Thursday, May 31, 2012

My Hand is Stuck in the Safe:

Give Me the Brain

Editors Note: This Friday's post was written by Mr. Bassman from  It's a change of pace, but not too far off--many of the themes of movies are echoed in board games (it even works the other way around, as in Battleship [2012] and Clue [1985]).  Sharp eyed readers will recall the post on Death Race 2000 (1975) and game Car Wars (1980).  Enjoy.

Nowadays you not only find zombies lurching across the cinema screen, but you can also discover them lurking in the boxes of games like Last Night on Earth, Mall of Horror, and Zombie State:  Diplomacy of the Dead.  Yet in the mid-'90s, the only zombie themed game you were likely to find was SPI's Dawn of the Dead, a hex-and-counter style combat game with rules complex enough to scare off all but the most ardent wargamer.  

In 1995, game designer James Ernest reasoned that the most important parts of a game are its rules and not the components, so he founded Cheapass Games to inexpensively publish a line of games which usually contained nothing more than a sheet of rules, cards, and sometimes a game board.  Give Me The Brain is his game about zombies working in a fast food franchise.

The game comes in a white envelope that unfortunately doesn't contain hard drugs.

If the only card games with which you are familiar are various incarnations of Uno, then playing any of the Cheapass games will have you rethink what games can be.  Give Me The Brain starts with players using bidding cards such as "The pickles are staring at me," and "I'm locked in the fleezah!" to get the brain.  Getting the brain is important because task cards with the brain icon on them can only be played by the player who has the brain.  And emptying your hand by playing all your cards is how you win.

Good help is hard to find.

Give Me The Brain also includes a rudimentary action point system in the form of the hand icons on the cards that determines how many tasks a turn you can play.  You can't play cards that contain a total of more than two hands during a turn--unless you are fortunate enough to find a third hand in the back.

Tasks requiring one or two hands--and occasionally a brain.

Unlike George Romero's zombie classics Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead which make gory social commentary about brainless mass consumerism, Give Me the Brain pokes fun at that high school rite of passage, the food franchise job.  While it may be politically incorrect now to ridicule minimum wage employees, the mid-'90s were the boom time when hamburger joint counters were manned by bored teenagers who had trouble making change without counting on their fingers.

Give Me The Brain is not terribly deep, nor is there pulse pounding tension as you desperately search for another ammo clip to refill your pistol.  Instead, you will experience the frustration of one step forward and two steps back as playing cards like "Who, Me?" force you to draw more cards, because obviously you don't have enough to do.  As for theme, well, the cards do have pictures of zombies on them.  And you can play the game mindlessly.

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