Mind MGMT Board Game Review – First Impressions

Mind MGMT Board Game Review – First Impressions

Self Awareness in board games is minimum commodity that not many designers are willing to visit, let alone stay there. If anything, they want you to look on their game as a means of escape, a way out of your normal day to day. Mind MGMT embraces its existence in a way I haven’t seen in a board game ever, and makes you think you’re watching Ryan Reynolds break the fourth wall repeatedly while trying to be serious. This is all about the big conspiracy, the secret conspiracies, the codenames and talking and the recruitment and people in doorways and meetings at fountains and outdoor cafes. It’s about chasing down the Recruiters as a Rogue Agent and trying to make the world a less controlled place. In the spirit of enjoyment and discovery, THERE WILL BE NO SPOILERS IN THIS ARTICLE. 

Overview

Mind MGMT is a hidden movement game, and for those unfamiliar with the concept, this will mean that regardless of the number of players, you’re playing as two teams heading off against each other on the same board space. Unlike other competitive games, one of the team will essentially be hidden from view and it is the other team’s job to track them down and claim victory. Hidden movement games have provided me with some of the most tense gaming sessions I have experienced as a player and so I was excited to see how Mind MGMT compared and what it did to make it stand out from the crowd, in a relatively quiet part of the boardgame space. 

Mainplay

You’re not looking at overly complicated concepts or mechanics here at a base level. Whether you play as two or the full five players, one of you will play the Recruiter from Mind MGMT, while the others will play as the four Rogue Agents trying to ascertain the location of the Recruiter. The Rogue Agents are present on the board as standees, while the Recruiter will have their own smaller version of the board behind a screen, where they will mark out where they have been as they move around the board, trying to evade capture, while at the same time recruiting people to the Mind MGMT cause. Across the board there are a landmarks where the Recruiter will pass through and collect new recruits to help their cause. The Rogue Agents can ask if the recruiter has passed through a certain type of landmark to help map out where the Recruiter has been. You lay down clues and guesses as wonderful brain shaped clues. The idea here is to lower the base area down enough to help pinpoint where the Recruiter is so the Agents can carry out a Capture action. As you get more familiar with the base game, you’ll bring in the Immortals who fall under the Recruiter’s control to assist them in helping them avoid detection while also allowing recruitment to take place at a quicker pace. Mind MGMT is designed to be played repeatedly, with players encouraged to log multiple plays and then based on success or failure, have the chance to change the game by opening one of the many SHIFT packages that will change the game incrementally. Mind MGMT benefits from having very easy to understand base mechanics and based on who you play with, there’s likely to be a reasonable amount of tension as the net the either tightens enough or you escape to recruit another day. 

Winning 

Collect enough recruits as the Recruiter or survive long enough and you’ll win the game and further the Mind MGMT cause. Capture the Recruiter and the Rogue Agents will win the day. 

Looks 


Mind MGMT is based on the comic series by Matt Kindt, and had brought him on board to illustrate the game. What you end up with here is a game that looks very little like what you are likely to have seen in any other game you have played. The illustrations are on the card art and the board are simple, almost kinetic in nature. You easily imagine them being animated as you move the pieces around the board. There’s a Fear & Loathing type of feel here, chaotic and frantic. The box art itself contains what appear to be little notes scrawled on the outside, and all the while the game is telling you that maybe you aren’t really playing a game at all. The SHIFT system teases you with a note asking if anyone would know if you took a peek. Mind MGMT wraps itself up in self awareness, and this helps to distance it from a lot of other games out there. On the other side, this gonzo approach to the design reigns confusion when you’re first learning the game. Where other games would be careful to make things as clear as possible, location cards look like they’ve been pulled together from different sources, and the board needs to be studied sometimes in order for you to be able to grab the information that you need in an instant and considering as the Recruiter you need to avoid giving tells, it can sometimes let you down. You’re going to have Mind MGMT laid out on the table at the local games club and I have no doubt that its going to stop people in their tracks and have them ask questions. 


