Re: Your Brains Game Review

reyourbrains_top

The Basics:

  • For ages 9 and up (publisher suggests 12+)
  • For 2 to 5 players
  • Appropriately 30 minutes to complete

Geek Skills

  • Active Listening & Communication
  • Counting & Math
  • Logical & Critical Decision Making
  • Reading
  • Memorization
  • Hand/Resource Management

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Easy
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • Survive your day at the office

Endorsements:

  • Gamer Geek approved!
  • Parent Geek mixed!
  • Child Geek mixed!

Overview

It’s the end of the world. Ironically, it fell on a Monday. You came into the office dreading the long week of soulless work ahead of you, but now things have become considerably worse. In addition to the unreasonable deadlines and heavy workload, you now have to deal with your undead co-workers who are roaming the halls hungry for your brain. Time to spruce up your résumé and survive. Gads, you hate Mondays…

Re: Your Brains, a self-published game designed by Mike Young, is comprised of 81 Zombie cards, 8 Zombie Master/Heroic Human cards, 20 chips (10 black and 10 red), and 1 Zombie pawn (which is actually a miniature plastic zombie figure). The cards are durable and the chips are made of thick Plastic. Everything but the Zombie pawn in used in the game. “Why is it included if it isn’t part of the game,” you ask? “Heck, why not,” I say! It’s a miniature zombie figure!

A few of the Parent Geeks found some of the images to be a bit too horrific for their children. As always, we’ll leave it up to you, the reader, to determine what is best for your family. Included here are a few examples of the cards that raised some Parent Geek eyebrows. On a positive note, the few cards that offended the Parent Geeks’ parental sensibilities were easily removed without harming the game play. This allowed us to play the game with all of our group members.

reyourbrains_artexample

Coming into Work

To set up the game, first separate the Zombie Master/Heroic Human and Zombie cards into two different decks. All the Zombie cards will have the same card back illustration and the Zombie Master/Heroic Human cards will have an image of a human wielding a weapon on one side and on the other side a brain eating middle management zombie employee.

Second, place the red and black chips to one side of the game playing area and within easy reach of all the players. If playing a 2 or 3-player game, take 1 red chip and place it in the center of the playing area now. The red chips will be used to keep track of the growing threat of undead marauders. The black chips are used by a specific Zombie Master later in the game.

Third, shuffle the Zombie Master/Heroic Human deck of cards and deal 1 to each player. This card is kept out in front of the player at all times and starts the game human side face-up. Players are welcome to look at the other side of their Heroic Human card if they like. If any player is dealt the “Marian” Zombie Master card in a 2-player game, take back the card and give the player a new card. Any Zombie Master/Heroic Human cards not dealt are removed for the duration of the game.

Fourth, organize the Zombie cards so the zombie side is face-up. Shuffle this deck and deal out to each player 5 cards, face-down. Players should look at their cards but keep them hidden from their opponents at all times. Then deal 1 card to each player in front of their Heroic Human card, face-down. This represents the first zombie they encounter. The remaining deck is placed face-down to one side of the playing area. This is referred to as the Zombie draw deck for the remainder of the game. Leave room next to the Zombie draw deck for a discard pile.

Note: If a player is dealt the “Things Get Worse” Zombie card at anytime during the game, they place it in the discard pile, place a red chip in the middle of the playing area, and then draw another card from the Zombie draw deck to replace it.

That’s it for game set up. Time to attempt to survive another day at the office!

Undead Office Politics

The Zombie Master/Heroic Human cards are used by the players to thematically represent their current state (very much alive or undead). Depending on the player’s current state, their victory condition is different. For all the players in the beginning of the game who start out as Heroic Humans, the goal is to simply survive. When the Heroic Human is overrun and becomes a zombie, the card is flipped over to reveal the player’s role in the company and their new victory condition. The victory condition for each Zombie Master is unique.

reyourbrains_humanzombie

The Zombie cards are comprised of 4 different types. These are “Weapon”, “Food”, “Office Supply”, and “Special”. The “Weapon” Zombie cards represent the various items of destruction you wouldn’t expect to find in most places of business. For example, a bundle of dynamite, a pistol, and a shotgun. The “Food” Zombie cards represent the various snacks found in the vending machines strategically placed around the office. The “Office Supply” Zombie cards represent the various equipment and smaller items that are necessary components for getting work done. For example, a copy machine, duct tape, and the highly coveted red stapler. The “Special” Zombie cards represent specific and unique actions or conditions. These are not always beneficial. The 4 different types will help a player survive the rigmarole of a dead-end corporate job. In theory…

reyourbrains_officestuff

Additionally, the back of the Zombie cards are used to represent the zombie horde (one zombie per card). In this way, the Zombie cards are pulling double duty in the game, representing either a zombie or one of the many useful objects located in the office that might help a human survive. Of course, zombies have been known to utilize office supplies, which is both comical and horrific.

reyourbrains_zombiecard

Uh-oh…Sounds Like Somebody’s Got a Case of the Mondays

Re: Your Brains is played in turns with not set number of turns or rounds in a single game. On a player’s turn, they will complete the following sequential steps.

