Tag Archives: mental blocks

Game of the Week Blog Reflection (For Class on 3/3/2022): Mental Blocks

During this past week, our class got together to play two games, Mental Blocks and Survive! Escape from Atlantis. Each of us were allowed to choose which game we wanted to play, with the option to even play both of them if we had enough time. Personally, I chose to play Mental Blocks, a cooperative puzzle game where the players attempt to build a specific shape using a series of foam blocks and each player’s clue card within the allotted time. However, each player is only allowed to look at their own individual clue, and each clue sees the target object from a different perspective without stating what that perspective is. It is this particular aspect of the game that I believe makes it so difficult, as if everyone is attempting to create their own individual piece of the puzzle, then they will rarely match the solution unless the players discuss what their perspective depicts and determine specifically which perspective each player holds. However, this was often easier said than done, as the time limit causes most people to immediately begin trying to build their particular perspective, rather than taking a moment to discuss. 

As for the gameplay session itself, our group played Mental Blocks several times, but only managed to actually succeed once or twice. During our first game, we actually played without the time limit and used restrictions that limited what blocks players could move or how they could communicate, and as a result were able to successfully complete our first puzzle. For all of the following puzzles though, we chose to use the time limit, and from there winning became far harder as we simply could not establish whose perspective was which and began to argue over what our cards depicted, building and rebuilding the same incorrect shapes rather than finding the correct one.

Despite these losses, I still feel that we can learn something about Leadership from Mental Blocks. For instance, most of our losses in the game could be attributed to our tendency to build our own perspective first before consulting anyone else. Similarly, in a leadership or group situation, if multiple people in the group have their own, conflicting goals, then the group as a whole may struggle to make any progress at all. In situations like this, the group will only be able to recover if the leader is able to step up and force a compromise of some sort, where both parties gain some, but not all, of what they wanted. This also applied in our games of Mental Blocks, as at least one player was required to set aside their own clue and attempt to parse what everyone else’s clues depicted instead. 

Overall, I had a lot of fun playing Mental Blocks, even if we were only able to succeed once or twice over the many puzzles we attempted. Attempting to parse together various clues while struggling with whatever restriction you receive is quite enjoyable, and as a side goal while playing you can also try to determine what everyone else’s restrictions are. I would very much be interested in playing the game again at some point, perhaps trying to determine what everyone’s perspective is depicting rather than building my own to see if that helps us succeed at all.

My Brief Mind-Boggling Memoir ‘Bout Mental Blocks

This week, I returned to the cooperative genre of board games with the game Mental Blocks. A group of 2 to 9 players (we played with 6) each has a card that only they can see showing either a sideview of colored blocks or a black-and-white view of a corner of a structure, then they must use foam blocks to build a structure that satisfies all the images that the players have. The rounds are limited by time, which was 9 minutes for 6 players, but after a couple failed rounds, our group simply tried to succeed AT ALL. Once we figured out a good strategy, we managed to start solving puzzles in under a minute. Luckily, the game includes ways to change the difficulty of the puzzles. In addition to a set of “Challenging” puzzles, there are restriction and glitch cards that give players additional rules, such as being unable to speak or touch foam blocks of a certain size, shape, or color. By the time class concluded, we had found a difficulty that worked well for us (around a 50% win rate).

The hardest part, by far, was trying to build what was on your card while not ruining what somebody else had built or needed to build. In one instance, another player and I both had blue blocks on our cards but another had zero blue, so we were trying to build this structure in a way that showed blue but also hid it from a single side. Another time, I swore a shape looked one way on my card but everybody else knew it couldn’t physically be shaped like I said. In our efforts to complete our objective right, we had to slow down and build the shape together or we would build something that couldn’t be correct and refuse to let others touch it.

Thinking about that in terms of leadership, one could say the exact same thing about projects where everybody has different interpretations of the same goal. 5 different people could be united under the same cause, but because they are 5 minds who each have their own vision of how that goal will be achieved, they are also 5 people competing to realize their individual dream. A great leader is somebody who includes everybody’s perspectives, crafting a plan that unites everybody’s ideas rather then letting them be until they inevitably butt heads.

I believe my brother would very much like playing Mental Blocks. He and I have fantastic communication and love playing games together that challenge that. Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, Overcooked, and so on. Since the game does work with a minimum of 2 players, I’d like to see how he and I fair against the game’s challenges and glitches. Mental Blocks is a very simply premise, but it turns out to be a really cognitively challenging game that I highly recommend.