Review: Cortex #boardgameclub

What is Cortex?

cortex board game esdevium

Cortex, at first glance, looks like a rather unassuming game. It’s just a load of cards, and a load of tiny brains. Actually, the aim of the game is to complete your own tiny brain, which is made up of four different coloured lobes. And the way to do that? Simple. Just pit your wits against whoever else is playing and prove that your actual brain is the best, especially when represented in four part gaudily coloured form.

How do you play?

The cards in the game are separated into various different categories, all which use different aspects of brain function. Frequency cards require you to identify which shape or item occurs most often on the card. The maze card asks that you correctly find the exit that relates to the position demonstrated on the card. Memory cards – memorise five different animals. Other cards with animals have only one animal repeated twice – finding which animal that is is trickier than you think! There are also tetris-reminiscent shape sorting challenges, word-written-in-the-same-colour-it-represents cards, the co-ordination challenge (which I am surprisingly good at, considering my general air of clumsiness) and the bonus ‘touch challenge’, which involves 10 cards with different textures. Every time you win a particular challenge, you get to keep that card.

The requirement to be able to read for some categories means that younger children would find this game difficult (and the game does specify it is aimed at age 8+), however little ones can still be involved as ‘brain banker’ (which is exactly what my three year old does, handing out bits of brain whenever someone else wins one).

And the way to win the brain is simple – you just need to be the victor in two challenges of the same type, resulting in a pair of cards to swap for a bit of brain. Four bits of brain achieved, and you are the fully functional winner! But there is a catch – you can only keep up to four cards at any one time… which means careful consideration of which card is coming up next, and which challenges you think you are most likely to win…

What’s it like to play Cortex?

Basically, it’s a lot of fun. It’s a reasonably short game to play (10-20 minutes, depending on how many players are involved of the possible 2-6) which means that it keeps the attention of younger kids fairly easily. Earlier in the game, things are reasonably sedate, but once people start bagging bits of brain the action can get quite heated, with lots of (friendly) competition and a considerable amount of noise. With only adults involved, things can get even more competitive, and even more loud… and it’s also pretty good when taken down the pub for an evening, with a little bit of alcoholic drinking involved to make things even more challenging for the brain. It’s been really interesting to see which challenges the kids are good at, and also which ones I am best at – not necessarily the ones I thought they would be! And the more you play, the more you can train your brain to provide faster results, which makes it worth playing two or three rounds in one go. I wouldn’t say it’s a game that would last all evening, more like something to get an evening of gaming started, or equally if you’re looking for something portable to take out and about with the family, or off on holiday, this would be a good choice.



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