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English language edition of Einfach Genial
List Price: $39.95
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Ingenious is the new abstract placement game from internationally-renowned game designer Reiner Knizia. Players place colored tiles on the hexagonal board, scoring points, blocking opponents’ tile placement, and trying to protect themselves from being blocked by their opponents.
Marvelously elegant and compulsively replayable, Ingenious is an excellent introduction to German-style abstract board games. It’s ingeniously simple, and simply ingenious!
Abstract Strategy Game Nominee, 2006
Best Family Game, 2006
Abstract Strategy Game Nominee, 2005
Best Mind Game, 2005
Best Strategy Game Nominee, 2004
5th Place, 2004
Players: 1 - 4
Time: 30 - 60 minutes
Ages: 10 and up
Est. time to learn: 10-20 minutes
Weight: 984 grams
All-Time Sales Rank: #159
Language Requirements: Game components are language-independent. This is an international edition or domestic edition of an imported item. Manufacturer's rules are printed in English.
- 1 game board
- 120 tiles
- 1 bag
- 4 racks
- 4 score boards
- 24 counters
Average Rating: 4.3 in 7 reviews
Got to play the game last weekend with three others. The concept is pretty simple. You have a hexagonal-shaped board with domino-like pieces which are a combination of 6 colors (also shapes, for those who are colorblind). You place pieces next to the appropriate color pieces to score points, based on how many of the same color are lined up in a row from the piece you placed. If you place a blue piece next to a row of three blue pieces, you score three points for blue. This works in all directions, so you can score a bunch of points on a single play. When you get 16 points in a particular color, you can play a second tile on your turn. The maximum score for each color is 16.
In practice you can end up with large areas of a particular color. Also, though, other players can be shut out of colors by judicious play. This is particularly true late in the game, when space is at a premium and it is difficult to gain points for a particular color if it isn't blocked in. The bonus for getting 16 points is pretty big, especially if you chain a few together. In one turn, I was able to get three bonus placements. Pretty good opportunity to make things tough for your opponents.
Overall, a pretty good game for times when you don't want something complicated, but still plays well.
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!!
The rules are very simple, but the 'Tigris & Euphrates'-model victory conditions make this game far more challenging than most abstracts. Novice gamers and longtime strategy gamers can all enjoy Ingenious.
On the other hand, if you're looking for a great abstract strategy game, get Blokus before this one, as Blokus has a lot more depth.
The one issue I have with this game is that strategy tends to boil down to looking for opportunities as they arise. There's not a -ton- you can do to make opportunities for yourself. So I find it a little dry.
On the other hand, this gives children a level playing field with adults, so it's a good family game.
Ingenious (Fantasy Flight Games, 2004 -- Reiner Knizia) finally made me stop and realize something -- I just didn't dislike abstract games as much as I thought. I wasn't really expecting much to enjoy the game, but the fact that it had contended with Ticket to Ride for the Spiel des Jahres in 2004 made me wonder. The simplicity of the game, along with a smidgen of luck, and the ease of play -- all of these appealed to me. And I realized that I LIKED this game, thus shattering all my prior conclusions about the abstract genre.
Probably one of the things I like best about Ingenious is how it played equally well with two, three, or four players. The scoring mechanic, which isn't new to the game, seems to be custom made for it. The gameplay is very intuitive -- anyone who has played dominoes will quickly catch on; yet the strategy is certainly deeper than dominoes. Ingenious combines simplicity, luck, and strategy in the perfect combo. It's not one of my favorite games, but it's one I enjoy playing, and one which I find easy to bring out and play with just about anyone.
A hexagonal board, made up of a grid of hexagons, is placed on the table. The outer two rings of hexes may or may not be used in the game, depending on the number of players. Each player takes one score board and places six colored cubes on the starting position of six tracks. They also take one rack, placing six double tiles from the bag on it. The youngest player begins, and then play proceeds clockwise around the table.
Play is extremely simple. On their turn, a player chooses any of the six tiles on their rack and plays it on the board -- on any two empty adjacent hexes of their choice. Players normally want to place the tile next to other tiles (or one of six starting locations -- imprinted tiles on the board) but don't have to -- except on the first turn. After placing, the player traces straight lines from each hex in the tile they placed. For each identical symbol in this line (that ends at a different symbol or empty space), the player scores one point, moving the matching colored cube on their score board accordingly. Players can score in one or two colors each turn. Afterwards, the player draws a tile to replace the one they played.
