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These New Board Games Run the Table

  • Apr 24, 2019

Five Mensa Select® winners chosen from 71 competing at Mind Games marathon

Composite of all five Mensa Select winning game boxes

It’s no easy task: Three hundred Mensans and their guests — tabletop enthusiasts all — travel cross-country to review the year’s best new-to-market board games. In all, judges are tasked with evaluating 30 games in just under 48 hours.

Coffee? Consumed by the gallon. Sleep? What’s sleep? But in the end, the 71 different games that have qualified for the event have been appraised, picked apart, and thoroughly assessed by team of board game fanatics. And as the wheat separates from the chaff, just five games are awarded the coveted Mensa Select seal — an indication to other board games enthusiasts that each winning title is original in concept, challenging, and well designed. Additionally, these games are reasonably priced, easy to understand and play, and, of course, fun to play with friends (and maybe a foe or two).

A full listing of Mensa Select winners can be found on the Mind Games website, but we’d like to take a minute to highlight in greater detail the 2019 Mensa Select winners.

Architects of the West Kingdom
By Renegade Games

Architects of the West Kingdom game box and board
Price: $50 | Players: 1-5 | Ages: 12+ | Play Time: 60-80 minutes

Architects of the West Kingdom is set at the end of the Carolingian Empire, circa 850 AD. As royal architects, players compete to impress their king and maintain their noble status by constructing various landmarks throughout his newly appointed domain. Players will need to collect raw materials, hire apprentices, and keep a watchful eye on their workforce. These are treacherous times. Rival architects will stop at nothing to slow your progress. Will you remain virtuous or be found in the company of thieves and black marketeers?

“We are grateful to Mensa’s community of board gaming fans for awarding Gunkimono and Architects of the West Kingdom the Mensa Select distinction,” Renegade announced on its website. “To now have eight of our games — in a landscape of thousands of games — tirelessly evaluated and recognized by a discerning group of gaming enthusiasts is an honor.”

Renegade Game Studios’ games have taken home eight Mensa Select seals — more than any other game manufacturer — including one through founder Scott Gaeta’s first foray into the tabletop space with Cryptozoic Entertainment. Winning titles include Gunkimono (below), Ex Libris (2018), Raiders of the North Sea (2018), Clank! A Deck Building Adventure (2017), World’s Fair 1893 (2016), Lanterns: The Harvest Festival (2015), and Gravwel: Escape from the 9th Dimension (2014, Cryptozoic Entertainment).

Buy It Now ($50)


Gizmos game box and board
Price: $34.99 | Players: 2-4 | Ages: 14+ | Play Time: 40-50 minutes

In Gizmos, players look to create the most magnificent of machines, taking on the role of inventors at the Great Science Fair. By utilizing four different types of energy marbles, taken from the innovative Energy Dispenser, they will purchase and construct new Gizmos. Players need to plan ahead because Gizmos will be able to chain-react with each other, giving them multiple results from taking a single action. The player with the most victory points is declared the winner.

“We’re honored to have received this award. Our thanks to the judges and to everyone who has enjoyed these games,” CMON wrote in a news item. “And we look forward to bringing you more exciting games with every release.”

CMON started manufacturing games in 2011 after a decade in the industry as, an online tabletop community where users could share and rate pictures of their miniatures, and, eventually, an online retailer. CMON went on to produce a number of critically acclaimed games, many of which include successful sequels and expansions. In addition to Gizmos, CMON was awarded a second Mensa Select designation in 2019 — not a bad start, friends — for Victorian Masterminds.

“From the first time I played the prototype years ago, I knew this game was something special, CMON game designer Eric Lang said. “It’s been an honor to work on Phil’s masterpiece of design.”

Buy It Now ($29.72)

By Renegade Game Studios

Gunkimono game box and board
Price: $40 | Players: 2-5 | Ages: 10+ | Play Time: 45-60 minutes

In war-torn feudal Japan, the soldiers are restless. The endless battles, betrayals, and broken promises have the soldiers questioning where their loyalties lie. Meanwhile, the daimyo are strategizing, marshaling their troops, and erecting strongholds to bolster the strength of their armies, all in pursuit of honor and ultimate victory.

In Gunkimono, players take on the roles of these daimyo, plotting their military advances across the countryside. Each new squad of troops yields victory points, but you may decide to forgo these points and save up for your stronghold instead. All the while, you need to keep an eye on your opponents, so that their forces do not grow too large and expand at your expense.

Buy It Now ($39.33)

By Blue Orange Games

Planet game box and board
Price: $33.99 | Players: 2-4 | Ages: 8+ | Play Time: 30 minutes

In Planet, each player receives a planet core without anything on it. Each turn, players choose a tile with mountain/ice/forest/desert on it and place it on the planet. Then the player who fulfills the most conditions for the appearance of certain animals gains its card. Planet is a unique board game featuring three-dimensional playing boards representing the earth, in which you compete to create the most populated planet. It makes a visual statement with eye-catching graphics on the box and unique components.

“We are thrilled to be this year again a Mensa Select winner with our new game, Planet. The timing couldn’t be more perfect as the competition took place just before the official release date on Earth Day.” Blue Orange Games CEO Martin Marechal said. “The exposure such an award offers is a great kick-off, and we are pleased to know Mensa members will be supporting our game just like they were part of the success of Photosynthesis last year. This is one of the reasons why we wanted to expand this line of earthy board games celebrating our environment.”

“We would like to thank Urtis Sulinkas, the game creator who trusted Blue Orange to develop his game, and Sabrina Miramon for her exceptional illustrations. We are excited about the early success of Planet and can’t wait to continue its promotion.”

Along with honors for Planet and Photosynthesis (2018), Blue Orange Games took home the first of its three Mensa Select wins in 2016 with New York 1901.

Buy It Now ($32.18)

Victorian Masterminds

Victorian Masterminds game box and boards
Price: $49.99 | Players: 2-4 | Ages: 14+ | Play Time: 60 minutes

There is a crime wave going on all over the world. Police forces from every nation are stretched too thin. To make matters worse, Sherlock Holmes, the world’s greatest detective, has gone missing. Supervillains the world over are completing their grand works and unleashing them upon the defenseless population. But, in the end, only one of these evildoers will reign supreme.

In Victorian Masterminds, players take on the role of a villain in the final stages of their grand scheme to take over the world. With the plans for their mechanical monstrosities are finished, all that’s left to do is get the last few parts required, fire it up, and take it out on the road. But a mastermind can’t do it all on their own. By sending their various Agents across the world to major cities, each with their own special ability, the players will gain resources, steal buildings, kidnap scientists, and sabotage each-other’s plans. But only one will claim the top spot and rule the world.

“Winning a Mensa Award has always been part of my great master plan to take over the gaming world,” Antoine Bauza, one of Victorian Masterminds’ designers, said. “This makes me twirl my evil villain mustache in glee and satisfaction!”

Antoine’s co-designer on the project, Eric Lang, said “As someone who grew up specifically seeking Mensa winning games, I’m thrilled beyond words. Antoine and I could not be more proud to receive this award.”

Buy It Now ($41.99)