Review – Mind MGMT: The Psychic Espionage “Game”

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Designer Jay Cormier, Sen-Foong Lim

Artist Matt Kindt

Publisher Off the Page Games

Category Hidden Movement

Length 45-75 minutes

Release Date 2021

Player Count 1-5

Mind MGMT: The Psychic Espionage “Game” is the debut release from Off the Page Games. Based on the Dark Horse comic series Mind MGMT, this 1-versus-many game pits a recruiter from the evil organization against rogue agents bent on foiling its schemes. Let’s pay a visit to Zanzibar!

Review

Every so often, a new game publisher comes along that really catches my attention. Such was the case with Off the Page Games, a publisher whose products marry my two favorite hobbies: comic books and tabletop games.

Off the Page’s first release is Mind MGMT: The Psychic Espionage “Game. For those who have not read the Mind MGMT comic series, it’s a gripping thriller told in stylized line work and muted watercolors. The board game version follows the comic storyline closely, with one player controlling a Mind MGMT recruiter and the others playing as Henry Lyme, Meru, and crew trying to capture the recruiter.

The game is played on a grid board representing Zanzibar. Throughout the game, the recruiter moves about the board in secret, as the rogue agents pursue her, trying to deduce where she is. As with most hidden movement games, the recruiter tracks her movements in secret, recording them on a private board.

The recruiter records her movements privately on a dry erase mini-map. (Starting in the corner of the board may not have been the best choice, but the corner space provided 2 recruits!)

Each game round consists of 2 turns for both the recruiter and the agents. During setup, the recruiter secretly selects 3 board features which she can use to pick up new recruits. (Every board space contains 2 features.) Picking up recruits is her ultimate goal.

The recruiter’s standard action is to move 1 space orthogonally, but importantly, she may never visit the same space twice. If the recruiter finds herself in a tight spot, she may use a “mind slip” action to jump over a space, but mind slips are extremely limited—the recruiter is only guaranteed 1 of them. (A second mind slip is placed on the board, but the recruiter must get to its location to be able to use it. What’s more, if she uses this second mind slip, the agents will know that she has been to that space!)

The recruiter managed to pick up 3 recruits in her opening moves.

In the full game, the recruiter also has Immortals—basically Mind MGMT’s henchmen/goons—at her disposal. Immortals act as roadblocks for the agents, preventing them from taking certain actions when in the same space. Additionally, Immortals can take extra movements and help the recruiter to gain new recruits.

In each turn of the game round, 2 agents activate, such that all 4 of them activate once per full round. An agent’s turn consists of moving up to 2 spaces and performing an action. Actions include:

  • ASK: The agent chooses a feature on his space and asks the recruiter if she has been to any space with that feature (e.g. “Have you been to a space with a palm tree?”). If the recruiter has been to such a space, she places a footprint token on an appropriate space (her choice if multiple). Agents cannot ask about any feature that is on a space where an Immortal stands.
  • REVEAL: If the agent occupies a space with a footprint token (that is, a space the recruiter has already told the agents she has visited), the agent can discard the token to ask the recruiter which turn she was there. This helps the agents to retrace the recruiter’s path, turn by turn. (The Reveal action cannot be performed in a space with an Immortal.)
  • SHAKEDOWN (Full game only): When in a space with an Immortal, an agent can perform a Shakedown. To do this, the agent asks the recruiter about any feature on the board. If the chosen feature is 1 of the 3 kinds the recruiter is using to gain new followers, the recruiter loses the use of that feature going forward. A Shakedown also allows the agent to push an Immortal out of their current space.
  • CAPTURE: If an agent believes he is currently standing on the same space as the recruiter (and there are no Immortals in that space), he can perform a Capture action to try for the win. If indeed the recruiter is in that space, she is apprehended and the agents win. Otherwise, play continues.
Meru decides to ask about the purple eye graffiti feature…
…and since the recruiter has been to a space with that icon, she places a footstep token on the space.

Agents also have special abilities, some of which cost an action and others of which are free and/or ongoing. Ally cards can also provide helpful bonuses—these can be unlocked throughout the campaign.

And speaking of the campaign, Mind MGMT is designed to be played over multiple games, using what’s called the “SHIFT System.” Inside the box are a number of SHIFT packages, containing either gameplay modules or additional components meant to be used in each game thereafter. There are 7 packages for the recruiter and 7 for the agents; after each game, the losing side gets to open a package, which will help them in the next game. As an added touch, each SHIFT package contains a short comic by Matt Kindt, creator of the Mind MGMT series and illustrator for the game. It should be noted that this game has no legacy/destruction elements and is resettable.

The SHIFT packages come in a neat folio, featuring cover art from the comics…
…which opens up into a super cool GameTrayz insert.

Mind MGMT is excellent, both as a comic and a game, just like 벳엔드 사이트. Just as the series is a master-class in graphic storytelling, so the tabletop version is a master-class in hidden movement game design. Games like this always have a cat-and-mouse feel to them, but it is especially pronounced here. This is due to both the depth of strategy, which is greater than most other hidden movement games, and the new ideas introduced here that distinguish this game from the rest of its genre.

The back of the board is beautifully illustrated.

At its core, Mind MGMT operates on the same framework as classics like Letters From Whitechapel and Scotland Yard, with players alternating movements and the investigators asking their opponent about specific locations. However, Mind MGMT does a few things I have not seen before. For example, the recruiter is not allowed to visit the same space twice, which means her options slowly dwindle and her decisions become tighter. Contrast this to a game like Scotland Yard, in which Mr. X not only can, but often wants to double back to throw the investigators off his scent. Likewise, in Letters From Whitechapel, many players feel that Jack the Ripper has a decided advantage over the police. Whether this is true or not, there isn’t much that can be done to adjust that game’s balance. The introduction of the SHIFT System in Mind MGMT heads off potential balance complaints by giving each game’s losing side a bump for the next match. It also keeps the game exciting by introducing new content and variants throughout the campaign.

The game is filled with details and Easter eggs like this clever use of gloss on the box.

This game reminds me of Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game—not mechanically, mind you, but in the sense that it will resonate especially well with players who know the source material. Certainly, someone with no foreknowledge of Mind MGMT could have a great time playing this game, but folks who know the storyline will really get into it. The theme is integrated well enough that it can actually assist with teaching the game if new players have read the comics.

What could these be?

The production of this game is great, though I should note that I am reviewing the deluxe edition, with the fancier components. I cannot speak to the retail edition, but the deluxe version is lovingly crafted, with Matt Kindt’s aesthetic throughout. The details in the rulebook, on the cards, and even on the box itself establish an appropriate sense of paranoia and set the tone for the experience. It’s very clear that this was a labor of love, and it sets a high bar for future releases from Off the Page Games.

Mind MGMT treads new ground in the hidden movement genre, and it excels at bringing the comic’s narrative to life. It is more complex than many of the classics in this game category, but this added complexity means deeper strategy. (Happily, the game includes an introductory mode which helps ease players in before they play with the full rules.) I recommend this game, especially to fans of hidden movement games and/or fans of the Mind MGMT comic series. It’s definitely worth checking out.

A review copy was provided by Off the Page Games.

The Bottom Line

Just as the Mind MGMT comic series is a master-class in graphic storytelling, so the tabletop version is a master-class in hidden movement game design. Highly recommended.

 

9

Author: Stephen Hall

A bard pretending to be a cleric. Possibly a Cylon, too. I was there when they dug up the "E.T." cartridges.