In addition to being a worldview, a psychological malfunction, a subjective experience, and a generally ill-defined term, Perception is the name of a simple yet addictive board game put out by Ideal Games in 1971. Unfortunately, the game is out of print. Fear not! You do not actually need the board game or the pieces to play, as I will explain.


On a sheet of paper, draw a rectangular grid of 1-inch squares measuring 3 columns by seven rows. Be sure to make the fourth row bold.

Now take up the collection plate and get 4 pennies, 4 nickels, and 4 dimes. These will be your playing pieces. Alternatively, if you have interesting tokens or POGs (Remember POGs? They're back. In POG form!) you want to play with, by all means do so.

Each player places one penny, one nickel, and one dime in their respective starting row of the board. Make sure the pieces are aligned properly - that the dime is across from the dime, the nickel across from the nickel, penny to penny. They then keep one penny, one nickel, and one dime each in their hand.

Starting Diagram

|P| | | | | |P|
|N| | | | | |N|
|D| | | | | |D|

How To Play

Player 1 goes first. They pick either the penny, nickel, or dime from their hand and hide it in one hand. Player 2 then guesses which piece the other player selected. If they are wrong, Player 1 moves that piece forward one space towards the middle. If Player 2 is right, Player 1 moves no pieces and it is now Player 2's turn to select a piece.

A round ends when two pieces (of either side) have reached the middle row. Each player then scores as follows: 1 point for each piece that reached the scoring row, and -1 point for each piece still in its starting position. The pieces are then reset, and another round begins. The first player to 5 points wins.


At first, you may be thinking this game is simply a guessing game. You are so very, very wrong. First, there is a lot of basic strategy involved. Take the following position:

| | |P| | | |P|
|N| | | |N| | |
|D| | | | | |D|

(We will assume it is always Player 2's - the player on the right - turn to guess Player 1's - the player on the left - hidden piece.)

Is it in the best interest of Player 1 to guarantee a point by selecting his penny? Or should he try to avoid losing 2 points by moving his nickel or dime off of its starting position? To complicate things further:

| | |P| | |P| |
| |N| | |N| | |
|D| | | | | |D|

Player 1 has successfully moved his nickel, and Player 2 has moved his penny. Does Player 1 score with his penny? Does he put his nickel on the 2nd row and attempt to block Player 2 placing his nickel in the scoring row? Does he move his dime off the starting line? A final position:

| | |P| | |P| |
| | |N| |N| | |
|D| | | | | |D|

Player 1 has moved his nickel and adroitly blocked Player 2's attempt to move his nickel into the scoring row. Now does he try to move his own nickel in, laying waste to Player 2's moves thus far? Does he move his penny in, gaining 1 point, and then block Player 2's dime, ensuring a 0-0 stalemate if Player 2 chose his nickel? Does he move his dime off and then block the nickel to force an equal position showdown of will?

Needless to say, I am way too hooked on this game to speak about it without drooling.

This game is an excellent way to exploit other's flaws: are they often careless? Too cautious? Do they prefer things quick, or are they thoughtful? Do they seem duplicitous, or too trustworthy? Soon, the game leaves the simple paper playing field and becomes a mental war of which there can only be one victor.

The Ideal Games version has a spiffy psychedelic cover, suggesting that the ingestion of certain "wacky weeds" might lead to an even cooler game than thought possible. This is left as an exercise to the gamer.