Patrick Brennan & Dale Yu: Review of Rush M.D.

Rush M.D.


Rush M.D. is a real-time co-op with physical dexterity elements that simulates rush hour in a hospital emergency ward. If the thought of playing something in this genre fills you with hate and despair, don’t bother reading further; you can safely move on and thank me for allowing you to get through your feed faster. It’s also a one-ping-only (please Vasili) review, so take it for what it’s worth.

I didn’t even know Rush M.D. existed until an Essen-travelled colleague who hates co-ops arrived home with it in tow, so this ain’t no fanboy review. When asked the obvious question, why buy, it was in hope that it avoided the alpha-director problem, as well as minimise his fear of letting the team down with sub-optimal play. It achieves both of these, and this helps define the target audience for you.

It’s played in 4 rounds with a timed 4 minute limit on each, with free prep/planning time in between where you can mentally prepare for the rush. The gist is that you perform an action by placing a sand timer on its action spot. That action can’t be done again until the sand runs out, although some actions have multiple spots allowing them to be done multiple times concurrently. There are only 8 sand timers in the game, one ‘doctor’ timer for each player and 4 ‘nurse’ timers which can be used by anyone. To complicate things, some actions can only be done by ‘doctor’ timers, some by ‘nurse’ timers, and some by either.

If all the timers are going, no one can launch a new action until a timer finishes. As you’d imagine, they’re watched like hawks. The aim is to keep all 8 timers in continuous use, performing the right sequence of actions.

The startup downside is that there are a lot of rules and prep to get the team ready for a shot at doing well, because once the clock starts there’s no time for rules questions, procedural questions, or who’s doing what debates.

So, what are the actions? Think of the hospital as a production line of patients. Any player can do any action on the board that needs doing (with the right timer of course), but for our initial games we designated different parts of the production line to different players on the theory that specialisation generates better results … and we pretty much nailed it first game. So let me describe the actions in terms of the roles we played.

One player used their doctor to send in-patient cards up to the diagnosis players and then kept three nurses going full-time re-stocking the pharmacy with resources that the other players advised they needed – hearts, lungs, livers, plasma, blood, etc.

One player used their doctor and a spare nurse to process out-patient cards for VPs. Each card states a different resource requirement (yep, you’re fulfilling contracts) and takes what’s needed from the pharmacy.

The other two players were using their ‘doctors’ and spare ‘nurses’ to firstly perform diagnostic tests on the in-patients that the first player sent them. Each card specifies which of the 5 different diagnostic tests need to be performed, you flip a card from that deck, and fulfil it. Here’s where it gets a bit silly – one test requires you to arrange slippery cylinders in a pattern using tweezers, another is a memory game, and the others I forget because I had my head down perfecting my pharmacy role. But you get the idea.

Once the diagnosis is done, the cards specify what resources are needed to complete surgery on the out-patient, which are retrieved using tweezers (it’s surgery after all!) from the pharmacy and placed on the patient card.

Remember, this is all real-time, so focus and speed is the essence. We kept to our same roles in each round and by the end we were humming, beating it in hard mode. Once you’re really good you’ll be able to do your role in addition to helping out on production line bottlenecks.

Your score is based on how many patients were treated, losing points for fails. You can set harder start conditions, and also make it harder by rotating people between roles each round into areas they’re not as proficient at. Or not have roles at all and play free-form.

One of the upsides the game provides is that people can slot into a role that suits their gaming personality. I didn’t mind performing the pharmacy loading role – it was sandboxy, I like helping people, and I run elections which are loaded with repetitive tasks, so the repetition and required focus didn’t kill the game for me. But I see how it could for others. After all, how many times in your gaming life do you want to just sit there for 4 minutes watching sand-timers and loading up resources, or moving resources onto cards, as fast as you can.

In the end, it’s not a style of game I need to continually improve at and master. It invokes a nice sense of thematic emergency, and satisfaction with the completion of a well-performed round. While I enjoyed it for what it was, I don’t need to play more but would be happy to help out if others wanted to experience the rush.


I wasn’t sure about this one when I first arrived in Essen this year, but after seeing the demo(s) of the game at the Artipia stand, I thought I’d want to give it a try.  I am obviously interested thematically as I am a physician in my other job. I also was fairly positive about Kitchen Rush, a game from two years ago that surely is a precursor of sorts for this one. 

Rush MD seems to be a bit more complex that Kitchen Rush, and I think that it is a bit more interactive.  Here, players are working together on the same patient whereas in Kitchen Rush, players were each working on individual dishes.  Additionally, the nurse timers which are not owned by anyone require a bit of good teamwork to make sure that everyone gets a chance to use one when they need to get something else done.

I like the way that Rush MD gives the players a bit more flexibility on how to set things up – the separated six boards can be placed in whatever configuration you like, and this leads to a bit more efficiency in playing as well as a lot less congestion over the board.  As Patrick’s group also figured out; the corollary of this setup is that each player ends up with a specific “job” as it’s easiest for them to concentrate on one board – i.e. the one which ends up in front of them. Sure, you can use other timers to take care of other things that need to be done; but it is simply a lot more efficient if only one person is in charge of monitor the meds in the pharmacy rather than having three people trying to fight for two spots.

The rules are well laid out, but I would definitely prepare for a 30 minute tutorial prior to starting the first game.  Once the game gets moving though, it is only 16 minutes of action plus whatever time the group needs to talk about their strategy and reset the board.  We have been getting through the game in about 45 minutes now from lid off and unpacking to putting in back on the shelf. I’m not sure that I would need both this and Kitchen Rush in my game collection; and this is the one of the pair that I’d keep – but again, I’m more invested in the theme of this one, so that may explain some of my like for the game.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it!
  • I like it: Dale Y
  • Neutral: Patrick Brennan
  • Not for me …

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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