Sometimes we want a game that provides a bit of a break from the real world. A chance to totally relax, unwind and not really think about anything. However, sometimes we want a game that really stimulates our brains, makes us think harder and lets our inner strategist out.
If you’re the sort of gamer who’s looking for something in the latter camp, then this selection should really get your grey matter going.
Card games in general are an excellent choice if you want to wake your brain up, but poker is a particularly good one. This is because poker requires you not just to know the rules of the game, but to use them to your advantage. Bluffing is a skill that you won’t find in many other card games, turning this from a mathematical exercise into a psychological one too. As well as bluffing, once you get good at the game, you’ll start to learn about things like pot odds. These necessitate lightning-fast mental maths skills but can make a big difference to your results. All of this requires lots of practice, but that’s the fun part.
Texas Hold’em is the most popular variety of poker, so it’s a good idea to nail down how that works first before moving on to other variations. If you’re lucky enough to live near a poker club then this can be a great place to get some practice in but, if not, then it’s simple to play poker online, as PokerNews explains, where you can practice with people at your own gaming level. Once you’re confident playing online, then you can take your skills to a tournament.
Chess is certainly the original thinking person’s game, having been around for many centuries. It requires total concentration, a deep understanding of the mechanics of the game, and excellent logic. However, if you’ve never played before then it’s really easy to get started. YouTube is a fantastic resource that can teach you all kinds of things, like how each piece moves, the best openers for beginners, and even some more difficult chess strategies when you reach that stage.
This is another game that’s easy to play both in person and online. Often, parks have outdoor chess tables which can be a great place to hang out and meet other chess fans in the warmer months. Once the weather cools down though, it can be a better idea to play online. Playing online will give you a clearer idea of your ranking and give you greater options for customizing your gameplay.
If you’d like a quick linguistic challenge then Wordle might be the game that you’ve been looking for. Currently hosted by the New York Times, this simple puzzle features a grid of five blocks (horizontal) by six blocks (vertical). In that row of five blocks, you’ll need to write a word that is your guess at the correct answer. If you get a letter exactly right in the right spot then it will turn green; correct letters in the wrong spot will turn amber, and incorrect letters will grey out.
Work out the five-letter word in six goes or less and you’ve won. The fewer goes you use, the more impressive your result is. There are whole forums dedicated to showing off Wordle scores, so if you get really good then you’ll earn some online clout. Most importantly though, you’ll learn some language skills in the process. Being able to pick apart words and think logically about how most words are constructed can help you think differently about language, awakening your natural curiosity and skill. If you’re struggling with Wordle, try an unscrambling app like Unscramble Words which can help you problem solve the right word.
Surprisingly, you don’t need to be a numbers whizz to be good at Sudoku. However, you do need to be really great at spotting patterns. Whilst this may not seem like a ‘brainiac’ quality, it’s actually a good indicator of IQ, so much so that most IQ tests feature pattern-spotting questions very heavily. If you’ve not played Sudoku before then learning to play is simple.
You’re given a 9×9 grid with each of the squares being 9×9 itself. In each of the smaller squares, you’ll need to fit the numbers 1 to 9 and in each of the larger rows and columns, you’ll need to fit the numbers 1 to 9 as well. The difficulty is determined by how many of the numbers are already placed in the squares for you. Sudoku puzzles for beginners will have most of the letters, whilst puzzles for Sudoku masters will have hardly any.
Sudoku has become much more commonplace in newspapers and magazines but is still nowhere near as popular as a good old-fashioned crossword. Crosswords are best suited to those with a flair for language as it’s necessary to answer word-based clues in order to solve the puzzle. Most newspapers will have a Quick Crossword, which involves straightforward clues leading to the answers, but some will offer a cryptic crossword as well.
Cryptic crosswords, as the name suggests, have clues that are much more difficult to decipher. They will use clever hints in the language of the clue, for example, jumbled, mixed, or messy could suggest that the word you’re looking for is an anagram of one of the other words in the clue. Becoming good at cryptic crosswords requires a degree of logic, as well as a great command of the language and the ability to think laterally. However, if you become really good at them and enter newspaper crosswords frequently then you could start to win prizes, making this a great puzzle for those with a competitive streak.
Finally, for those who don’t quite consider themselves brainiacs, but would really like to get there, competing in a mixture of different puzzles might help. Training all of our individual skills helps to ensure that we’ve got a well-rounded intelligence and there are a handful of apps that can help you with that. Brain training apps purport to help you improve how effectively your brain works.
Generally, you’ll begin by taking an IQ test which will measure your performance in different areas, such as maths, language, logic, and plenty of the other areas that the previous games have already covered. Once the app has figured out where your strengths and weaknesses lie, it will suggest a sort of training program made up of lots of different puzzles. The puzzles tend to be really good fun so that you’re encouraged to keep going and the progress trackers make it easier still.