Original German edition of Ingenious
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The simply ingenious placement game!
With this unbelievably exciting placement game from the renown game designer Reiner Knizia, each playing piece opens up entirely new possibilities. The more identical color-symbols that are next to each other on the game board, the more points the players can get. They must make certain that no color has a shortage -- and always keep an eye on the other players' scores.
In the end, the color with the lowest score is particularly important, because it determines victory or defeat. But your opponents know this too, so they'll do their best to block this color... Whoever is the cleverest and moves the correct pieces with a bit of luck has the best chance of winning the game. And the player with the lowest score after the last move has only one thought: Revenge! And thus the next game begins straightaway...
Ingeniously simply -- simply ingenious! The game is very suitable for two players as well as solo play.
This game had to fight quite an uphill battle against my unfavorable views on abstract games, but it certainly overcame them. I saw this game being played at a convention recently, and noted that although it sported great-looking bits, it seemed totally abstract. So without hesitation, I moved on. Then, while I was in-between activities, someone invited me into a four-player game, reassuring me that it took two minutes to learn and a half-hour to play. How could I say no to that?
I was certainly glad I relented. As they said, the rules took no time to learn. Basically, each player is dealt a secret hand of six double-hexagons. Each hexagon usually bears a different color although double colors regularly appear as well. On a turn, the player simply places a tile and then draws a new one. Each placement triggers immediate scoring. In essence, each part of the double tile is considered separately and scores for each hexagon of the same color that it can 'see' in any straight line. Each player has a scoreboard with stones to mark progress in each of the six colors. When a player reaches 18 points in any single color, the player gets to takes a second turn.
What makes the scoring interesting is that a player must move on all fronts because, at game's end, each player's worst category becomes their final score. I was thrilled to see this scoring rule imported from Tigris and Euphrates. I've always admired the rule, but am usually too daunted by the complexity of Tigris and Euphrates to actually play the game.
This one moves at a fast pace, and at least after the first few rounds, the tension begins to build as players are often forced into decisions between maximizing their own scores and keeping those bottom colors progressing (often at a cost of setting up a scoring bonanza for others) and blocking one's fellow players but sacrificing one's own scoring opportunities in the process. The fact that you can see each player's scoreboards throughout the game, coupled with the ability to choose from six tiles each turn, makes for a nice tactical game. The luck factor is reduced not only by the choice of six tiles each turn, but also by a rule allowing a player to dump an entire hand of tiles in the event that the player is left with none in his or her worst color.
All of my games have taken only 20 to 40 minutes to play, and the game was great fun with any number of players as well. It's only drawback to me seems to be its pricetag, but then again, now that I've splurged on it, I'm definitely enjoying the production values. The playtime this one will receive makes it all worthwhile anyhow. Highly recommended!!
I suppose I have something of a reputation amongst "German" gamers as a theme- fiend, readily abstaining from games that lack meaningful theme: Chess, DVONN, Tic Tac Toe, even Maharaja and Samurai...I may not enjoy abstract games very much, but one thing they have going for them is that they are elegant. A simple ruleset, no randomness, lots to think about. But they have no theme and therefore no "graphics", and they are invariably black and white (literally and figuratively). For me these games lack any semblance of fun. Einfach Genial kind of set me on my ear.
First off, strictly speaking, Einfach Genial is not a "pure abstract". (Something to do with the tile draw, I'm told. I guess if there is any random factor whatsoever, a game is not considered a "pure abstract".) But it's got no theme and so, to us common folk, feels very much like an abstract game. But as soon as you open up the box you realize that Einfach Genial isn't going to be quite the same as your everyday abstract.
What's so different? For one, every player gets their own scoring track and colored scoring markers. And the tiles are COLORed -- indeed quite colorful! Blue stars, yellow suns, green circles, red sunburts, orange hexagons, purple discs...Frosted Lucky Charms -- they're magically delicious! (Terribly sorry about that, but I couldn't resist!)