There are a couple of special rules. If a player has no tiles that match the color of their lowest score currently, they may reveal their tiles to the other players at the beginning of their turn, discard the tiles back into the bag, draw six new tiles, then take their turn. Also, if a player reaches "18" with any of their colors, they immediately can play one more bonus tile onto the board for each "18" they get. Incidentally, "18" is the highest score a player can get in any color -- once they hit it, they can no longer score points in that color.
The game ends when players can no longer place tiles on the board. At this point, players check their scores -- or more specifically, the score of their lowest color. The player whose lowest score is the highest is the winner, with ties being broken by the next lowest color, etc. It's faintly possible (and I've seen it happen), that a player can also win by reaching "18" in all six colors.
Some comments on the game...
- Components: Ingenious is one of those games where one has to make sure they have everything put in right, or the box doesn't close. The box is one of the large square types: very sturdy, with a professional looking design. The board is quite nice, with the two outer rings of hexagons shaded, so that a player can easily remember which ones they can use for the game. The tiles, which are the heart of the game, are chunky plastic bits, and really feel satisfying to plop down on the board. They look good, fit together pretty well, and I enjoyed how each one had a different symbol and color, so that one could use either to identify them. The cloth bag included is nice (although bursting at the seams to fit all the tiles in), and the racks provided held the tiles well. The scoreboards were quite useful, and it's easy to move the cubes on -- with the only problem being that if a scoreboard is bumped (which happened at least three times in our games), it's difficult to remember what a player's score was in each color. Still, excellent components all around, Ingenious is certainly a pretty game.
- Rules: Ingenious comes with one page of rules that are the same size as the box. They're large enough for full-color illustrations and examples, because the rules for the game are that simplistic. In fact, when I teach the game, I simply have to take a moment to show how scoring works (it's easier to show than it is to tell), and quickly explain the two special rules -- and off we go. It's one of the easiest games I've been able to teach, and teenagers and adults have latched onto it very quickly.
- Scoring: At first, players will simply plop a tile down in the spot that gets them the most points, regardless of what color it is. Soon, however (and hopefully it doesn't take a game to figure this out), players realize that they need a spread of all the colors, and that sometimes taking a lower score -- but one in their lowest color -- is more important. Still, opinions may vary even on this. I've seen some players try to shoot some of their colors up to eighteen as fast as they can, so that they might get the bonus tiles out. Other players will also take a turn and score NO points, just to place a tile strategically to mess up other players.
- Interaction: As I just mentioned, a player can attempt to place a tile in such a manner as to annoy their opponent(s). This drastically can affect the game. In games where players do this and attempt to be confrontational in their tile laying, scores tend to be lower. Games in which players simply concentrate on their own scores tend to end up with a much final higher score. It all depends on the mood and attitude of the players. Personally, I prefer to play the game much more confrontationally, but with a more "cooperative" group, I could easily play the other way. Great care must be exercised when playing that a player must not get too dependent on needing one specific color -- because the other players will quickly shut that color down - blocking off all routes to getting good points.
- Fun Factor: Most people that I've taught the game to really enjoy placing the tiles down and matching them on the board. It doesn't require much thought, the tiles look beautiful, and players have enough options to keep them occupied. The gameplay itself only takes about twenty to thirty minutes, and that works well for people's enjoyment of the game. Some that I've taught it to have enjoyed it but not requested another playing (they are fond of theme, which Ingenious certainly doesn't have), but I haven't met anyone yet that has disliked the game.
- Players: Ingenious bills itself as one to four players, and for once this is correct (many games advertise that they play well with a certain number of players, but they really don't). I can't say which number of players I enjoy it with the most -- it seems to play equally well with 2-4. The solitaire game, while not necessarily my cup of tea, does make for a unique "puzzle-type" situation, in which players are simply trying to score the highest score possible. This is fun in its own fashion, but I prefer to try to play off of the other players' tile layings.
If you like Dominoes, or are looking for a simple game that offers a great deal of tactical options, then Ingenious may just be what you want. The game, upon an initial glance, doesn't look that fascinating, but it plays better than most games and is certainly one of the easiest abstract games I've ever played. The lack of theme may hurt it in some folks' eyes, but the game is so quick, so simplistic (with a bonus strategic value), and looks so good on the table, that I think it should be a requirement for pretty much anyone's collection.Tom Vasel
"Real men play board games"
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).