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Oh My Brain

French publisher Lumberjacks Studio are carving out a niche with their series of short easy-to-learn and quick-to-play 'coffee break' games. With a design by Bruno Cathala and Théo Riviere, Oh My Brain has 2-5 players competing to survive an onslaught from a plague of zombie animals. Don't worry, it's really not so much a zombie game as card game in the vein of UNO (Mattel/AMIGO) and Scout (Oink Games) where the object is to be the first player to get rid of all your cards.

After some initial drafting choices, players start the game with six cards in hand and three in their 'cemetery' (one of the rather neat plastic card racks that come in the Oh My Brain box). Players also start with nine brain tokens (your lives in the game). On your turn you must play a card from your hand that is higher than the card at the top of the 'campfire' pile. If you have multiples of the same number, you can play them all but only one card goes onto the campfire - you get to add the duplicates to the cemeteries of other players.

If you cannot or choose not to play a card to the campfire, all the campfire cards are sent to the discard pile and you lose a brain token - obviously, lose them all and the game ends. You draw two cards, adding one to your hand and one to your cemetery, and then you play a card to start off a new campfire.

If a you have fewer than three cards in your hand at the end of your turn, you draw cards from your cemetery until you hold three. If you finish your turn with no cards in hand and none in your cemetery, the round ends. All other players lose a brain token for each card remaining in their hand and in their cemetery. You play on if all players have at least one brain token left but if and when any player completely runs out of brain tokens, the game ends and is won by the player with the most brain tokens.

As you might guess, there are some tweaks and special cards to add to the fun. The Mosquito (zero) card can be played onto any number. If you play the Spider (8), the next card played must be lower than 8 rather than higher. Play the Mouse (11) and the entire campfire is discarded; you refill your hand as normal and then take another turn. Finally, if a card has a marshmallow one it, you roll the custom six-sided die and follow what's indicated: steal a brain token from an opponent, gain a brain from the supply, take another turn, place a card from your hand into an opponent's cemetery, swap your hand or cemetery with that of another player, or have everyone (including you) draw a card to add to their cemeteries.

That's literally all the rules in a nutshell. It makes Oh My Brain super easy to play but it's a very well packaged hand management game where canny timing of your use of the special cards can win you key advantage. We reckon there will be some folk who snap this up just for the five natty card racks - tho' these could do with weighting to make them less prone to falling over: you might want to squeeze some plasticine into the bases. And with games running to no more than 15-20 minutes, Oh My Brain is a filler-length game that you really can play in a coffee break. It's a game that you'll find non-gamers enjoy too. So much so that you can expect requests for a repeat contest on your next coffee break.

Oh My Brain is distributed in the UK by Hachette Boardgames.

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