Give Me the Brain is a strategy-light, flavorful card game best played in a group.
Defying the Cheapass Games name, the Give Me the Brain deluxe edition is a bit pricey for a deck of cards. However, the cards are very attractive, well illustrated and nicely colored. The cardstock is good quality, though not nearly the level of the cards in games like Bohnanza.
The concept is simple enough: each player is a zombie fast-food employee in the Hamburger Joint of the Damned. Play goes around in a circle, and on each player's turn he plays cards from his hand, in an attempt to empty his hand. Described like that, the game sounds like Uno and a thousand other games, but there are a few twists.
There are three types of cards in the game, all very nicely distinguished by color. First, are the normal Action cards, which are yellow. These cards represent everyday things that your zombie does in his capacity as a fast food employee. When you play one of these cards it has an effect on the game, such as making your opponent to the left draw one card, or allowing you to trade hands with someone. Every action card is marked with a number of "hands" (1 or 2). On your turn, you may only perform a number of actions equal to the number of hands you have. (How many hands do you start with? Good question... you start with the correct number. How many hands do you think?) There are in fact cards which give you "extra hands."
The second type of cards are Special Action cards, which are pink. To explain these cards, we must introduce the titular "brain", a prop that is in this case represented by a 6-sided die. Among all the zombies in the game, there is only one brain, and they are all fighting for it. Only the player with the brain may play pink Action cards. In order to use one, he plays it just like a yellow Action, and does whatever it says. Then, he rolls the brain and compares it to a "difficulty" number on the Action card. If the brain rolls equal to or greater than that number, he keeps the brain, and may play another card if he has any hands remaining. In general, the pink cards have more dramatic effects on the game -- but whether you want to play them or not, you've got to get them out of your hand to win. And you can only do that while you've got the brain.
The last set of cards are blue, and are called "Bids." Each one has a value, from 1 to 30. Whenever a player uses the brain, and fails his skill roll, the brain "drops" and every player may play a bid card in an attempt to get the brain. The bids all say "Give me the brain!" and then provide some excuse (such as "my heart is lonely," "this man has a gun," and "I have to count the meat!") Whoever plays the bid with the highest value gets the brain, and then play immediately skips to him, and he gets a turn.
If on your turn, you can't or won't play any of your cards, you must "loaf" and draw cards instead.
And that's about that, for the game mechanics. Like most group card games of this type, there's not a huge amount of strategy, as most of what you can do is determined by what you draw.
Of course, the real test of a game like this isn't the strategic depth. Anyone who buys Give Me the Brain expecting a Gamer's Game will be disappointed. In fact, if you were to erase the zombies and cute sayings from the cards, this game would be almost pointless.
The real fun of the game is in getting a group involved. When we play GMtB, we have house rules that everyone must attempt to act out the part of their Zombie. When the brain drops, and everyone bids, we each shout out in our best Zombie voice: "Give me the brain, there's a squirrel in my head!" (or whatever our card says...)
Because of this, the game loses some of its appeal after you've played it through a few times. This is really one of those "break out every once in a while for a laugh" games, rather than anything people get excited about winning.
The game is amusing. It's attractive. It's well designed, and it's portable. It is not, however, that great a capital-G Game. It's a toy, and should be treated as such. The members of my circle who aren't into heavy games but like to hang out enjoy this game. It generally falls into the same niche as Munchkin, Lunch Money, or Chez Geek... a flavorful game that people can laugh and talk and amuse themselves while playing. If you approach it from that angle, GMtB is rewarding enough to recommend. Just don't try to sway your wargaming friends into more than one game of it... if that.