10 of the best new games according to geniuses at Mensa

Kick off your next game night with these Mensa-recommended board and card games.

Assorted board game piece and dice
Photo by Robert Coelho on Unsplash
  • Mensa members judge an annual competition to determine which games are the best on the market.
  • Hundreds of board, card, and party games are considered each year but only a select few can win.
  • These 10 top games are available to purchase and play right now.


Grabbing a controller and getting lost in an open world video game is amazing, but nothing beats a good old-fashioned board game night with family and friends. You'll find classics like Monopoly or Clue in every household, but there are new games hitting shelves all the time that are worth purchasing. To eliminate some of the guess work for gamers, members of the high-IQ association Mensa meet once a year to judge the best of the best. Making the list is an honor, but getting to play the games is the real win.

Each year Mensans consider hundreds of submissions across numerous genres during a multi-day event called Mind Games. Aesthetics, instructions, originality, play appeal and play value are the criteria that the judges consider when rating the new titles. The top five games are given a literal seal of approval and join the list of Mensa Select Games. Mensa members also choose worthwhile runners up for its Mensa Recommended Games list. Whether you're into whodunnits starring mischievous cats, or you're looking to play a game as a colorful invertebrate, there is something for everyone. Here are 10 games from the lists that you can add to cart and purchase right now.

Your job is to build landmarks for the King. Will you curry favor with the Crown, or will others slow your progress?

Set at the end of the Carolingian Empire, Architects of the West Kingdom is a 1-5 player tabletop game designed by Shem Phillips and SJ Macdonald, with art by Mihajlo Dimitrievski. The objective is to end the game with the most victory points, which are earned by building various structures and making progress on the Archbishop's Cathedral. Along the way, players must hire apprentices, collect materials, and make deals that advance their efforts, but the wrong decisions could prove detrimental. Architects of the West Kingdom was one of five Mensa Select winners for 2019.

Can your invention beat the competition at the Great Science Fair?

Designed by Phil Walker-Harding, Gizmos is a 2-4 player card game centered around building machines for the Great Science Fair. As you play, you use energy marbles to purchase new parts for your creation and amass victory points. What makes a great machine? You'll have to play this Mensa Select game to find out.

Have what it takes to grow a planet?

Designed by Urtis Šulinskas with art by Sabrina Miramon, Planet is a tile placement strategy game that gives players the power to cultivate a world from scratch. How the ecosystem is built (elements, regions, etc.) determines which animals can live there, which in turn earns cards for the world builder. The game is rated ages 8+, was designed for 2-4 players, and is a 2019 Mensa Select title.

Embrace your evil side to complete missions and cause destruction.

Wreak havoc across Europe while collecting parts for your weapons of destruction and sabotaging your fellow bad guys in "Victorian Masterminds." The Secret Service is on your tail, so don't get caught! Yet another Mensa Select winner, the game was designed by Antoine Bauza and Eric M. Lang, features art by Davide Tosello, and can be enjoyed by 2-4 masterminds at a time.

Clean up the space debris as fast as you can.

This fast-paced game challenges players to clean up space trash and keep it from cluttering up their planet. Included on 2019 Mensa recommended list, this family board game is designed for space cadets ages 6 and up.

How are your mind reading skills?

The better you are at predicting what others players are going to say, the more points you'll score. This Mensa-recommended game can accommodate up to 8 players so get a group together and bring your best words.

Identify the furry friend responsible for various living room crimes.

According to Amazon, over 50 million copies of Cat Crimes have already been sold. That's because everyone loves cats, even when they're criminals. With innocent names like Pip Squeak and Sassy, which of the 6 suspects will you choose? There are 40 crimes to solve, so you can bet that this single-player game will get a lot of use.

Cooperative games are great for bonding and learning to think strategically.

This strategy game asks players to work together to launch a rocket before the floating platform they are on is struck by lightning. It sounds very stressful but also super fun and challenging. C. B. Canga provided the art for this set, while Matt Leacock is credited as its designer.

Keep your trains chugging along as meteors fall and volcanos erupt around you.

Draw and connect train routes and exit points while avoiding natural disasters. Easy right? Railroad Ink: Blazing Red Edition is designed by Hjalmar Hach and Lorenzo Silva with art by Marta Tranquilli,

Become one with a coral reef.

The name tells you all that you need to know. In this abstract strategy game by designer Emerson Matsuuchi and artist Chris Quilliams, you are a living reef that can grow and change colors. If that's not enough to sell you, then maybe give the previously mentioned games a chance?

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U.S. Navy controls inventions that claim to change "fabric of reality"

Inventions with revolutionary potential made by a mysterious aerospace engineer for the U.S. Navy come to light.

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Credit: Getty Images
Surprising Science
  • U.S. Navy holds patents for enigmatic inventions by aerospace engineer Dr. Salvatore Pais.
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Hack your brain for better problem solving

Tips from neuroscience and psychology can make you an expert thinker.

Credit: Olav Ahrens Røtne via Unsplash
Mind & Brain

This article was originally published on Big Think Edge.

Problem-solving skills are in demand. Every job posting lists them under must-have qualifications, and every job candidate claims to possess them, par excellence. Young entrepreneurs make solutions to social and global problems the heart of their mission statements, while parents and teachers push for curricula that encourage critical-thinking methods beyond solving for x.

It's ironic then that we continue to cultivate habits that stunt our ability to solve problems. Take, for example, the modern expectation to be "always on." We push ourselves to always be working, always be producing, always be parenting, always be promoting, always be socializing, always be in the know, always be available, always be doing. It's too much, and when things are always on all the time, we deplete the mental resources we need to truly engage with challenges.

