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[Review] Mental Floss: the Trivia Game

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Joined: 03/23/2011

I had perhaps heard of the Mental Floss magazine in previous years, but I had never read it until I picked up a copy of Mental Floss: the Trivia Game (Pressman Toy Corp., 2005 - no designer credited). And for better or for worse, that's certainly the best thing that I've gotten from playing the game - reading a tremendously entertaining magazine with top ten lists (hmmm - why do I like those so much?), and historical facts - albeit obscure ones.

But what about the game? While I found it entertaining, just like the magazine - with little tidbits of historical knowledge that I can impress folks with at a party - the game itself didn't offer up anything different than a typical trivia game. Many of the trivia questions are simply shots in the dark, and the added "options" of the game add only a modicum of interest. The questions are often hilarious and funny; and if I was to play a trivia game, this would be one that I'd be interested. But I could simply pull out the cards and have fun and skip the game.

Each player takes a token and places it on the color space on the board that matches it (the board is in a circular track - similar to Monopoly). A pile of "Piece of Mind" tokens are placed in the middle of the board, as well as two decks of cards - "Floss Facts" and "Enlightening Round". Players get two Mental Block cards, and the player whose birthday is closest to the current date goes first, with play proceeding clockwise.

On a players turn, they simply roll a die and move their token that many spaces. If they land on a Right Brain, Left Brain, or "Spot the Big Fat Lie" space, another player draws the top Floss Fact card and reads them the corresponding question. The Right Brain and Left Brain questions are simply different questions from different categories, while Spot the Big Fat Lie is a choice between two incredulous statements, such as
A. There is no such thing as a French poodle. Not only is the breed actually German, but the only varieties of the pooch are toy, miniature and standard poodles.
B. In the 17th century, poodles were so revered in France that visiting diplomats were forced to wear gloves before petting them with their "dirty, foreign hands."
(I'll leave you to figure out which is the lie). If a player is correct, they collect one Piece of Mind token, and thei r turn ends.

If a player lands on an Enlightening Round space, another player reads them the first question of four on a card. A player must get three questions (which get progressively harder) to get a token. After three questions, they receive the token OR can risk the token to answer the fourth question , which if answered correctly also allows the player to go again.

Players can use their Mental Block cards to guess again on an answer (apparently even the Big Fat Lie questions - which seems odd), or to challenge another opponent on their turn. When this happens, the player turns over a Floss Fact card and asks one of the questions to their opponent. If the opponent guesses correctly, the challenger loses a turn, but if incorrectly, the challenger can steal one of their tokens. The game continues until one person gets six Piece of Mind tokens - at which point they win the game!

Some comments on the game…

1.) Components: The board is a bit garish, but easy to recognize, and basically just a placeholder for the pieces as they move. The tokens are standup plastic pieces with stickers on them - a bit underwhelming, and the Piece of Mind tokens are one sided cardboard tokens with a picture of a brain on them. The cards are easy to handle, although they are a bit thin and the font is a bit small (because of the many words on each card). Still, it's an attractive looking game and fits easily into a plastic insert in a bright red box with a person flossing their brain illustrated on it.

2.) Rules: The rules come on a single sheet of paper on both sides. They are simple, which is what one might expect from a trivia game. Roll dice, move, answer question. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. It's not hard to teach the game to anyone, although the questions may be too difficult for younger players.

3.) Questions: The Right and Left Brain questions are really a bit bland - your typical Trivial Pursuit Questions. Sometimes they are a bit humorous, but other than that, they aren't anything to buy the game for. Spot the Big Fat Lie is a bit more interesting, although the actual gameplay of it is really rather random. Both statements seem equally ridiculous, and most people will have no idea which question is true, so a wild guess is usually their best bet. I DO find that the information learned from these 50/50 chances is interesting, but I don't think it's good for the game.

4.) Enlightening Round: These cards are more interesting than the others, in purposes of gameplay, and I wish that they were landed on more often (only once out of four turns). The whole "risk" factor at the end is interesting, and the pact that all the questions follow a specific theme is rather nice. Still, I've seen this in other trivia games.

5.) Comparisons and Fun Factor: Here's my biggest problem with Mental Floss: while the questions are written in a humorous fashion, there's really nothing here that is unique or different than any other trivia game. One simply mindlessly moves their piece around a track and then makes an often uneducated guess to the questions posed to them. Trivial Pursuit often devolves into a grudge match of which player has the greatest store of useless knowledge, but often the smarter person will win. That's not necessarily true in Mental Floss, in which a lucky guesser can do quite well. Also, the Mental Block cards, while nice, aren't really that interesting, since players will almost always use them to help them answer a question - as the penalty for incorrectly challenging another player is a bit annoying. The game is fun to a small degree because of the interesting questions and funny wordage, but you can also get that in the magazine!

So here is my unusual conclusion. Don't pick up Mental Floss, unless you are either a.) a fan of the magazine and want to support them or b.) in need of a funny trivia game. But to everyone else, I recommend that you pick up a copy of the magazine instead. Mental Floss the magazine is an entertaining read of funny trivial facts. Mental Floss the game is the same thing, but more expensive and harder to store.

Tom Vasel
"Real men play board games"

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