There’s this deck of 54 round cards. They each have a number on them, from 1-9. The numbers are large enough for anyone to see, even if you’re playing with, let’s say, 12 people. If you look carefully at all the number cards, you’ll notice that some of them are orange. In addition to the number on them, you’ll also find the words “draw a distraction card.” Shuffle them very well, and divide them more or less equally among the players.

Now, the first player, it doesn’t matter who (the rules suggest the player with the highest card), starts the game by drawing a number card from her stack, turning it face up, placing the card more or less on the center of the table in easy mutual reach, and saying the number on that card. For example, “seven” (that being the number on her card). Her turn is over and she can rest in attentive smugness until it’s her turn again. Now, the next player takes his turn. His top card is a three, so he turns it face-up, places it on top of the first player’s card, and says “seven, three.” And then the next player, with his six, who says “seven, three, six.” And so on, and so forth, and etc., each player adding one more number to the sequence of numbers that have to be remembered, until someone draws the aforementioned orange number card, emblazoned with the “draw a distraction card.”

That player, before adding her card to the sequence of already played cards, picks up the top card in the deck of 50, thoroughly shuffled, rectangular, eponymously labeled “Distraction” cards; reads and responds to one of the two distractions on the card. (The distractions are in two different colors, and you can decide which color will be read first, or just take your pick.) The distractions are inviting and non-threatening, such as: “What is your favorite dessert?” and “Rhyme the word ‘run’ at least three times.”

Once the player has responded convincingly to the distraction, she then places her orange number card on top of the rest of the stack of number cards, and recites, in sequence, from the first number played, all the numbers in the stack. Should said player make a mistake so glaring as to evoke a challenge from another player, and be proven to have in deed egregiously erred, he must add all the cards in the stack to his.

You see, of course, how having to focus on the answer to a Distraction card, regardless of its apparent simplicity, can be just the thing to make you forget one or several of the Number cards in the sequence. Because you’ve been, shall we say, “distracted.”

Sweet little game, this. Not actually threatening (it’s not like you have to remember anything important). Not too competitive (you’re playing mostly against your own abilities to remember a sequence of numbers). Most definitely fun. And yet, occasionally, depending on how large the number sequence has grown,¬†excruciating. And we’re talking significant excrucing here. But in a good way.

Most Major Fun, this Distraction game. Easy to learn. Easy to teach. Novel. Fun for as few as two (the designers seem to believe that it can be played as a solitaire) or as many as want to play (well, up to 30, maybe). Attractively designed and packaged. Something you’d play again and again, as long as you don’t have a headache.

Distraction, well, the game, at least, was invented by Patrick Matthews. It is available from ThinkFun.

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