If we're serious about solving problems, at work and in our personal lives, then we need to become more adept at tuning out so we can hone in.

Solve problems with others (occasionally)

A side effect of being always on is that we are rarely alone. We're connected through the ceaseless chirps of friends texting, social media buzzing, and colleagues pinging us for advice everywhere we go. In some ways, this is a boon. Modern technologies mediate near endless opportunities for collective learning and social problem-solving. Yet, such cooperation has its limits according to a 2018 study out of Harvard Business School.

In the study, participants were divided into three group types and asked to solve traveling salesman problems. The first group type had to work on the problems individually. The second group type exchanged notes after every round of problem-solving while the third collaborated after every three rounds.

The researchers found that lone problem-solvers invented a diverse range of potential solutions. However, their solutions varied wildly in quality, with some being true light bulb moments and others burnt-out duds. Conversely, the always-on group took advantage of their collective learning to tackle more complex problems more effectively. But social influence often led these groups to prematurely converge around a single idea and abandon potentially brilliant outliers.

It was the intermittent collaborators who landed on the Goldilocks strategy. By interacting less frequently, individual group members had more time to nurture their ideas so the best could shine. But when they gathered together, the group managed to improve the overall quality of their solutions thanks to collective learning.

In presenting their work, the study's authors question the value of always-on culture—especially our submissiveness to intrusions. "As we replace those sorts of intermittent cycles with always-on technologies, we might be diminishing our capacity to solve problems well," Ethan Bernstein, an associate professor at Harvard Business School and one of the study's authors, said in a press release.

These findings suggest we should schedule time to ruminate with our inner geniuses and consult the wisdom of the crowd. Rather than dividing our day between productivity output and group problem-solving sessions, we must also create space to focus on problems in isolation. This strategy provides the best of both worlds. It allows us to formulate our ideas before social pressure can push us to abandon them. But it doesn't preclude the group knowledge required to refine those ideas.

And the more distractions you can block out or turn off, the more working memory you'll have to direct at the problem.

A problem-solving booster

The next step is to dedicate time to not dealing with problems. Counterintuitive as it may seem, setting a troublesome task aside and letting your subconscious take a crack at it improves your conscious efforts later.

How should we fill these down hours? That's up to you, but research has shown time and again that healthier habits produce hardier minds. This is especially true regarding executive functions—a catchall term that includes a person's ability to self-control, meet goals, think flexibly, and, yes, solve problems.

"Exercisers outperform couch potatoes in tests that measure long-term memory, reasoning, attention, problem-solving, even so-called fluid-intelligence tasks. These tasks test the ability to reason quickly and think abstractly, improvising off previously learned material to solve a new problem. Essentially, exercise improves a whole host of abilities prized in the classroom and at work," writes John Medina, a developmental molecular biologist at the University of Washington.

One such study, published in the Frontiers in Neuroscience, analyzed data collected from more than 4,000 British adults. After controlling for variables, it found a bidirectional relationship between exercise and higher levels of executive function over time. Another study, this one published in the Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, compared fitness data from 128 adults with brain scans taken as they were dual-tasking. Its findings showed regular exercisers sported more active executive regions.

Research also demonstrates a link between problem-solving, healthy diets, and proper sleep habits. Taken altogether, these lifestyle choices also help people manage their stress—which is known to impair problem-solving and creativity.

Of course, it can be difficult to untangle the complex relationship between cause and effect. Do people with healthy life habits naturally enjoy strong executive functions? Or do those habits bolster their mental fitness throughout their lives?

That's not an easy question to answer, but the Frontiers in Neuroscience study researchers hypothesize that it's a positive feedback loop. They posit that good sleep, nutritious food, and regular exercise fortify our executive functions. In turn, more potent executive decisions invigorate healthier life choices. And those healthy life choices—you see where this is going.

And while life choices are ultimately up to individuals, organizations have a supportive role to play. They can foster cultures that protect off-hours for relaxing, incentivize healthier habits with PTO, and prompt workers to take time for exercise beyond the usual keyboard calisthenics.

Nor would such initiatives be entirely selfless. They come with the added benefit of boosting a workforce's collective problem-solving capabilities.

Live and learn and learn some more

Another advantage of tuning out is the advantage to pursue life-long learning opportunities. People who engage in creative or problem-solving activities in their downtime—think playing music, puzzles, and even board games—show improved executive functions and mental acuity as they age. In other words, by learning to enjoy the act of problem-solving, you may enhance your ability to do so.

Similarly, lifelong learners are often interdisciplinary thinkers. By diving into various subjects, they can come to understand the nuances of different skills and bodies of knowledge to see when ideas from one field may provide a solution to a problem in another. That doesn't mean lifelong learners must become experts in every discipline. On the contrary, they are far more likely to understand where the limits of their knowledge lie. But those self-perceived horizons can also provide insight into where collaboration is necessary and when to follow someone else's lead.

In this way, lifelong learning can be key to problem-solving in both business and our personal lives. It pushes us toward self-improvement, gives us an understanding of how things work, hints at what's possible, and, above all, gives us permission to tune out and focus on what matters.

Cultivate lifelong learning at your organization with lessons 'For Business' from Big Think Edge. At Edge, more than 350 experts, academics, and entrepreneurs come together to teach essential skills in career development and lifelong learning. Heighten your problem-solving aptitude with lessons such as:

  • Make Room for Innovation: Key Characteristics of Innovative Companies, with Lisa Bodell, Founder and CEO, FutureThink, and Author, Why Simple Wins
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  • How to Build a Talent-First Organization: Put People Before Numbers, with Ram Charan, Business Consultant
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Credit: Rijksmuseum
Culture & Religion
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