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CORTEX + CHALLENGE is one of the first games where you need to collect brains and you aren't a Zombie !

Collecting 'cheese' wedges is now so passée. Collecting bits of brains is so much cooler.

There are already several CORTEX games available and by collecting them all you can have an almost never-ending challenging game for the whole family. Yes the box says 2-6 players and indeed there are only enough brain pieces for the full compliment, but you can use almost anything, buttons, coins etc if you want to add more players - though I wouldn't go to any more than you can safely and satisfactoraly get comfortable around the table as players all need to be able to see each card as it comes into play (special 'feely' cards excepted).

CORTEX is not a question and answer game. It is about visuals. speed of vision, and touch. The game is played with a large deck of cards and a small deck of 10 raised Touch cards which is set aside until required.

The main deck comes in two sealed packs and really requires an extremely good mixing (normal shuffling isn't usually enough) for the first game; a good shuffle should be okay for future games. There are also 24 pieces of brain in 3D pieces; 4 colours, 6 segments (like tinned mandarins) in each colour; Green, Orange, Purple and Yellow; one of each segment fits neatly together to form a 3D half-brain.

The rules booklet is 8 pages including front and back covers comprising of 6 separate sets of rules in 6 different languages: French, Spanish, English, Italian, German and Dutch, each with the same illustrations and examples - very well set out, simple and precise for quick start play.

The main deck of cards shows on its face up side (ie the rear of the card) what type of challenge there is on the card's flip side so that when it is flipped over all players know what they are looking for. On your first game I advise that you take out one of each type and peruse them fairly thoroughly so that you really know what to expect on the game side. If you look carefully and studiously you may recognise a small hint on some of the cards, but that's as far as I am prepared to tell you as this is a review not a walkthrough. just make sure you understand what you are expected to do for each type.

One of the card types is different from the others as it simply shows a thumb print on both sides. When this is shown as the top card of the deck then the player who won the previous card challenge gets to take a Touch Trial. This is where the other players get to choose which of the 10 raised, textured cards the player has to identify. If you have something to use as a blindfold it makes it even more difficult for the guesser and a lot more fun overall. Once the other players have chosen a card they hand it face down to the guesser who then has 10 seconds to recognise the texture and name it. A correct guess gains the player a piece of Brain, their choice. A wrong answer and the game continues as usual with the next card being flipped and the next player in turn order having their go. The 'Touch' card is returned to the deck of 10 and may be used again.

Whenever a player wins a challenge - this often involves a lot of shouting and arguing over who said the correct answer first (hint; it isn't always the player who shouts the loudest) - they keep the card. When a player has four cards in front of them they cannot accept a fifth without discarding one of their others, however if they can make a like-pair before discarding (or at anytime during their turn) they can swap them in for a Brain piece. The winner of the game is the first player to complete a four-coloured 3D brain (meaning they must have won at least 8 challenges, generally quite a few more).

The Challenges are simnple to solve if you can take the time to do so, but with other players also trying to solve them at the same time as you the pressure is on and you are only allowed one answer; call out the wrong answer you stop the challenge, the card is shuffled back into the pack and you have eliminated yourself from answering in the next round. You should also shuffle a card back into the deck if it is the same challenge type as the previous challenge so that you do not have 2 same challenges in a row.

To keep the game flowing freely we do not stop the challenge if someone calls out a wrong answer (as this is an easy and foul tactic to prevent anyone winning a card) we continue until someone answers correctly but only allow one answer per player and we set a total 15 second time limit to answer. If no one answers then the card is put aside and not nused again in this session. Any player who gave a wrong answer is allowed to continue to play on, not prevented from answering for a turn. Please note this is how we play and is not an interpretation of the rules which are clearly defined in the rules booklet, we just prefer to not have to keep tabs on who is missing a turn etc.

There are so many cards that the likelihood of two games ever being exactly the same is extremely unlikely, virtually impossible in fact. If you already have one of the other Cortex Family games the cards are similar sized and despite the fact they may be of a different colour (once they are shuffled in it doesn't truly matter what colour card is on top)  and can be added to make a massive deck of main Challenge cards and different challenges, with double the Touch Texture challenges that make your sense of feel and your memory really important. I should note that having a second game isn't necessary to make it fun for more than six players, though I reiterate you will need something to act as the brain pieces as these 3D models are not in any other version (to my knowledge).

CORTEX is a good fun game that anyone can play as long as they are old enough to know their numbers and are able to distinguish shapes; the box's suggestion of 8 year olds and up is spot on. If you take the inner card out of the box there is enough room in a single box for two full sets to comfortably and safely fit.

A lot of 'family' aimed games are trivia based and are a matter of taste - so many people jumped on the Trivial Pursuit(c) bandwagon and quickly got fed up with Q&A games and swiftly jumped off - but CORTEX is a game of Touch, memory and speed of sight. It is a family game that I would happily recommend for families, friends, non-gamers, gamers etc. It takes less that 30 minutes to play from reading/describing the rules to the end of the game with games between players who know the rules taking anything from 10-20 minutes.

It is also very enjoyable when played between just two players which is unusual for a game in this family-genre.

Adequate illustrations, nicely produced all round with great quality card and cleverly designed Touch fabric cards. A really nice and pleasant game to play, especially for younger people who have been told it is bedtime but want to hang around a little longer with Mum & Dad, but also for coffee afternoons when the teacakes are warming or situations where the conversation has run dry (or is dangerously too close to politics or religion for comfort). Fifteen minutes of Cortex + Challenge and the brain juices will be merrily flowing. Recommended.

At your local game store and online the price should be about £20.00



© Chris Baylis 2011-2015