Sunday, January 8, 2017

Chain of thought with Mastermind

Our latest game to introduce our toddler to was Mastermind for Kids. It's a simplified version of Mastermind with only three holes for the code and jungle animals for the tokens.

Okay, he just wanted to play with the animals and play with how he could put them on the board. Still, he's played matching games so some of the mechanics of Mastermind are already percolating in his brain.

But it got me thinking about Mastermind and similar games. 

While I did play it when I was very young (and that cover is a classic), I'm not super found of Mastermind. I think it's because of the roles of code maker and code breaker just seemed...  restricted and uninteresting to me.

What's funny is that there are games that clearly used Mastermind as a starting point or an inspiration that I really like.

Zendo is easily the biggest example, as well as my favorite Looney Lab game. Perhaps because it's a game for a group, not a two-player activity. It also has as wide as the sky options for rules, as opposed to just a series of colors. And the role of the Master isn't that of an opponent but that of a teacher. It's a deductive game with a code maker but the whole philosophy of the game is the opposite end of the spectrum from Mastermind.

Coda, a very simple deduction game using numbers, is one where both players effectively play the role of code breaker and code maker, is another one I like. It's a good, relaxing little game and I think a key element to that is both players getting to play both sides.

Honorary mentions for me have to go to Jotto, which combines words with Mastermind, and Black Box, which is meaningfully themed around shooting rays at atoms. Seriously, what a theme!

Although, now that I'm thinking about it, doesn't the whole deduction game with someone hiding the information date back to at least Battleships in the 1930s? Probably a whole lot older than that. While I haven't played Mysterium or Codenames, don't they operate on the same principle?

So Mastermind didn't start the fire and isn't the the defining deduction game. It is probably as stripped down as you can get. So, even though I'm not a fan, maybe it is a good introduction for young minds. Maybe.

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