Step 1: Add Zombies

The first thing a player does on their turn is add more zombies. The player counts the number of red chips in the middle of the playing area. The player then draws that many Zombie cards and places them in front of any player they like, including themselves. The player does not look at these cards! For example, if their were 4 red chips in the middle of the playing area, the player would draw 4 Zombie cards and then could divide them among his opponents and himself as they like.

Step 2: Draw Cards

After the zombie horde increases its ranks, the player draws 2 more cards from the Zombie draw deck. If the player draws a “Things Get Worse” Zombie card, they discard it, place a red chip in the middle of the playing area, and draw another card. From these 2 cards, a Heroic Human player will keep one and place it in their hand. The other they place in front of an opponent or themselves as a zombie. If the player is a Zombie Master, they will draw 2 cards and add them to their hand and then from their hand, they will select any 1 card to place down as a zombie in front of any player. The difference is subtle, but important.

Step 3: Play Cards

The player can now play cards from their hand. The player can play any card they like, but no more than 1 card of each of the 4 types per turn.

“Weapon” Zombie cards allow the player to pick off the Zombie cards that are in front of them. The player places a “Weapon” Zombie card down and flips over the Zombie card they have targeted. Some weapons allow the player to target more than 1 Zombie. A player must remove the number of zombies listed on the “Weapon” Zombie card, unless the card uses the keyword “up to”, which suggests the player can target a number of zombies “up to” a specific number value. This means a player might be forced to remove a zombie from their opponent. Of course, a player an always target a zombie in front of an opponent if they like. That might be seen as counterproductive, but some victory conditions require it.

When a Zombie card is targeted by a weapon, it’s flipped over to reveal what is underneath. If  it’s a “Things Get Worse” Zombie card, it’s discarded and a red chip is placed in the center of the playing area. A “Weapon” Zombie card might be revealed that allows the player to “chain”. This is an extra bonus “shot” that the player must take to remove another Zombie card. Once the Zombie cards have been revealed, they are placed in the discard pile along with the “Weapon” card used by the player.

“Food” and “Office Supply” Zombie cards are played just like “Weapon” Zombie cards and placed in front of the player, face-up. These cards give the player a special bonus and remain active unless the card states otherwise. Note that some “Food” and “Office Supply” Zombie cards are removed from in front of the player if they are overrun as a Heroic Human. Don’t worry, you can always get your undead hands on these objects again after you lose them…and your life…as a Zombie Master.

“Special” Zombie cards offer a one time bonus or condition. They are played in front of the player, resolved, and then discarded, but not always. Some “Special” Zombie cards remain in play until a specific condition is met.

Step 4: Zombify

The player cannot have any more than 7 cards in their hand. If they have more than 7, they must now discard down to 7. Discarded cards are not placed in the discard pile when a player removes them from their hand during this steep. Instead, they are zombified and turned into zombies. Like step 1 and step 2, the player can place these Zombie cards in front of whomever they like, including themselves.

Step 5: Check for Overrun and Victory

If the player is still a Heroic Human, they check to see if they have been overrun by the zombie horde. If they have 5 or more Zombie cards in front of them, their defenses have been breached and they are now doomed to exist as a zombie. The player flips over their card so the Zombie Master is now showing. The player should note the new victory condition and any special abilities that are unique to the layer’s Zombie Master. The player should also quickly inspect the Zombie cards in front of them that are face-up and discard any that should be removed. Some cards will increase and decrease the maximum number of zombies that trigger the overrun.

Interesting fact: Even though the player has turned into a brain eating monster with no pulse, they maintain all their corporate training and take on a position in middle management for the zombie horde. They are still very much in the game and can still win.

If the player is a Zombie Master, they check to see if their unique victory condition has been met. Zombie Masters cannot be overrun by the zombies they now manage. If a player has turned into a Zombie Master this turn, they cannot win the game by meeting their victory condition until their next turn.

If the player has not won the game, the next player in turn order sequence now takes their turn starting with step 1 noted above.

