contained within that constellation. You then get to place it in the night sky. There is gorgeous artwork and plenty of placement strategy with bonuses for matching up the shapes along the tile edges.
Ex Libris by Renegade Game Studio – $44.99
For 1-4 players, age 10 and up, this game is supposed to play in about 45 minutes.
As a rare book collector, you vie for the position of Grand Librarian in your village, competing against the other players. Each of you works to develop the most amazing library possible in order to gain the new position. Send your assistants out into the world to procure valuable volumes, but they must get there before the assistants of your opponents do! But make sure your books cover a variety of topics as well. You will be judged on your library’s alphabetical order, shelf stability, prominent works, and variety, but try to avoid the banned books! Bonus: This game includes quite a collection of different meeples.
For 2-4 players, age 8 and up, this game is supposed to play in 30-45 minutes.
Solidly based in plant-growing science, in this game players sow tree seeds (avoid shadows because sunlight is necessary for photosynthesis!), cultivate their growing seedlings, and then take them through the tree life cycle, seedling to full bloom to rebirth, earning points when their leaves collect energy from the sun. The game components include decently large trees to assemble.
Raiders of the North Sea by Renegade Game Studio – About $35
For 2-4 players, age 12 and up, this game is supposed to play in 60-80 minutes.
You’re a Viking Warrior, so naturally you’re going on raids, plundering villages, and making offerings to the Chieftain. These actions help you earn victory points to win the game. A worker placement game, this one proves to be great fun as you gather supplies, recruit a crew, raid settlements, and work to impress the Chieftain with spoils obtained during plundering. And don’t worry about any crew mates who die during the raids. They will move on to Valhalla.
This game is a part of the North Sea Runesage Campaign Trilogy. So, if you like this one, check out its expansions, Raiders of the North Sea: Fields of Fame and Raiders of the North Sea: Hall of Heroes!
Which game looks good to you? I haven’t yet played any of these games, but I’ve just put Ex Libris in my Amazon cart… Can’t wait to play it!