Brains: Japanischer Garten (Japanese Garden) is a
single-player game brain-teaser, if we’re being honest, from Reiner Knizia. With Knizia’s name on it, it’d be easy to assume that it’s actually some sort of solo game, but really it’s a simple set of puzzles based on this theme of a Japanese garden. If anything, it reminds me of those ThinkFun puzzles with the chunky plastic pieces, except this uses seven cardboard tiles and a stack of paper containing the puzzles. Alternatively, there is a mobile app, which I think I would recommend over the physical edition as a simple value proposition. I’m assuming since ‘Brains’ is so much more prominent than the ‘Japanese Garden’ title that perhaps more of these puzzlers are coming down the line from Knizia.
Ruleswise, the puzzle itself is quite simple. The theme is utterly unimportant (though it means we get the lovely art, so that’s something). It’s a well-designed puzzle despite not being particularly unique or groundbreaking. What fascinates me is the whole tile-laying with placement rules as a solo puzzle is actually rather clever, and opens up some thought processes on how one could make puzzles of, say, Carcassonne. I mull from time to time over ways to implement solo Carcassonne play, particularly using the limited tile set of the Demo-spiel. One way that I’ve played has been to use one meeple, and allow her to move a tile per turn in lieu of placement. Moving off of a feature scores it as is, and a meeple is placed on the feature on her side to indicate that the feature has been scored and cannot be scored again. This may or may not warrant its own post (likely not, as I think I just covered everything), but my point is that I’m always looking for a way to throw down tiles by myself. This puzzle-like concept in Brains: Japanese Garden certainly has potential with other tilesets.