TGIF

The game can end 1 of 2 possible ways:

  • A player who is a Heroic Human wins if they are the last human standing and they have no Zombie cards in front of them at the end of their turn. Time to escape and seriously consider a new career path.
  • A player who is a Zombie Master wins if they meet the victory condition noted on their card at the end of their turn. Congratulations! You are a shoo-in for Undead Employee of the Month!

To learn more about Re: Your Brains, visit the game’s web page on the Game Crafter.

Prediction

I wouldn’t say I’m getting sick of Zombie games, but I’m not altogether thrilled about them, either. I still love watching zombie movies and reading books that have zombies in them, but my level of tolerance for Zombie games is starting to wear thin. While each Zombie game I have played is designed well enough and was entertaining, it’s the heaviness of the zombie theme that is starting to make me feel weighed down. Nevertheless, I will introduce, teach, and play this game with enthusiasm and not let the lethargy caused by my despondent zombie malaise get in the way of or negatively influence this review.

For the Parent and Child Geeks, I think the game will get mixed approval, at best. The game certainly sounds like it will be playable by non-gamers and even the Child Geeks without any issues, but the zombie theme and the constant onslaught of cards might make the game feel a bit out of control. Which is kind of the point when it comes to Zombie games, admittedly. A player must be able to read to play this game, which removes our younger Child Geeks as possible participants. I don’t think they’ll mind, however.

For the Gamer Geeks, I can see this game being approved as a casual game filler. Zombie games always tend to be a hit with the Gamer Geek crowd unless the game really messes up the thematic and narrative elements. Game play sometimes takes a backseat if the zombies are proving to be a worthy adversary. I don’t think any of the Gamer Geeks will have serious issues with the game play, but some of the victory conditions are really easy to get. It’s all luck based with random card draws, but a few of our Gamer Geeks might dislike the fact that they lost the game because their opponent simply had an easier goal.

Teaching the game is very straight forward. I suggest you demo a single turn and that should be sufficient. Every player follows the same sequential steps and the only difference between one player’s turn versus another is the cards in their hand. I would also take a brief moment to summarize what each of the 4 Zombie cards are and show an example of weapon chaining.

After teaching Re: Your Brains to my oldest little geek, I asked him his thoughts on the game so far.

“I don’t understand what all this office stuff is about, but all I need to know is how I win and how I take the zombies out!” ~ Liam (age 9)

Looks like my little geek is ready to jump feet first into the game. Let’s play it and see if it’s a winner.

Final Word

The Child Geeks, especially the older ones, were able to play Re: Your Brains well enough and had no problem understanding the rules or the game play. All the games started out jovial and well paced, but normally broke down into frustration about midway through. Some of the Child Geeks became frustrated with their inability to manage the growing zombie threat in front of them and took turning into a zombie to mean they were losing. I had to remind them several times that turning into a zombie didn’t take you out of the game. In most cases, it actually makes the game easier. According to one Child Geek, “I like this game because you are never knocked out of it!” And another Child Geek said, “I don’t like this game because you can’t win as a human.” Technically, you can win as a Heroic Human, but it’s not easy. When the games were over and the Child Geeks voted, their approval was mixed. Some of the Child Geeks enjoyed the game’s theme and game play, while others found it to be a frustrating experience. They all liked the zombie theme.

My oldest little geeks points out what would later be revealed as dynamite

My oldest little geek points out to his younger brother what would later be revealed as dynamite

The Parent Geeks who enjoyed themed card games and zombies had a blast with Re: Your Brains. Many quotes from the movie, Office Space, were said again and again during game play. A number of our Parent Geeks were displeased to see that there wasn’t a “Milton” Zombie Master card. While all the Parent Geeks thought the game play was sound and the pacing was sufficient to keep the game going, a number of them just didn’t care for the game in general. According to one of these Parent Geeks,”The game is OK, but it just starts to feel repetitive after awhile.” Another Parent Geek who did enjoy the game said, “I don’t usually like Zombie games, but this one I would play again. It’s fast and easy, but kept me working and engaged.” When the games were over, the Parent Geeks were split. Some thought it was a good game to play with their peers and with their older Child Geeks while others thought it was fun, but not something they wanted to play again.

