Editor's Note: The following review can also be found on the blog Amateur Teratologist (http://amateurteratologist.blogspot.com) which is devoted to an analysis of movies of the horror genre. It is intended for readers whose experience with games is largely limited to bringing along an Uno deck to keep the kids occupied while waiting at the airport for a flight to board.
Nowadays you not only find zombies lurching across the cinema screen, but you can also discover them lurking in the boxes of games like Last Night on Earth, Mall of Horror, and Zombie State: Diplomacy of the Dead. Yet in the mid-'90s, the only zombie themed game you were likely to find was SPI's Dawn of the Dead, a hex-and-counter style combat game with rule set complex enough to scare off all but the most ardent wargamer.
In 1995, game designer James Ernest reasoned that the most important parts of a game are its rules and not the components, so he founded Cheapass Games to inexpensively publish a line of games which usually contained nothing more than a sheet of rules, cards, and sometimes a game board. Give Me The Brain is his game about zombies working in a fast food franchise.
If the only card games with which you are familiar are various incarnations of Uno, then playing any of the Cheapass games will be a novel experience. Give Me The Brain starts with players using humorous bidding cards such as "The pickles are staring at me," and "I'm locked in the fleezah!" to get the brain. Getting the brain is important because task cards with the brain icon on them can only be played by the player who has the brain. And emptying your hand by playing all your cards is how you win.
Give Me The Brain also includes a rudimentary action point system in the form of the hand icons on the cards that determines how many tasks a turn you can play. You can't play cards that contain a total of more than two hands during a turn--unless you are fortunate enough to find a third hand in the back
Unlike George Romero's zombie classics Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead which make gory social commentary about brainless mass consumerism, Give Me the Brain pokes fun at that high school rite of passage, the food franchise job. While it may be politically incorrect now to ridicule minimum wage employees, the mid-90s were the boom time when hamburger joint counters were manned by bored teenagers who had trouble making change without counting on their fingers.
Give Me The Brain is not terribly deep, nor is there pulse pounding tension as you desperately search for another ammo clip to refill your pistol. Instead, you will experience the frustration of one step forward and two steps back as playing cards like "Who, Me?" force you to draw more cards, because obviously you don't have enough to do. As for theme, well, the cards do have pictures of zombies on them. And you can play the game mindlessly.