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A new sport: Brainball (rules v1.2)

I’m interested in activities that require a lot of physical exertion and a lot of mental focus. Chessboxing, for example, I think is fascinating. My friend Jesse Danger and I once played Bananagrams… but the bag of tiles was at the bottom of a forested hill covered in 3 feet of snow. It was a 2.5 hour game of alternating between the worst hill sprints ever and concentrating on building anagrams. Brainball, I suspect, is the natural evolution of this type of game.

Here is version 1.2 of the rules. If you have any feedback or want to play (and live in the Seattle area), please leave it in the comments or email it to me (zaccohn@gmail.com). I’ve italicized some of the rules that should be playtested and might need tweaks, but the fundamentals I suspect this is pretty close to the final version of the rules.

Summary of the Game:

There’s a square field comprised of 36 smaller, numbered squares. There are 2 teams, each have two players on the field at a time. Players have to pass a ball around and avoid being tagged by the other team while listing answers to a question (Example: Name 8 State capitals). Once they’ve called out all their answers, they try to “claim” a numbered square by placing the ball on it (again, without being tagged). 1 square is worth 1 point. Teams can also recapture opponent’s squares if they capture all the surrounding squares (similar to Go or Othello). The game is over when all squares are captured or 60 minutes is up.

Brainball Rules (v1.2)


  • Field is a grid of 36 4′ squares. Each square is numbered.
  • Basketball is used as the ball.
  • Projector or a whiteboard with a 36-square grid drawn on it. This is used to keep track of the score and who has captured which squares. If not digital, you could use post it notes or dry erase markers to fill in the squares.
  • 2 teams of 5 or 6 players.
  • 2 or 3 players per team on the field
  • Each team has a team captain who develops strategy about which squares to capture.
  • 1 or 2 referees. They read the questions, enforce rules, and listen to confirm all answers are called out.


  • The game is split into 3 20-minute periods.
  • To start the game, Team Captains are asked a question with ranked answers (example: Which European country has the highest GDP?). The first one to hit the buzzer gets a chance to answer, followed by the second player. Player with the top answer or closest answer wins possession.
  • A question with a list of answers is asked to start the round (example: Name 8 state capitals)
  • A player from the offensive team starts in Square #1 with the ball. Their teammate starts diagonal from them, while the two defensive players start at adjacent corners of the field.
  • As soon as the question is done being read, play begins and players can move.
  • The offensive player with the ball begins to list answers while avoiding being tagged.
  • Tagging uses Flag Football rules, with one flag on each side of the hip. It is considered a “tag” if a defensive player pulls a flag out of the Offensive player’s belt while they have possession of the ball.
  • “Tagging” a player who no longer has possession of the ball has no effect. Purposely tagging a player who does not have the ball results in a foul.
  • Players can avoid being tagged by running around the court and dodging defensive players and by passing the ball to teammates.
  • Only the player with the ball can answer questions, but the ball can be passed to other players on the field.
  • Once all the answers are given, the Player can capture a square by placing the ball within it. Both hands must still be in contact with the ball when the ball hits the ground (no throwing).
  • If the ball touches the ground while both of the Offensive player’s hands are on it, that is the square that is captured.
  • Possession changes by:
    • Interception of a pass
    • A Defensive player tagging the player with the ball.
    • If a ball is thrown or knocked out of bounds, the round ends and possession changes.
    • After 5 rounds with no possession changes.
  • Players can be subbed out from the bench in between rounds, but it must be before The Question is asked.

Trivia Questions:

  • There are 4 available categories. Each category has 5 hidden questions in it. Once a category has been chosen, the questions are asked in a random order, regardless of possession changes, until all 5 questions have been asked.
  • Once a category is chosen, it is removed and replaced with a new one.
  • Each question has between 5 and 9 answers that must be called out. Harder questions will tend to have fewer answers, easier ones will tend to have more.
  • If a wrong answer is given, the round ends.
  • If the offensive team cannot list all the answers in 60 seconds, the round ends. Once all answers are listed, a round can last as long as necessary.


  • Scores are based on how many squares a team has captured.
  • 1 point per square owned. If you lose a square, you lose a point. Highest possible score is 36 points.
  • Squares can be recaptured based on Go rules (basically, if a square or group of squares is surrounded by enemy squares)
  • Game ends when all squares are captured or at the end of 60 minutes, whichever occurs first.

The first game is tentatively scheduled for Saturday, June 9th in Seattle. If you’re interested in playing, email me and let me know! zaccohn@gmail.com

(Aside: Brainball is inspired by Mindgame, which is a fictional game featured in “Eggheads,” an episode of Sliders.)