The Gamer Geeks had a good time with Re: Your Brains and thought it was a good game to put on their elitist table for late night game playing sessions or as a filler game. According to one Gamer Geek,”The artwork sucks on most of the cards, but the game is solid.” Another Gamer Geek wasn’t too sure about the game. According to him, “I think this game is broken. Some of the Zombie Master victory conditions are so easy that it’s in a player’s best interest to not attack and get overrun as soon as possible.” This theory was tested and the Gamer Geek’s opinion was found to be somewhat true. However, when the player’s opponents saw that they were purposely NOT attacking, they did all they could to hamper their progress. This made the game much more complicated and more time was spent thinking about each turn as a result. When the games were over, the majority of Gamer Geeks voted to approve the game. One Gamer Geek summed it up nicely when he said, “It’s a simple card game that pokes fun of the doldrums of the office. Plus, zombies. Awesome.”

Mr. Young has created a fun little zombie game. The other games we have played that were designed by him, Escape from Pirate Island and Code Monkey, were also enjoyed, but this one felt tighter and more complete. With all of Mr. Young’s games, I enjoy the game flow, but not the presentation. Time and time again, I found myself shaking my head in disappointment as I looked at the cards. I think more time and effort should have gone into creating a more comical representations of office culture versus the standard stock art the game currently has. None of the illustrations are poorly placed, but I’m certain my enjoyment of the game would have been enhanced if more energy was put into providing satirical imagery. I’ll also be the first one to recognize and acknowledge the fact that hiring an illustrator is not cheap.

I rather enjoyed the game, despite my growing displeasure with the artwork. The game plays well and always left me smiling. It’s a game I can get on the table pretty much anytime with my Parent and Gamer Geeks without issue. My oldest little geek also enjoys it and it’s a lot of fun going head-to-head with him playing a game that balances out our different game playing skills. If you are a fan of Zombie games, take a look at Re: Your Brains.

This game was given to Father Geek as a review copy. Father Geek was not paid, bribed, wined, dined, or threatened in vain hopes of influencing this review. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek.

About Cyrus

Editor in Chief, Owner/Operator, Board Game Fanatic, Father of Three, and Nice Guy, Cyrus has always enjoyed board, card, miniature, role playing, and video games, but didn't get back into the hobby seriously until early 2000. Once he did, however, he was hooked. He now plays board games with anyone and everyone he can, but enjoys playing with his children and wife the most. Video games continue to be of real interest, but not as much as dice and little miniatures. As he carefully navigates the ins and outs of parenting, he does his very best to bestow what wisdom he has and help nurture his children's young minds. It is his hope and ambition to raise three strong, honorable men who will one day go on to do great things and buy their Mom and Dad a lobster dinner Cyrus goes by the handle fathergeek on Board Game Geek. You can also check him out on CyrusKirby.com. Yes, he has a URL that is his name. His ego knows no bounds, apparently....
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8 Responses to Re: Your Brains Game Review

  1. Was surprised you guys didn’t mention that this game obviously seems derived from Jonathan Coulter’s song, “Re: Your Brains”.

    http://youtu.be/S6vnM9I7HIo

    • Cyrus says:

      Are you less surprised that I didn’t mention it if I tell you I’m not a fan of Jonathan Coulton? 🙂

    • Not a fan, either… but I’m really curious about the ethical/moral questions of “borrowing” a concept in this way. (Actually, I don’t like zombie movies or zombie games – the only really “zombie” thing I have in my collection is a whole lot of zombies for Heroscape.)

    • Cyrus says:

      You mean the ethical argument that might come from a person borrowing a song’s narrative as a bases for a game’s theme? Hmmm…. I suppose a lawyer could make a case to suggest that Mr. Young is deriving income from the intellectual and creative property of Mr. Coulton, but that would be a hard argument to really drive home. The game is certainly a node to the song, but the game play and components are not copying anything or reusing any portion of the song itself.

      I’m betting there is a thin line here that I am most pleased I do not have to walk.

    • I don’t even try to figure out the legal implications of such a choice… not my ballpark. But the ethical/moral issues are (as you can probably guess from my blog’s name – aka pastor guy) are my bread & butter.

      So there’s not even a mention of the song/artist in the rules/credits? That seems… well, this is FatherGeek, so “Swiper! No swiping!”

    • Cyrus says:

      Yes, sir, I’m familiar with your work. I have your website listed as part of my random links that show up on the site’s front page for our readers to click and explore.

      Further review regarding this issue has resulted in me stumbling on the fine print noted at the very bottom of the rules which state:

      Re: Your Brains (C) Jonathan Coulton, used with permission.

      I think we can safely put this doubt of ethical “fair play” to rest.

    • Ah ha… so no swiping occurred. Or, if it did, it was swiped with permission, which is a-ok.

      Still not gonna play the game… 🙂

    • Cyrus says:

      And I’m still not a Coulton fan.

      Funny how things work out…

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