Game Buzz: BASKETmind

I am a basketball fan.  I much prefer to college game to professional, but I do really enjoy the back and forth nature of the game in whatever form it takes.  Unfortunately, there aren’t very many games that simulate basketball.  It seems like American football, soccer, and baseball dominate the sports games.  So, my ears perked up when I heard about BASKETmind.

image by BGG user franchi

BASKETmind was first designed in 1981 by Miguel Marqués from France.  In 2011, he submitted it to a BGG contest run by nestorgames.  The game got enough thumbs to get a publishing contract, and should be published sometime in the near future.  If you don’t know anything about nestorgames, it’s a Spanish company that specializes in producing abstract games on what are essentially mousepads.  This allows the games to be flexible, compact, portable, and easily stored.  The game is not anywhere close to its final form, so this overview may be different from the final game.

BASKETmind is a 45 minute game for 2 players aged 11 and up.  It simulates a 5-on-5 game of basketball, and features pieces with different heights and abilities.  The game is played on a board that represents half of a court, and is divided into hexes.  There’s an additional score board where actions will be taken.  Two teams of five (black and white) each include one guard (the shortest piece), two forwards (medium height), and two centers (tallest pieces).  Each player piece is numbered 1-5.  The ball is represented by an orange cylinder.  Each team also has three dice – a d6 for shots, rebounds, and player activations; a d8 for shots, blocks, and steals; and a d6 numbered 0-5 for score.  There are also 6 red discs per team, to be used for blocks and steals.

The team with the ball begins the game by placing their five players.  The one with the ball has to start in the midcourt circle, while the other four can go anywhere on the court as long as they are at least two hexes away from the key (the nine hexes inside the foul lane).  The defender then places their five players anywhere that is at least three spaces from the midcourt lane.

A game of BASKETmind can take either 50 turns for a quick game (yes, 50 turns is quick – they’re not Martin Wallace turns) or 200 turns for a four-quarter game.  A turn involves the attacker (team with the ball) moving one player and taking one ball action, then the defender moving one player and activating a player.  These actions are all optional.  The attacker has a possession limit of ten turns, and if possession changes in the middle of a turn, the turn starts over with the new attacker beginning from the previous attacker space.

First, movement.  Guards can move up to four hexes, forwards can move three, and centers can move two.  The ball handler must stay in bounds.  A player can move over their own players, or over shorter players on the other team.  The attacker can only end in the key if they then take a shot.  Instead of moving one player, a team (offense or defense) can choose to move up to three players one space each.

After movement, the attacker has two options: pass or shoot.  Actually, the attacker can all choose to do nothing.  The ball handler is allowed to hold on to the ball, but they must pass or shoot after their next turn or commit a turnover.  If the guard has the ball at the start of the turn, you get an extra ball action.

To pass, put the ball in any space in the ball handler’s zone of control that is not occupied by another player.  The zone of control is the six spaces surrounding the player, as well as the player space.  From the placement of the ball, trace a straight line of hexes to another player on your team.  If the ball can land in that player’s zone of control, the pass is completed and the receiver is now the ball handler.

To shoot, put the ball in any of your zone of control hexes and count the number of spaces from the ball to the basket.  This is the minimum number you must roll with the d6 to score.  Forwards roll the d8.  You score three points for a shot outside the three-point line, and two from inside.  If the ball and player end the turn in the space with the basket, they score two points automatically for a slam dunk.  This doesn’t count as a shot, and can be done right after a pass.  A made shot ends the turn.

The defender has an opportunity to block before the die roll (only players of the same height or taller than the shooter can block).  One of the defending players can move one less than their usual movement to get in position.  The attacker will then choose one of the seven spaces in their zone of control to place the ball, indicating their choice on the d8 (each space in the zone of control has a number, and there’s a reminder of which is which on the score board.  The defender can then place one red disc on the space they wish to block, plus one extra disc for the height distance – a center trying to block a guard can place three discs since it’s two taller.  The attacker reveals their number, and if the shot wasn’t blocked, the shot proceeds with the roll.  If it was blocked, the defense gets the ball.  If the defender placed a red disc on the player’s hex and the shot wasn’t blocked, it’s a foul and the player gets free throws.

If a shot is missed, the centers can move towards the five hexes surrounding the basket if they didn’t try to block – defenders move first.  You’ll then roll the d6 to see who gets the rebound.  A roll of 1 goes out of bounds, and 2-6 goes to whoever is in or close to that position around the basket.

On the defender turn, one player can move (or there can be a team move), and then the defender can activate one of their players.  This is done by choosing a number on the special d6.  If, on the next turn, if the ball goes through two hexes of the activated player’s zone of control, it’s a steal.

At the end of the turn, you’ll advance the turn marker one space.  A turn ends when the defense activates a player, when a shot is made, or when the ball goes out of bounds.  You’ll set up as in the beginning of the game after a shot is made, a defensive rebound, or a turnover happens due to a block or an out of bounds play.  You play for the appropriate number of turns, and the player with the most points wins.  I assume that having a tie leads to overtime.

From going through the rules, everything seems a little confusing.  The rules are kind of messy right now, but I’m sure they’ll get cleaned up by publication time.  A lot of care seems to have been put into making this very abstracted game as thematic as possible.  I don’t think I’d call it an abstract, but the use of hexes and numbered bits really give it that feel.  It seems like there are some good tactics to be used to get yourself in position.  I like that each piece has a special ability – guards can give you an extra ball action, forwards are better for shooting threes, and centers are rebounders.  It seems like it’s be fun to keep stats, start a league, talk smack, all that good basketball stuff.

BASKETmind definitely seems like a different experience than a lot of other sports games.  I’m interested in seeing how this game works once it comes out – we’ll see what the price point and availability are.  Thanks for reading!


  1. Hi, I’m the designer of BASKETmind, and came through this page googling the name of the game! Thanks for taking the time to go through the rules and write your first impressions, I’m glad you found the game interesting.

    I have been recently working with Nestor on the production of the game, some components had to be slightly changed and I have used the feedback I got to clarify a bit more the rulebook. Basically, the teams will be red/blue, the hexes become circles, the player labels have clearer symbols, the variant players will be separated pieces…

    You’ll see soon, Nestor told me the game is going to be available in a matter of very few weeks (it is the next game on his queue). For those interested in the idea, I posted design notes at the BGG page of the game. I have added a new example of play too, since the new rulebook had room for one more (see “examples of play” at BGG).

    No idea about the price yet, Nestor will tell!

    • Thanks Miguel! I am very interested in seeing it once it comes out as it merges my love of board games and my love of basketball. Thanks for the update, and hope to see it soon!

  2. Hi, the game has been published! 🙂

    In the announcement thread at BGG I have given details about the few changes from the prototype to the final product. Basically it looks prettier and the rules are clearer! And I added a summary of the things to remember during the first play at the end of the rulebook, that may be useful.

    Hope you’ll enjoy the game!

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