From the creators of the magazine Mental Floss and a line of “irreverent” trivia books (such as Condensed Knowledge and Forbidden Knowledge) comes the Mental Floss trivia game. Promising to pick up “where every other party game stops,” it adds a number of twists to the traditional trivial pursuits.
At first blush, the game is quite reminiscent of Trivial Pursuit (indeed, your goal is to collect six “piece of mind cards” in order to win, and while playing I kept referring to them as “pieces of pie,” which was our way of referring to the colored slices awarded for successfully answering the requisite questions in trivial pursuit). However, rather than break the trivia into specific categories, such as Arts and Literature, Sports, or Science, the Mental Floss game has three categories: left brain, right brain, and “spot the big lie.” Left brain questions are technical and scientific in nature; right brain questions are creative.
For example, a samle left brain question: “The element with atomic number 99 was given a name honoring what great scientist (and magazine cover model)?” Another: “Squamous and basal cells are types of cancer found in what organ of the human body?” In the right brain category, one has to answer questions such as “Young male members of what strict religious group are allowed to sow their wild oats during a time called rumschpringen, or ‘running around?’” Or one could be asked “Diane Keaton won an Oscar in 1977 for her performance in the title role of what Woody Allen film?”
The “big lie” category introduces a humorous element in that you are asked to identify which of two outrageous (or seemingly absurd) statements is false. For example:
A. Surprisingly enough, the San Diego Chargers aren’t named for their athletic ability. Rather, the football team got the name thanks to the original owner, Barron Hilton. The source of his wealth? The Carte Blanche credit card company. Chargers, get it?
B. Originally called the San Diego Wildcats, the city’s pro football team changed names after the first season when boisterous fans charged the field and tore down the goal posts after every game win or loss. Chargers, get it?
And here I thought the team’s identity had something to do with the lightning bolts on their helmets – who knew?
There are also a few “enlightening round” spaces scattered around the board. If you land on one of these, you have to answer a series of three questions in order to win your “piece of mind” card. Like “Who Wants to be a Millionaire,” the questions start easily enough but become more difficult. The enlightening round also adds a twist: if you get three questions right, you can go “double or nothing” by answering a fourth question for two piece of mind cards (of course, if you blow it, you end up with nothing for your pains).
The seemingly straightfoward trivia game tactic of accumulating six “piece of mind” cards for answering questions does have one significant wrinkle. Each player is given two “mental block” cards at the start of the game. These cards can be used for one of two purposes at any time during the game. They can be played to give yourself a “second bite” at a challenging question (for example, if you got the fourth question on an enlightening round wrong, and wanted to take another shot at it). They can also be used to “challenge” another player. So if somebody else has five tokens and you’ve only got four and you’re worried they might win on their next turn, you throw down the gauntlet (or the mental block card). You then get to choose a question (left brain, right brain, or spot the lie) and try to stump them. If they get the answer wrong, you get one of their piece of mind cards; if they get it right, you lose your next turn (although it may not matter).
The bottom line: the Mental Floss trivia combines challenging trivia with an irreverent edge and some interesting game play. It’s a trivia game for those who perhaps aren’t necessarily storehouses of useless knowledge, because it mixes general knowledge in with more specific information. When you can’t keep from laughing when reading some “big fat lie” to your family or friends, well, I think you know a game is a keeper.
Oh, and for the record: the answers to the questions in this post are Einstein; the skin; the Amish; Annie Hall; and B is false.