Published on June 4th, 2010 | by Greg0
Mensa Games: Anomia, Yikerz, Forbidden Island, and Word on the Street
Each year, a group of Mensa members gets together and selects some of the best board games of the year. Since 1990, they’ve selected some of our favorites like Taboo and Fluxx and Apples to Apples. They’ve recently released the most recent group of winners, and we’ve played four out of the five selections. Each of them has something to offer families and game-lovers of all ages.
We’ll start with our favorite game of the bunch- Yikerz. Small, portable, and easy to setup, the game is also flexible enough to play by yourself or in fairly large groups (we’ve played with 6 people and had a good time). Kids can enjoy it easily enough (even those younger than the recommended 14+), and adults will light up a bit at the chance to play. Basically, it’s a game where you try to place the last piece, only the pieces are differently-shaped magnets and you are placing them on a set of flexible mats. You can arrange the mats in various ways to form easier and harder areas, you can only place a piece using one hand, and can carefully push/pull previously played pieces… but only using the magic of magnetism. As the board fills up, tension rises, and if we had one problem with the game it was that the first player to make a mistake, typically about 3/4 of the way through, always loses. There’s decent strategy involved along with careful eye-hand coordination, and plenty of ways to setup new and interesting challenges. Only $15 and worth every penny.
We also enjoyed Anomia. If you’re wondering about the name, it’s actually a type of aphasia, where you have trouble recalling words or names. As you can guess, it’s a kind of word game, with cards and symbol-matching, where players place in front of them a card from a shared deck, turn it face up, and everyone races to see if it matches those of other players (or the wild cards). If there is a match, then the race is on, as each of the matching pair tries to shout out a word or phrase that matches the category written on the other player’s card. Some examples include “a color”, or “a musician”, and you can imagine that in a fast-paced game there is plenty of room for amusing mistakes. It’s really easy to call out an answer to your own category, and that’s not including the fun ‘cascades’ that occur when new matches are unexpectedly formed after a face-off happens and one of the cards is removed. It might sound complicated, but the instructions are wise- they tell you to just start playing and it will become clear as you do so. Perhaps slightly tilted against younger kids, anyone older than 12 seemed to do fine, but some categories are harder than others. Again, the price is right at $20.
The other two games are a little different- bigger, heavier, and requiring a bit more time to play. Word on the Street is a cute concept with an apt tagline- ‘a tug of words’. Again cards come into play with various categories, but this is a team (or two-person) game, with two sides moving letters on a road-like board, playing a sort of frogger with each letter tile as they come up with words that fit the category. Letters that are pulled all the way to your side are “captured”, and the first team or person to capture eight tiles is the winner. This one works for up to 10 players, though better with an even number, and works great as a party game. Of course, you should aim for long words, but also need to take into account which letters your opponent is close to snatching. Some of the categories are challenging, especially towards the end of the game as letters are knocked out. We recommend playing with an added rule that prevents using repeat words. At under $20, this one is definitely recommended for word-lovers, and words pretty well for all ages (younger folks versus older ones is a fun team strategy).
Last, but not least, is Forbidden Island. This co-operative adventure game is a bit better for younger players, as older ones might find the game slightly simple in strategy. But the illustrations and artwork are pretty great, and it’s a fun 10+ game for two to four players. The board changes each time, as it is comprised of 24 tiles laid down in a different order, and you can vary the challenge a bit by adjusting the “water meter” If you’ve played other co-op games like Pandemic, you’ll be right at home- this is a faster, lighter version in many ways, with a fun theme. And it’s good sometimes to play as a team, where you win (or lose, which happens pretty often) together. Another bargain at $15 – now the only trick is finding the time and space to play all of these great games!