This copy was provided to us by Kosmos. This does not affect the review in any way. The opinions are my own.
Gamer Tested, Science Approved
Brainwaves: The Brilliant Boar is one in a series of games from publisher Kosmos. At their core, each game in the series is a memory game that is designed to try to improve players’ “fluid intelligence, working memory, and episodic memory.” The box cover has a large “Scientist Recommended” stamp next to a snappy looking Boar in a scarf and coat which I can assure you is dressed even snappier than I. Does this game have a winning formula, or should it spend some more time in the lab?
Remember, Remember, the Sporty Looking Badger
In a game of Brainwaves, players start by assembling a deck of cards with different sets of animals, up to nine different sets depending on the difficulty desired. Once the deck is assembled and properly shuffled the deck is placed face up and each player takes one card into their hand. Players may look at that card only one time and then they must keep that card in their hand facing toward the other players.
The goal of the game is to try and collect as many matching sets of cards as possible. On your turn you can play a card from your hand you believe it matches a face-up card on top of the deck or the center of the table. If you play a card correctly, you get to take both cards and set them in front of you, and immediately take another turn. If no matches are made you must leave the card you played face up in the middle of the table, giving other players another card to match with and take for themselves.
If you don’t think you can make a match you can take the top card of the deck and put it into your hand, again facing your opponents, then your turn ends. The game continues this way until the deck is depleted; at this point, each player must play a card from their hand, whether they can successfully make a match or not. Once all but one player has played all cards from their hands the game ends, with everyone then counting how many cards they were successfully able to match throughout the course of the game, subtracting any cards remaining in their hands. Whoever has the most points after this is the winner.
There’s also a solo mode, where a player can attempt to see how many correct matches they can make against the deck. Using similar rules to the multi-player version, the solo player must try and match as many cards as they can, with every mistake being thrown into an “error pile” next to the deck. After the deck is exhausted, they subtract their matches from the mistakes they had made with the goal of aiming for a high score!
Enjoyment is Relative
Brainwaves is not a bad game, however, it felt more like an activity than a game. On this point, I may be in the minority, as most others I played with seemed to enjoy the game a little more than myself. To its credit, the concept is extremely simple, and you’ll be able to teach the game and get up in running in a few minutes. The 15-minute playtime printed on the box is spot on and the game certainly flies by, but at the end of the day, it feels almost like I’m going through the motions when I play this game. [I want to be clear, I am writing this from my point of view. I can not speak to how others will take this game. But, I must say that this game is aimed for family gaming. This means it needs to be playable for children around the age of 8. I think it defiantly hit the mark for the younger crowd but might leave the parents wanting more.]
Often players at the table sat in silence as they to focus on their ever-expanding hand of cards, internally reciting the cards like some kind of ritualistic chanting. I’m not wholly against games of this nature. Hanabi, for example, is another game where players can’t see their own cards and have to memorize what’s in their hands with the help of other players. I really enjoy that game because it has a higher level of social interaction when a teammate is about to throw down an inappropriate card and they see the slight grimaces on everyone’s faces it’s really amusing and enjoyable.
With Brainwaves, I don’t get that same sense of joy and amusement, and I don’t know if that’s necessarily what the designers are going for. The rule book has two whole pages talking about how much it exercises your memory and all the tests that have been run to showcase the positive effects it can lead to, and I can’t argue with them on that point. For me, it’s just not the kind of game I’m looking for. I’m not much of a solo gamer, but I could really see this as almost an entirely solo focused game, with people challenging their own high scores by making the deck harder and harder with a greater variety of cards.
The presentation of the game is nice. I think the illustrations of animals dressed in various garb are unique and helped keep the game from looking dull, allowing you to focus on the different card types a bit easier. I give props to artist Marc Margielsky for that. Brainwaves: The Brilliant Boar isn’t my cup of tea, but it’s light and breezy enough that I could see myself playing it again if a group really wanted to. It’s an average little memory game that is over in a flash, and when the games are done you’re left asking, “What’s next?”
Final Score: 5/10
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AKA “The Board Game Mole”
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