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Pirates vs. Ninjas vs. Zombies?!: A “Brains!” Kickstarter Preview

Brains Card Back

Brains! goes live on Kickstarter 9/24/2018!

“Brains!” is the newest collaboration between game designer Peter C. Hayward and artist Kelly Jo. It is also the next installment in the Treasure Hunter series from Jellybean Games, which also includes the games “Scuttle!” and “Ninjitsu!”. Whereas before Jo’s adorable and easily recognizable art style was used to create dashing pirates and sneaky ninjas, she is now bringing zombies to the playing field! As with all other games in the Treasure Hunter series so far, Brains! can be played as a standalone game or blended with any of the other games – and their expansions – in the series. This new 2-5 player card game will be launching on Kickstarter this week!

Brains Set Up

Setting up for a 3-player game of Brains!

For the purposes of this review, I am using a prototype copy so some of the art, text, and components may change by the end of the Kickstarter campaign. As with many of the games from Jellybean Games that I’ve played, the set up for Brains! is quick and easy, which I have learned to really appreciate. Each player is dealt a Gravestone card to place in front of them, with any unused Gravestones being returned to the box. The rest of the cards are then shuffled to form a draw deck and placed in the middle of the play area. Each player receives a starting hand of 4 cards (to be kept secret from other players) and also has a card dealt face up onto their Gravestone, which forms their graveyard. Once that’s completed, the first player is determined by discerning which player ate the most recently. That’s it! Super simple and something that either kids or adults could do at game night!

At the end of the game, I got really lucky with the Guitar card and no one else being able to force me to go into a points deficit!
(All photos of Jellybean Games product were taken and edited by KristaG)

Starting with the recent eater (a.k.a. the first player), players take turns and compete against one another to try to be the first to begin their turn with 21 or more points (17+ for 5-player games). As easy as this sounds, let me assure you it is not…especially with more players! Part of this is because there’s a little bit of push your luck, some “take that” between players, and trying to decide just how to play the cards. Some cards can be played only as a Treasure, some only for their Action, and still others that could be played either way (players must choose which way they want to use the card). In addition to this, certain cards will also have a gear icon on them which means they have an effect if specific criteria are met. For example, the cards with a little coffin inside the gear icon have a one-time effect at the time that card enters a player’s graveyard. On a player’s turn, they must pick one action to perform out of the 3 available to choose from: Draw, Play, or Bury. This means a player may either draw 2 cards from the deck, play a card either for its Action or as a Treasure, or deal the top card from the draw deck to the top of their graveyard (face up). If a player chooses to play a card for its action, it is played to the “Pit” (discard pile) next to the draw deck, but if the card is being played as a Treasure, it is placed face up next to the Graveyard into their “collection.” Turns continue clockwise until a player is able to start their turn with the proper number of points. However, a player must shout “Brains!” as soon as they reach the allotted number of points so as to alert the other players that they will win on their next turn (think Uno). Should they drop below the needed number of points before the start of their next turn, they will also need to let everyone know so the game can continue. If a player forgets to shout “Brains!” the turn before they would have won, their turn is skipped and they have to wait for a whole other round before they can potentially win.

One of the things that I really like about all of the Treasure Hunter series games is that they can all be played quickly and with almost any age group. There’s a little bit of reading involved so very young players might struggle with it some, but I feel they could always play with a partner if they want to get in on a game. The game is meant to be quick, fun, and simple. Most of our games took between 3 and 10 minutes. Obviously, this will change if you include any number of the expansions or have varying group sizes. Kelly Jo’s art style has had my attention ever since I first saw Scuttle! on Kickstarter back in early 2016. I love the color choices, the family-friendly illustrations, the way the characters interact with each other on the cards themselves, and the spectrum of genres that she’s been able to effectively bring to life with lovable characters (pirates, ninjas, pandas, and now zombies). I also like that this isn’t just a “reskin” of either of the previous games, but actually adds new mechanics to the franchise. Brains! was a hit for sure at our family game night and I’m sure it will be that continues to hit the table whenever we want something quick, light, and slightly spooky in theme!


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