Learning  

The teach isn’t hard here, but oh my days it could be so much easier to learn. This is due to a rule book that tries to be a Swiss Army Knife when it would work so much better as just a separate knife and fork. I can see here what Off The Page have tried to do here, with sections in green that you read as a new player, and sections in red that you read if you are playing the bigger game, and sections without either colour that are supposed to be read all the the way through including the version you want to play. This is designed so that the main thrust of the game doesn’t have to be repeated, but I wonder if a smaller intro rule book would help. That once you do understand the core concepts, the cards and information on the board do a decent job of not requiring you to pay a visit back to main rules again. For those who find rulebooks a chore at the best of times, then I would suggest checking out a play through video, but also make sure you download the extremely handy mobile app, which does an exceptional job of showing you the core mechanics and serves as a much need companion app to help you understand how to play before you take command of teaching that first session with friends. 

Timing 

Mind MGMT can take hours if you want it to. While there is the tension of the cat and mouse of the game, like other hidden movement games there’s the psychology that surrounds it in a social fog, where you can be exchanging quips with those who are trying to hunt you down. Where things can get wonderfully personal as you try to project what you know about your opponents onto the board itself. You can rattle through a game extremely quickly if the mood takes you, but that would be doing a disservice to the atmosphere and world that Mind MGMT is built in. 

Final Thoughts

These aren’t Final Thoughts, but maybe final thoughts without the capital letters and only because Mind MGMT offers a whole lot more than I think players are going to realise when they first open the box. To call it a hidden movement is both accurate but a wonderful disservice to where MM is aiming for. Whitechapel is hidden movement game in its purest form. Mind MGMT is trying to be a self aware concept album, and all that is missing is the back cover black and white photo of the band members under a bridge. The art work from Matt Kindt is dangerous on the table, nothing that you’ve probably seen before. It would offend the eyes of graphic designers and the “Boardgame Artwork Feedback Facebook Groups” that constantly shout about clarity and reason and organisation. When you first squint at it, and you will squint at it, you’ll wonder how it’s going to be playable, let alone enjoyable. It doesn’t sit there passively either. Side notes and comments and hidden clues all shout at you from the box, everything from the screen to the card art is trying to make a statement. It makes missteps which is expected from such a cocky little bugger. The rulebook provides unneeded learning barriers which luckily fade away after the first couple of games. There is the entire additional buffet of delights in the SHIFT system, the options to add in additional difficulties with the Mayhem tokens. Where other games take a theme and cover their game with a thin watercolour veil making sure to touch lightly and gently, Off The Page pours Mind MGMT all over the box and components like a mixture of peanut butter and petrol, then sets everything alight laughing as it does. You’ll hate it. You sure about that? You positive? Be Positive. You’re positive. It’s not bad. It’s fine. It’s good. Come in. Join Us. Have a Seat. Welcome aboard..

Any Tips? 

Reveal is your friend. Make sure you ask and follow up with a Reveal action as soon as you can to help build your Net. 

Design – Sen-Foong Lim & Jay Cormier

Illustrations, Design, Comic Art & Writing – Matt Kindt

Rulebook – Sharlene Kindt 

Rules Editor – Jeff Fraser 

App Developer – Eric Raué

This review is based on the retail version of the game provided to us by the designer and publisher. We were not paid for this review. We give a general overview of the gameplay and so not all of the mechanical aspects of the game may be mentioned.


The majority of the games that we are play are going to take a reasonable number of sessions and playthroughs to fully understand every possibility that they offer. We hope this write up gives you an idea of whether or not this game is something that you will consider playing or even add to your collection. Our Six Degrees of Expectation have been written to make it easier for you to find out what is important to you as a player. Even if we don’t like something, hopefully it helps you to decide if it is something that you should find out more about. We always suggest you check out a gameplay video to give you a better understanding of the game as it is played. 

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2 Comments

  1. Max

    Great piece!. That's how I found your blog. And Mind MGMT is such a great game.

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