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.

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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Experts are already predicting an 'active' 2020 hurricane season

It looks like a busy hurricane season ahead. Probably.

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  • Before the hurricane season even started in 2020, Arthur and Bertha had already blown through, and Cristobal may be brewing right now.
  • Weather forecasters see signs of a rough season ahead, with just a couple of reasons why maybe not.
  • Where's an El Niño when you need one?

Welcome to Hurricane Season 2020. 2020, of course, scoffs at this calendric event much as it has everything else that's normal — meteorologists have already used up the year's A and B storm names before we even got here. And while early storms don't necessarily mean a bruising season ahead, forecasters expect an active season this year. Maybe storms will blow away the murder hornets and 13-year locusts we had planned.

NOAA expects a busy season

According to NOAA's Climate Prediction Center, an agency of the National Weather Service, there's a 60 percent chance that we're embarking upon a season with more storms than normal. There does, however, remain a 30 percent it'll be normal. Better than usual? Unlikely: Just a 10 percent chance.

Where a normal hurricane season has an average of 12 named storms, 6 of which become hurricanes and 3 of which are major hurricanes, the Climate Prediction Center reckons we're on track for 13 to 29 storms, 6 to 10 of which will become hurricanes, and 3 to 6 of these will be category 3, 4, or 5, packing winds of 111 mph or higher.

What has forecasters concerned are two factors in particular.

This year's El Niño ("Little Boy") looks to be more of a La Niña ("Little Girl"). The two conditions are part of what's called the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle, which describes temperature fluctuations between the ocean and atmosphere in the east-central Equatorial Pacific. With an El Niño, waters in the Pacific are unusually warm, whereas a La Niña means unusually cool waters. NOAA says that an El Niño can suppress hurricane formation in the Atlantic, and this year that mitigating effect is unlikely to be present.

Second, current conditions in the Atlantic and Caribbean suggest a fertile hurricane environment:

  • The ocean there is warmer than usual.
  • There's reduced vertical wind shear.
  • Atlantic tropical trade winds are weak.
  • There have been strong West African monsoons this year.

Here's NOAA's video laying out their forecast:

But wait.

ArsTechnica spoke to hurricane scientist Phil Klotzbach, who agrees generally with NOAA, saying, "All in all, signs are certainly pointing towards an active season." Still, he notes a couple of signals that contradict that worrying outlook.

First off, Klotzbach notes that the surest sign of a rough hurricane season is when its earliest storms form in the deep tropics south of 25°N and east of the Lesser Antilles. "When you get storm formations here prior to June 1, it's typically a harbinger of an extremely active season." Fortunately, this year's hurricanes Arthur and Bertha, as well as the maybe-imminent Cristobal, formed outside this region. So there's that.

Second, Klotzbach notes that the correlation between early storm activity and a season's number of storms and intensities, is actually slightly negative. So while statistical connections aren't strongly predictive, there's at least some reason to think these early storms may augur an easy season ahead.

Image source: NOAA

Batten down the hatches early

If 2020's taught us anything, it's how to juggle multiple crises at once, and layering an active hurricane season on top of SARS-CoV-2 — not to mention everything else — poses a special challenge. Warns Treasury Secretary Wilbur Ross, "As Americans focus their attention on a safe and healthy reopening of our country, it remains critically important that we also remember to make the necessary preparations for the upcoming hurricane season." If, as many medical experts expect, we're forced back into quarantine by additional coronavirus waves, the oceanic waves slamming against our shores will best be met by storm preparations put in place in a less last-minute fashion than usual.

Ross adds, "Just as in years past, NOAA experts will stay ahead of developing hurricanes and tropical storms and provide the forecasts and warnings we depend on to stay safe."

Let's hope this, at least, can be counted on in this crazy year.

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