Brains Family: Burgen & Drachen (Game Review by Brandon Kempf)

Designer: Reiner Knizia

Publisher: Pegasus Spiele

Artist: Andreas Resch

Players: 2-4

Time: 15-30 minutes

Times Played: 6

Before we go too far in this, yes, this is a game. It’s even listed in the Board Game Geek database (not the end all be all, but still) whereas its predecessors, the wonderful solo puzzle series Brains are not. (Brains Japanese Garden was tackled by Dale on this site a couple years ago) I’m not 100% sure why they aren’t in the database and thus not considered games, but that’s neither here nor there as we are not looking at that series, we are instead looking at the new offering in the line from famed designer Reiner Knizia, Brains Family: Burgen & Drachen.

For those who need a bit of flavor, you are heroes on an adventure across the land trying to find the correct path to all of the mysterious castles. As you progress through your adventures you will have to defeat the deadly dragons you will find along your path.

Every player is going to have a hero board, one hero figure of their chosen color (we all know yellow is the best) and fifteen terrain tiles. These terrain tiles are your paths, and your castles and your dragons that you will place on your hero board in order to complete your quest. The first hero to collect three medals will win!

Each round to start, you will reveal one of the fifty Adventure Boards. These boards tell you how to set up your Hero Board at the start of each round. The Adventure Board will have castles and Dragons on it, and a starting spot for your hero. Everyone needs to set up their Hero Board exactly as the Adventure Board shows.

When everyone is set up and ready, the adventure begins. By using your remaining tiles you try to build a path to all of the castles that are on your Hero Board. First off, the path must begin at the space that your hero is at, you can place your tiles in any order that you would like to, just remember that the Hero has to have a way onto that path that you build. The color of the adjoining paths must match. You will have gray gravel roads and brown dirt roads, the paths must match colors. You can place tiles in any orientation that you wish, even going as far as leaving blank spaces, but, each path must end at a castle, a dragon or the edge of your hero board. You may not have dead ends, even if it leads to an empty space.

The first round your job is to find all of the castles, no need to fight the dragons. When someone has finished the path and they believe they have completed it successfully everyone stops and checks that player’s board. If they are correct, they gain a medal! If it is incorrect, everyone picks back up, minus the incorrect hero, and continues trying to create the correct path.

Picking up the second round after someone has found the successful path, that person now has to defeat a dragon as well as find a path to every castle. You do this by simply taking the path up to the dragon, matching the color of the path as well. One dragon has the brown dirt path and the other has the gray rock path. But not everyone has to to do that, the rule is you have to defeat as many dragons as you have medals. In order to win the game be the first Hero to gain three medals!

It’s kind of difficult for me to figure out who to give credit to for a design like this. It’s likely all mathematics, right? Or even done via a program of some sort. Whatever it is, Dr. Knizia will get the credit, maybe he wrote the program, or maybe he sat in his office and put together each puzzle individually in time-killing fashion? However it was created, I appreciate it because real time/puzzle solving style games are usually not my thing. Recently, with both Brains Family and Mesozooic, I’ve found myself enjoying them a lot more than normal. I’m not really sure why that is, other than the fact that I think we’ve found two here that are right on that line of being too difficult, but they don’t go past it. There is no depth to the puzzle like there is in Layers which was a flop with me and my family, it’s all just about building a path with what is available.  

The puzzles start out fairly easy at the beginning, just connect the castles, but even those aren’t as simple as you imagine. As you move along, connecting to those castles and the dragons, that last puzzle can seem downright impossible. I think we even have had one time where we spent as much time on the third puzzle as we have on entire games, so we just started over with another one. That’s one thing that would have been nice to include in the box, a book of the solutions, but I suppose that’s our job.

All in all, Brains Family Burgen & Drachen is a fun game, whereas its predecessors were solitary affairs, this brings in competition and in doing so, that ramps up the tension since you are on the clock so to speak. Whether or not Pegasus Spiele brings this over to the North American market is unknown to me at this point. I had made sure that this was the one game that  a friend who attended Essen Spiel brought home for me, everything else was just extras. It’s funny, it may turn out to be our most played and most enjoyed of that convention in the long run.

Thoughts from the Opinionated Gamers:

Dale Y (concerning the Brains titles): The puzzle itself is fairly challenging. I ran through the first twenty puzzles in about 45 minutes, but now that I’m in the third tier of difficulty, the puzzles are taking up to 5 minutes each.

Chris Wray: A delightful game, taking the solo puzzle and effortlessly converting it into a multiplayer title.  If you don’t like Brains, the multiplayer aspect here won’t change your mind, but I look forward to picking up a copy of this and building paths for castles and dragons.  

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers:

I love it.

I like it. Brandon, Chris W.

Neutral.

Not for me…

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5 Responses to Brains Family: Burgen & Drachen (Game Review by Brandon Kempf)

  1. On https://boardgamegeek.com/wiki/page/BGG_Guide_to_Game_Submissions it says “Puzzles – BGG has a prohibition against solo solvable puzzles, such as Rush Hour or Rubik’s Cube. A puzzle is an item such that a problem is presented for which a programmed solution is available. In Rush Hour, each of the puzzles has a solution. For a Rubik’s Cube, there is a series of programmed moves for any configuration that brings about the end solution. Puzzles are Outside the Scope of BGG.”

  2. W. Eric Martin says:

    What Helmer said. “Brains Family: Burgen & Drachen” is a multiplayer challenge to complete puzzles quickly, which makes this a game. The other “Brains” titles are individual logic puzzles to solve in whatever time you wish. In general, if you give everyone the same logic puzzle to solve with the fastest player gaining some reward, then you’ve just gamed a puzzle.

  3. Yes, yes, I know. I was being a bit snarky about it, although i do tend to personally lump solo logic puzzles in with games I understand why the BGG database does not.

  4. Mike C says:

    This sounds similar to Flickwerk / Turbo Taxi which has been around for a couple of decades. What is so different about this? Am I missing something?

    • Right now I believe the biggest difference will be availability. Past that, I am not sure. I have never played or heard of Flickwerk/Turbo Taxi until your mention. A brief look at BGG tells me the biggest difference is probably set up and the size of player area to complete their maze so you also have more tiles and routes. Also the exits off the board seem to be differently used. Other than that, I am can’t be sure until someone brings Turbo Taxi around to
      play. Thank you for bringing another real time competitive puzzle to my attention!

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