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Game Overview: Tintas, or Five Easy Pieces (and Two That Are Much Harder to Get)

W. Eric Martin
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Abstract strategy games don't get a great deal of coverage in this space, not because I dislike them — this is true only in Bizarro World — but because it's hard to talk about them in any detail. They typically have no story, no setting, no world in which the action takes place, which means that the "action" all boils down to the movement of this piece or that over a (usually quite attractive) game board. Sure, you can say the same for all kinds of non-abstract strategy games, but it's easier to riff on diseases and zombies and fairies that collect bugs in atriums and pineapple slices being placed on ham sandwiches so that's what I spend most of my time doing.

That said, here I am now talking about Dieter Stein's Tintas, which debuted from German publisher Clemens Gerhards at SPIEL 2016. The publisher, also known as Gerhards Spiel und Design, releases nothing other than wooden games and puzzles, with these items having a fairly high price tag on them. Under one such title on BGG's SPIEL 2016 Preview, a user wrote, "Maybe the picture doesn't show all components, but 20 cones and a board for 45€? Is that correct?" Yes, indeed it is. Their titles aren't for everyone — honestly, which game is? — but the market for such specialty items definitely exists, something I learned in the early 1990s when I worked in a game store selling exquisite chess sets and beautiful wooden backgammon sets that retailed for hundreds of dollars. The game market is a diverse beast, and one should not assume that one's tastes (and budget) are universally applicable.

Tintas has a straightforward goal — collect all seven pieces of one color to win — but naturally this goal is complicated by your opponent doing the exact same thing. Each piece or set of pieces that you take allows the other player to respond in kind, and if you're stopping them from collecting the final pieces they need, well, then you're probably not collecting what you want. Lots to ponder in this quick-playing game!


In the week since I recorded this video, I realized that I had forgotten to cover one topic, namely the breakdown of how someone won the game. If no one collects all seven pieces of one color, then the winner is the player who collects at least four pieces of each of at least four colors. The game includes seven pieces of seven colors, so if all of the pieces are removed from the board — that is, if no one wins instantly by bogarting a color — then someone will win through majorities, and this secondary goal is always present in your mind.

In practice, over a dozen games the breakdown of wins has been about even between collecting all and collecting most. The threat of an opponent grabbing the last couple of tokens they need for the instant win is always forefront in mind. Those locations become hot spots on the game board, glowing in your mind with giant Xs across them as you try to figure out how to use the opponent's desire for those tokens against them. Can you lure that player to do something that looks helpful to them while actually setting you up for a better position in the long run? The answer to that question partly depends on what you've already collected since the opponent has a few glowing Xs of their own, and those intersecting landmine maps light up the tension on the board, driving you to avoid disaster and aim for the security of most, but sometimes you take the wrong step and everything ends with a bang...
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