BUBBLE BRAIN (Patch Products, 4 to 8 players, ages 10 to adult, about 40-50 minutes; $30)

   In the early days of television, one of the great classic comedies was Your Show of Shows. The show ran from 1950 to 1954 and starred Sid Caesar. One of the reasons for its great success was the incredible talents of the writers. In addition to Caesar, the comedic talents of Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks, Woody Allen and Neil Simon (to name a few) contributed to make the show funny. And, if your friends aspire to be as funny as that group, then Bubble Brain is the game for you.

   The premise of the game is simple. Player are confronted with a picture with an empty thought bubble (you know, the spaces often found in comic strips where a person's thoughts or dialog appears) and they have to fill it. There are 336 pictures in the game (on 168 cards), a round playing board, 8 tokens and both a Score and Bubble pad.

   All players chose a token and place it at start. For each round, one player is the "Bubble Master" and all players, including him, receive a Score and Bubble sheet. (You need to provide your own writing utensils.) After drawing a card and displaying the picture, the job of all players is to think up a clever and/or funny line or caption for the picture and, secretly, write it down. Once done, all captions are collected, numbered and read aloud by the Bubble Master. Now the other players need to determine just which clever and/or funny line belongs to which player and mark it on their individual Score sheet. Now, we score. 

   Players move their pawn one space ahead for EACH caption currently matched with the player who wrote it. The Bubble Master's pawn advances one space for each player who did NOT guess the caption he wrote. If you get a perfect score during a round while you're in last place, your pawn IMMEDIATELY jumps ahead to one space ahead of the leader. Play continues with the next player becoming the Bubble Master. The first player to reach the Finish Line wins!

   Bubble Brain adapts the interesting ideas of Ad-Liners (Spring 1990 GA REPORT) and Beyond Balderdash (Summer 1997 GA REPORT) into a challenging session of one-liners. The photographs used in the game are not as outrageous as you might expect, relying heavily on kids and animals as the inspiration for your funny lines. (A nice addition to the game is the inclusion of "caption stickers" that you can place on your own photos so they can be used in the game.) This places the onus for fun squarely on the shoulders of the players.  Although it's true that humor is secondary to the goal of uncovering the identities of the caption writers, the game works best if you and your friends have the ability to come up with funny lines. 

   There is NO timer here so time limits are variable which can be a danger point. Some players will "freeze" under pressure. Waiting AND waiting for someone to come up with something can grind gameplay to a halt. Being funny is useful but being QUICK is key.  Had the game been around in the 1950s, it would have been a blast to sit at the same table with Caesar, Reiner, Brooks, Allen and Simon and roar at the unpredictable one-liners that Bubble Brain would have inspired.  Regrettably, this is not possible.

   Socrates advised, "Know thyself". With Bubble Brain, the advice is modified to "know thy group". Most games rely, in varying degrees, on the players involved to work. Bubble Brain is very dependent on the mix of players. Here, you best know yourself AND your friends if you don't want this bubble to burst. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Herb Levy

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