Dale Yu: First Impressions of Brainwaves: The Brilliant Boar

Brainwaves: The Brilliant Boar

  • Designer: Dirk Baumann
  • Publisher: Kosmos
  • Ages:8+
  • Players: 1-4
  • Time: 10-15 minutes
  • Times played: 2, with review copy provided by Thames&Kosmos

The Brainwaves series of games was first released in 2019.  This set of three games is meant to help you train your brain to increase function.  The games are reportedly “scientifically tested by neuroscientists”.  Not quite sure what that means, but I was happy to give one a try when it was sent to the Opinionated Gamers. 

Per the rules, The Brilliant Boar is supposed to “work the parts of the brain that handle fluid intelligence, working memory and episodic memory.  Above all, fluid intelligence, which is the ability to think logically and solve problems, and working memory, which enables us to temporarily store and simultaneously process information, are trained in this particular game”.

The Brilliant Boar is a game comprised of 54 Animal cards.  The backs are ale a solid blue color, and the fronts depict an animal – there are 6 copies of 9 different animals in this deck.   Play is fairly straightforward.  On a turn, the player must either take a card from the draw deck OR play a card from their hand. 

The draw deck of cards is placed with the animal side face up, so that players can always see what card they are drawing.  If a card is drawn, it is always added to the same side of the hand but with the card BACK facing the player.  That is, the player cannot see what cards he is holding in his hand, he must remember the details!

If a card is played from the hand, the goal is to match the played card with another face up card (with the same animal on it) – this can either be a card in front of another player OR the top card of the draw deck.  If a match is made, the two cards are collected and placed facedown next to the player – these cards will score points at the end of the game.  After a successful match, the current player then immediately gets another turn where he can either draw a card or play another card.  If no match is made, the played card remains face up on the table, and any other player can then use it to make matches when they play cards from their hand.

The game continues on until the draw deck is empty AND only one player has cards left in their hand.  Any remaining cards will score a minus one point penalty.  Otherwise, players add up the number of collected cards (at one point each) to determine their score.

you even get a score pad!

My thoughts on the game

Well, I don’t know much about the science involved here – but without it, this is a fairly straightforward memory game.  According to the science in the back of the rules – “other well known memory games are usually ‘static’ – there are often no changes in the positions of the elements being memorized.  The Brainwaves series is totally different: the players’ memories must be constantly updated because the elements in their hands on in the display change with each turn.  This means that the players must remove already-imprinted elements associated with a certain position from their memories and remember new elements over and over again”.

the rules outline some of the science behind the game

I can definitely say that my 45-year-old brain had issues at times keeping up with the changing environment.  I found that, at first, I had to repeatedly recite the contents of my hand from right to left to reliably recall them.  By the end of the game, I felt like I was already doing a bit better at this skill.  Would repeated playings of The Brilliant Boar lead to further improvement?  Possibly, I simply don’t have enough experience to know. 

At first, I thought this was going to be similar to Hanabi – but in this game, all of the information is given to the player from the get-go.  You do not need to infer anything from clues to know the contents of your hand.  You always know what is in your hand, and it is simply up to you to remember.

It’s an interesting idea, and one that I will probably keep around to play with my younger nephews/nieces.  Is it fun?  Honestly, it’s pretty average for a memory game.  But here, maybe the goal is not to make the game with the most fun, but the game which can help train the brain the best.  Does it succeed there?  I really don’t think I’m in a position to say that, but I can certainly be persuaded to think that this could improve my brain function. 

Until your next appointment,

The Gaming Doctor

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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