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Reiner Knizia's  BRAINS
Well that's something we all wish we had, Reiner Knizia's brains.
Obviously we can't all be Doctors or Professors of Mathematics, some of us (mainly me) have trouble adding 3 numbers together, but here now is the opportunity for us all to have a box of brains designed specifically to make us smile.


Pegasus Spiele have put 50 challenging Happy Face puzzles into one box for one player aged 8+ . Puzzles can take between 5 minutes and 30 minutes to solve and are brain-teasing fun. Should you get totally stuck and find it impossible to complete the puzzle there is a book of resolvements, but it's best to try many times to solve the problems before resulting to the shame of "cheating" (especially if you are only on the first card)  

There are 25 double-sided cards in 5 lots of different colours, designated in difficulty from Easy to Reiner Knizia. Each card has 47 spaces - it's an 8x6 grid with the top right space containing the number of the puzzle and the required number of pawns.

The order of puzzles is 1-10 (Yellow card) 11-20 (Orange) 21-30 (Red) 31-40 (Purple) and 41-50 (Grey). Naturally you don't have to do them in order but they have been created to get progressively harder if you do. Of course you might find it more fun to begin at 50 and work your way back to 1 just to see if your brain can handle the descending transition. It's actually more difficult than you might at first think because with puzzles you always expect the next one to be tougher, and thus getting your head around the descending difficulty can be a challenge in itself.

Apart from the cards there are 6 yellow wooden pawns and a bag of Blue and Yellow counters, Blue with a puzzled look and Yellow with Happy-Face smiles. There are no actual Red counters, these can only be found on the boards.


Based on the premise that laughter is infectious the idea of the game is to turn the board yellow, ie full of smiley-faces.

To begin with the game sounds like simplicity itself. You place a pawn on an empty space and if you can draw (imagine) a straight line to either a Yellow Pawn or a Yellow Smile-Face over Blue or Red faces then you can upgrade those faces, Blue covering Red and Yellow covering Blue, by placing counters from the supply. There are are directions from the Pawn from which you can trace these lines and you upgrade all faces along those lines, always stopping when you reach (hit) a yellow pawn or smile.

There is only one solution to every puzzle and thus the placing of the pawns is the most important part of the game; position one pawn in the wrong place and the puzzle is unsolvable; there is nothing you can do except a complete reset and start again.

This is quite a difficult game to review because it is a series of puzzles; it's like trying to review a crossword - you either like them or you don't, you know the answers or you don't - in this case though you have the opportunity to easily try again if you go wrong.

It's unlikely that anyone is going to sit down and complete all 50 puzzles in one sitting unless they are on some sort of personal agenda to defeat the game in the fastest time ever (and no, I have no idea what that time may be, but I bet Reiner Knizia does).

For me, this is the equivalent of light-reading, something I like to do when I have some spare time and want to fire my brain cell into action. Unless you are on the aforementioned marathon to finish the game quickly then I suggest that you solve four puzzles a day until they begin to get harder, and then drop down to three, then two and finally one a day. This should give you about 2-3 weeks of light, enjoyable entertainment. 

Here are a few things I have learnt from the experience of playing BRAINS.
1. It gets frustrating pretty quickly and then you find out how annoyed you can get with yourself.
2. As it's a solo game you have no one else to blame when you make a wrong move.
3. Don't let the cat jump on the table when you are playing, especially the harder puzzles with lots of counters on the board.
4. Take your time to think about where to place the pawns. There are a limited number of pawns for each puzzle and you have to use all that are available to you.
5. It's fun !



© Chris Baylis 2011-2021