Telepathy Review

andysmAndrew:  Today we check out Telepathy, a deduction game for 2-4 players from LMD Enterprises Inc.  Can you outwit your opponent and figure out what their chosen symbol is before they divine yours?  Will I ever be able to beat Jess at a deduction game?  Will we get through this review without any sort of mesmerism, mind-reading, or clairvoyance puns?

jessmJess:  I don’t foresee that happening.

andysmAndrew:  …Ok, that one’s on me.

Not included - any sort of actual mind powers, which was a *tremendous* let-down.
Not included – any sort of actual mind powers, which was a *tremendous* let-down.

Telepathy is a straightforward deduction game.  Even though it is labeled as 2-4 players, it really is a 2 player game (the 3-4 player game just adds teams, but more on that at the end).  To begin with, each player will pick a symbol from their board.  The board is an 18×18 grid with 9 symbols in 9 colors, dispersed throughout.  Once each player has picked a specific symbol and noted it on their personal ‘Telepathy card’, players will take turns trying to guess at each other’s symbol by listing row, column, shape and color.

Your Telepathy card, used to track your special square, as well as the symbols and colors in the game.
Your Telepathy card, used to track your special square, as well as the symbols and colors in the game.

If there are any shared elements with the target symbol, the guesser only gets told ‘Yes’, not which element (shape, color, etc).  If it shares no element, then they are told ‘No’, and that means that the target symbol does not match any of those parameters.  Using the dry-erase markers included, players will track their guesses, narrowing their search until they are certain enough to attempt a formal solution and guess the exact square their opponent chose.

jessmJess:  And when you attempt your solution, you’d better be pretty darn certain – the game ends as soon as someone makes one.  If it’s correct, then the guesser wins.  If not, then the guesser loses, so the stakes are really high.

andysmAndrew:  That adds a fun racing element to the game – it’s not enough to just figure out what symbol your opponent has chosen, but you have to do it faster than they can figure out yours.

jessmJess:  It starts out with a lot of luck involved, but a few decent guesses and you’ll start to narrow it down right quick.

andysmAndrew:  See, that was something I was worried about as soon as I realized how the game would work – what happens if, randomly, someone just guesses exactly the right symbol?  Fortunately, the answer is simple; you can’t win randomly.  Even if you were to pick exactly the square I had chosen, then all I would say is ‘Yes’ and you would still need to narrow it down and make a formal guess at the solution.

My opponent's board as she tries to zero in on my square.
My opponent’s board as she tries to zero in on my square.  Spoilers: She always gets it.

The game comes with 2 guessing boards, 2 Telepathy Cards for recording your own choice, and a few dry-erase markers.

andysmAndrew:  Ok, this may be an ultimate nit-pick, but the fact that the marker tips don’t attack to the back of the markers drives me nuts.  It’s inconvenient.  It’s also a miniscule detail, so I digress.

jessmJess:  Marker-tops aside (seriously, who gets bothered by that kinda stuff?), the components are nice for what they are.  The boards are glossy and colorful and easy to read.

Now here’s the thing.  Telepathy isn’t much of a game, really.  It just doesn’t have much bite; you guess, you make a few deductive leaps, and then you solve and either you win or you lose.  There isn’t really any decision-making and the game only has a single mechanic, and that mechanic is the entirety of the player interaction.  It’s extremely abstract and only middling challenging – given enough time, you will get to the right answer; the only question is will you do it before your opponent does.

It isn’t to say Telepathy is a bad game, it absolutely isn’t.  It’s just that Telepathy feels more like a part of a game than a whole experience.

Am I the only one who finds this close-up a little unnerving?
Am I the only one who finds this close-up a little unnerving?

There are a million games with deduction mechanics out there, most of which do better at using it: games like Werewolves of Miller’s Hollow and Resistance: Avalon use it as a central mechanic, pitting players against each other as they try to determine the identity of the traitor in their midst.  Mr. Jack has one player trying to outmaneuver the other, each one trying to either protect or uncover the identity of the titular serial killer.  Heck, even Bang! (or even better yet, Bang! The Dice Game) has players trying to sort out who’s who during a wild west gunfight.  All these games have solid themes and neat choices to go along with the deduction mechanic, making the gameplay experience far more fleshed out than in Telepathy.

However, the true worth of Telepathy is actually in its simplicity.  Is it a game for us?  No, not really.  But what it most certainly can be is an excellent introduction to the concept of deduction games.  Telepathy is intended for ages 10+, and it seems like the perfect game for parents and kids to play together, in teams, to learn the ins-and-outs of this mechanic which is an integral part to lots of really great games.

Telepathy may not be much of a game to me, but it certainly has its merits as a high-quality teaching tool and introduction for new gamers.  And for that, it’s awesome.  You can grab it here!

 

Buzz Bot, having foreseen our interest, generously provided a copy for us to check out.  DARN IT, I DID IT TO MYSELF THAT TIME!  Almost made it through the entire article!

jessmJess:  HAH!  Just as I predicted!

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