One glace at the tiles has you thinking "dominoes" -- and you wouldn't be far off. To start the game, each player draws and places 6 tiles on their tile rack. Each tile is two hexagons together, with separate colors on each side. The board is a grid of hexagons that is shaped like a giant hexagon! On a player's turn, she simply takes a tile, and places it onto the board. And so on and so forth. The trick to the game is scoring -- and that's going to take a few sentences to explain.
When a tile is placed on the board, it triggers scoring for matching colors. The tile itself never gets any points, but it triggers scoring around it. So if I play a blue/yellow tile down, and the blue side of my tile tounches some other blues on the board, it will trigger scoring for me in blue. If I can place that tile in such a way as to get the blue side to touch blues, and the yellow side to touch yellows, then I will score both. Now remember, a hexagon has 6 sides, and so each half of your "hex-omino" has 5 free sides (since one side of one heagon is stuck to one side of the other). So when a tile is placed, all 5 free sides of the nex are examined to see if they score in that particular color. For every side of the hex that touches the same color, a player gets points for that color equal to the number of same-colored, consecutive symbols in that direction. Can you visualize that? Basically, imagine a hexagon. Now look at one side of it, and imagine that to that side is a matching color. Now keep moving in that same direction. However many consecutive symbols there are, that's how many points you get. And you do that in all five directions for both sides of the tile.
Sound simple? It is. That is the beauty of this game. It is very elegant, very simple, very beautiful. What makes the game much more interesting is the winning condition. Remember, each player has a scoring track in front of them where they track their score for each of the 6 colors. But high scores don't matter. Low scores do. At the end of the game (when the board has been filled), the players announce the lowest score they have of the 6 colors. Whoever has the HIGHEST score of those lowest scores -- that is who wins. So you can see that scoring high in one color doesn't matter as much as scoring fairly well in all colors. And that is what makes the game increibly interesting. Players need to play a bit of defense, and only need to ensure that their lowest score is on point higher than anyone else's lowest score. This introduces an unusual and interesting dynamic into the game that, without betraying the elegance, adds some trickery to the game.
Though most tactical with 2 players, it still plays very well with 3 players, though it does get quite chaotic with 4. That doesn't mean it isn't fun, but it is chaotic. Thankfully, the game comes with partnership rules which transforms the 4 player game into a very good game indeed. The only other strike against the game is its price point and import status. But this is a game that almost anyone will play -- and play often. Non-gamers and casual gamers fawn over it, and even gamers are usually won over by it's charms. No one would claim this as the best game ever, and yet everyone enjoys playing.
Einfach Genial, to my mind, is a lot like soccer. Soccer doesn't have thundering shoulder checks, or complicated playcalling, or slam dunks, or triple plays. What soccer does have is an elegance and a flow that leads billions of people across the planet to call it "the beautiful game". Einfach Genial is like the soccer of abstracts -- elegant, interesting, and not at all intimidating. Whoever first said that Einfach Genial is "the abstract game for people who don't like abstracts" hit the nail on the head. It is "the beautiful game".
Another excellent tile-laying game by Reiner Knizia, with some of the elements of the classic Tigris and Euphrates. This simple abstract game has few elements to master (unlike T&E) and lacks the tight decisions among alternative actions that characterize many German game, especially Knizia's. But scoring requires that players avoid getting too far ahead in any one of the several independently scored colors and creates many tough tactical decisions as well as opportunities to frustrate opponents. In some sense, this is very light game, since the rules are quite easily mastered and it lacks the learning curve that's often a part of Knizia's games as new players sort out how to allocate among actions. The challenge here lies in balancing short-term tactical gains against creating board configurations that make it impossible to win later on. In this sense the game is classic Knizia: the end game can see dramatic reversals.
As a bonus there are rules for both team play and solitaire (not just an afterthought, but a fun game worth playing).