Off the Grid reviews Give me the Brain!

Every other week Scott Jon Siegel contributes Off the Grid, a column on gaming away from the television screen or monitor.

James Ernest's games are nothing if not creative. Give me the Brain!, from way back in 1997, is a card game set in a fast-food joint, which just happens to exclusively employ zombies. Oh yes.

Each player acts as one such undead employee, as all players compete to be the first flesh-muncher to leave at the end of the workday. At first glance, it's a simple card game concept: the first player with no cards remaining is the winner. The catch is the brain -- there's only one of them between all of the players, and you're going to need it to get a lot of the jobs done.

In Give me the Brain!, a singular 6-sided die acts as the zombies' only source of intelligence. Rather than eating it, players bid cards to gain possession of the brain, in order to complete some of the less menial tasks like defrosting parfaits and dealing with picky customers.

Like a rotting rugby game, part of the fun comes in not just acquiring the brain, but also in holding onto it. The player in possession of the gray matter must roll it to keep it, with each thought-required job having a minimum role necessary to retain control of the organ. Meanwhile, other players can play cards to force a fumble, or otherwise gain possession of the liberated lobes.

Like a number of Cheapass Games, Give me the Brain! has humor throughout, from the fanciful illustrations of zombies with "squirrel problems," to the excellent flavor text on each card; even to the dry wit of the instruction manual. Give me the Brain! is a fun game, but also a very quick one, taking around 15 minutes to complete. Like Fluxx, strategy's not always a big factor in the short-lived gameplay, and the oft-corrupted turn order can leave some players SOL as their zombie buddies dwindle their hand sizes and move closer to victory.

Still, 15 minutes of zombie food-prep mayhem is infinitely better than none at all. Those inspired should seek it out. And don't forget to pass the brain.

Scott Jon Siegel is a fledgling game designer, and fancies himself a bit of a writer on the topic as well. His words and games can be found at numberless, which is almost always a work in progress.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.