Judging instructions

How Does Mind Games Work?

Mind Games is a 40-plus-hour game-judging marathon, during which the year's five best new games are chosen and awarded the coveted Mensa Select® seal. Only current Mensa members are eligible to be official judges and participate in the Games Giveaway. All attendees (judges and guests) are expected to give the games they have played a fair assessment based upon the judging criteria and legibly submit honest, constructive comments via the comment cards.

Game manufacturers pay a fee and submit several copies of their game for the valuable feedback from the comment cards as well as the chance to win the coveted Mensa Select seal.

Each judge is charged with:

  • Completing their list of 30 games (BLUE playlist) to conclusion at least once between Friday and Sunday morning.
  • Submitting a completed ballot (bottom of BLUE playlist) into the ballot box before 7 a.m. Sunday morning.
  • Completing and submitting a legible comment card for each game played, each time it's played. The comment cards will help you score each game in five categories: aesthetics, originality, play value, play appeal, and quality of instructions.

If you play your allotted selection of games, you're welcome to play and judge any of the other games that have been entered in the competition. You can't vote for it if it isn't on your ballot, but you can certainly play them all! When it comes to the Mensa Select voting, you're expected to vote for the games you would buy for yourself or your friends.

Judging and voting

Upon registering you will receive:

  • Playlist/Scoresheet (Blue and Yellow)
  • Voting stickers (QR stickers)
  • "Shall We Play A Game?" cards
  • Games Directory

For voting judges, play the 30 games on your blue playlist/scoresheet based on aesthetics (look, feel, style), originality (structure, concept, creativity), play value (repeatability, longevity, price), play appeal (enjoyment, excitement, challenge) and instructions (brevity, clarity, completeness). You may want to play some games more than once, but resist that temptation until you are certain you will complete your list. Play each of your 30 games to completion at least once.

Use your voting stickers to indicate on the ballot portion (located at bottom of blue playlist/scoresheet) your top seven overall preferred games. Detach the ballot and deposit it into the ballot box located in the gaming area. Ballots must be placed in the ballot box before 7 a.m. Sunday morning.

The yellow playlist is the remaining games you can play, but not vote for.

Submit a completed comment card (available in gaming area) for every game you play, each time you play it. Deposit completed comment cards in appropriate slot of the blue mail sorters located in the gaming area. All players (member and non-member) should fill out comment cards. Comments should be specific, constructive, helpful and appropriate. Make sure to check off if you would or would not recommend a game. Do not detach this portion of the comment card.

Judge's tools

Games Directory: The Games Directory is a handy reference of the games featured at this year’s event. Inside, you'll find each game's suggested number of players, price, and optimum player age range, as well as pictures and a follow-along list for the Games Giveaway.

Comment cards (white): Comment cards are available in the game room. In addition to the five Mensa Select winners, there is a "recommended for play" category. The completed cards are sent to the game manufacturers following the event. These feedback cards are very important to the game companies so please write legible. This feedback is a key incentive for the manufacturers to submit their games for years to come — we want them to keep sending new games each year!

Playlist/Scoresheet (blue and yellow): Each score sheet is connected to one player, and it contains the 30 games you have been charged with judging, as well as the ballot for you to nominate the Select winners. It's a good idea to put your name on it as soon as you get it. The blue card contains your ballot, and lists the 30 games you, as a Mensa member, are expected to play and are the only games you may vote for. The yellow card lists all the other games at the event. You are free to play any (or all!) of the games on your yellow card, but you cannot vote for any of them.

Ballots: Game ballots, the lower portion of your blue playlist/score sheets, must be turned in by 7 a.m. Sunday morning.

Voting stickers: A sticker sheet of QR codes will be provided to current members. These stickers will allow you to vote for your Mensa Select games.

“Shall We Play a Game?" cards: Each player will be given a "Shall We Play a Game" card. Fill out the card with your name and cell phone number, and place it on the games table next to the game to wish to play. Be sure to denote whether you prefer a text or a call. Please make sure to remove your info card once you've played the requested game.

General judging tips

When it comes to the Mensa Select voting, you're expected to vote for the games you would buy for yourself or your friends. Give it your best effort, but also remember that scoring is not a group effort. Do not take away the chance for each judge to share their unique feedback regarding their experience with each game.

Judge the games as they are described in the printed rules. If you find a better way to play a game (i.e., "we found it helped to use a coin as a marker to keep track of progress", etc.), tell the manufacturer on the comment card.

Even if a game is not the type you would normally play (e.g., trivia games, solitaire games, or children's games), use the scoring categories to rate the merits of the game. Judge a game for children in the context of considering buying it for a child you know.

Vote for the games you would buy for yourself and friends. The Mensa Select designation is intended to show that intelligent people enjoy playing the game. Indirectly, it indicates that a game is original and creative in concept, challenging, a good value for the price, easy to comprehend and play, and above all, FUN!

If you look at the left side of your blue playlist/scoresheet, all of the games are listed alphabetically in a compact, easy-to-compare fashion. If you align another player's card to yours, you will easily find what games you have in common with other players.

If you need to play a certain game you can connect with other judges/players by using the “Shall We Play a Game?" cards as mentioned above or use the microphone provided in the gaming area. If using the microphone, speak slowly and clearly, give the name of the game, how many people you need and what table you are at. Also, the old fashioned way of just asking people who appear to also be looking for additional players also works well.

Veteran judges will suggest the best way to attack your list is to start with the games that take the most players. Another plan of attack is to go for the games that will require the most time. It's better to get them out of the way early. Also, be sure to join in the big party games whenever you have the chance; you may not be able to get that many people together again later!

There will be an "orphans" box in the gaming area. If you find a piece, card, token, etc. somewhere outside a game, place it in the box. This is where volunteers will look to as they re-set the games for the Game Giveaway on Sunday.

Player/judge conduct

Please be courteous: Take one game at a time, play it, and put it back before taking another. Do not grab a bunch of games and stack them on your table. All attendees have the same amount of time to play, and if games are not available that makes it harder for everyone.

Take care of the games as though they belong to a friend — because they will! Each game will be awarded at the Games Giveaway and will be going home with your fellow Mensans (yourself included), and nobody wants missing pieces, water-soaked papers, or a damaged box.

Age requirements for attendees: Mind Games is open to people of all ages, but parents are urged to consider their children's individual maturity levels and interest in gaming before making the decision to attend. Attendees are expected to play the games assigned to them and fill out thoughtful comment cards for each game. If your child(ren) attend, you'll want to review the games they're playing to ensure the content and difficulty level match their maturity levels. If a young attendee is in your playgroup, please be aware and aim for a “family friendly” tone.

Please wear your badge while in the gaming area and hospitality.