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Review: Ingenious – The Tile Game

Posted by Eisley on 18th December 2009

People seem to have been very interested in Keltis the tile game (Way of the Stones) so I thought I’d review another tile version of a Renier Knizia game.  This time Ingenious gets the tile treatment.

The original Ingenious game is a superb abstract game where players place double-ended tiles (like dominoes consisting of 2 hexagons with coloured symbols on each end) on a board.  When you lay a tile, you score points for the rows of matching symbols created.  It’s incredibly simple, very tactical (almost cut-throat at times when blocking others) and plays well with 2, 3 or 4 players.  Also, the scoring system is very neat – players score points for each of the 6 symbol types separately and a player’s final score is equal to their single lowest score.  So, it’s important to develop all of your scores equally plus delivers tactical play as players try to score symbols they are weak in (or block their opponents).

Ingenious the tile game is rather different to the original game.  It’s full name (‘Einfach Genial: Wer zu viel riskiert, verliert!’) translates as ‘Ingenious: who risks too much, loses!’ so it’s no surprise that it is a push-your-luck game.  The game consists of 126 hexagonal tiles which each show one of the 6 different symbols (21 of each) which are mixed up face-down on the table.  At the start of  each player’s turn, tiles are turned over if required so there are at least 3 face-up tiles.

On their turn, a player selects a face-down tile and turns it face-up.  If the symbol on the flipped tile doesn’t match any of the already face-up tiles, the player’s turn ends and the tile remains face-up.  If the symbol on the flipped tile does match one of the face-up tiles, the player can either choose to end their turn by taking all the face-up tiles that match the symbol that was just revealed, or they can flip another tile.  If they flip another tile and it matches one that the player already revealed during this turn, their turn is over and all flipped tiles remain in the middle.

As soon as a player has 7 tiles of any one symbol, they take another full turn immediately (this parallels a rule in the original game).  Also, if a player has more than 7 tiles of a single symbol, they mix any extra ones back in with the face-down tiles.  The first player to collect 7 tiles of each symbol wins and other players are ranked according to their weakest colour.

The core gameplay is that players flip tiles and push their luck in trying to turn over the symbols that they most want and collect multiple tiles, but at the risk of gaining nothing during a turn.  The early game seems straight-forwards as players are trying to collect every symbol and there are few face-up tiles left in the middle.  As the game continues though, players start to collect multiple tiles in a single turn as some symbols start to be left on the table as players ignore ones they don’t need.  So, the gameplay does develop a bit as it continues.

As I mentioned in my Keltis tile game review, the key to creating a cut-down version of an existing game is to find the right balance between new gameplay, so there’s a reason for owners of the original to buy the new version, whilst not straying too far from the original gameplay so that game is trading on the familiar name with good reason.  Unfortunately, Ingenious the tile game doesn’t quite hit the mark though.  Some of the rules mirror the original game but not many.  This would be fine if the gameplay delivered but it feels rather arbitrary and players tend do well as a result of the player before them striking out rather than because of their own skill.  There is some decision-making in deciding whether to press ahead and turn another tile but it’s not much and we didn’t find it satisfying.

I had high hopes for the Ingenious tile game after the success of the Keltis tile game.  Unfortunately, the Ingenious tile game feels more based on luck than judgement so is a very light game.  This may be more popular game with a younger audience, but I wouldn’t suggest it as an entry-level game for non-gamers as I don’t think it holds enough fun factor.  I will try it again at some point (and try it with 2 players too) but, for now, my group will always ask for the Keltis tile game ahead of the Ingenious tile game.

James.

[Played with 3 and 4 players]

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